In the latter half of the 1860’s the Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes spent some time researching, preparing and presenting a special report on the future role of Provincial Grand Lodges within the ambit of The Grand Lodge of Ireland. Up until the year 1868, Provincial Grand Lodges met in a number of Provinces throughout the island of Ireland, but most of these had come into existence, at different times, and were not integrated into a cohesive whole.
After much consideration, it was agreed that the Island of Ireland should be divided into thirteen separate Provinces and that the City of Dublin, the County of Dublin and the town of Bray shall not be included in any Masonic Province, but shall continue under the superintendence of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Our Irish Constitution, within the Island of Ireland was divided into thirteen Provincial territories, as follows :-
1/. The City of Londonderry, the County of Londonderry ( excepting thereout the Town of Magherafelt) shall still, as heretofore meet at the City of Londonderry. Rt Wor Bro Noel Drain P.G.M. and his team are working on some proposals for their 150th Anniversary jewel, and we hope that they will incorporate their fascinating Provincial Grand Lodge crest, as illustrated in the stained glass window in The Bishop’s Palace, Londonderry. Sir James Stewart Bart was reappointed to act as the Provincial Grand Master of this new Province.
2/. The County of Antrim together with the Town of Magherafelt, shall constitute The Masonic Province of Antrim, and the Provincial Grand lodge thereof shall meet in the Town of Belfast. The previous designations of South Antrim and North Antrim shall be abolished. For those interested in these historical snippets, it is interesting to note that in 1868, Londonderry was acknowledged to be a City whereas Belfast is described as a Town. The Marquess of Donegal was appointed to be the first Provincial Grand Master of this new Province.
3/. The County of Tyrone, and the County of Fermanagh shall constitute The Masonic Province of Tyrone and Fermanagh and the Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet in the Towns of Dungannon, Omagh and Enniskillen. Our illustration above is an example of The Belleek Masonic Dinner Service, one of the rarest forms of Masonic China in the collectors market. Tyrone and Fermanagh have struck a 150th Anniversary jewel, and after recent discussions with Rt Wor Bro Maurice Lee,P.G.M. of Tyrone & Fermanagh, I remain confident that we will shortly add an example of same to the Irishfreemasonry archive. In the meantime, I am grateful to Wor Bro Ross Hussey for sending the above digital photo of the example that he has in his collection, an another excellent example of an Anniversary Jewel. Rt Wor Bro S.John
m.Stewart Bart was installed as first P.G.M. of this enlarged Province.
4/. The County of Monaghan, the County of Armagh and the County of Louth shall constitute The Masonic Province of Armagh and the Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet in The City of Armagh and the town of Dundalk alternatively. We are not yet aware if the Brethren in Armagh intend marking this significant milestone in the history of their Grand Lodge. We shall await their response with interest. The Rt Hon Maxwell Charles Close was Installed as first P.G.M. of this new Province.
5/. The County of Down shall constitute The Masonic Province of Down, and the Provincial Grand Lodge shall meet alternately in the Towns of Newry and Downpatrick. Rt Wor Bro Roger Matthews P.G.M. of Down and his team have produced an elegant commemorative jewel to mark their 150th Anniversary.Rt Wor Bro William Brownlow Forde was Installed as the first P.G.M. of Down.
6/. The County of Longford, the County of Cavan, the County of Westmeath (excluding thereof the Town of Athlone ) and the County of Meath shall constitute the Masonic Province of Meath, and the Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet at the Town of Mullingar. Rt Wor Bro William Featherstonehaugh was installed as the first P.G.M. of Meath.
7/. The County of Mayo, the County of Sligo and that part of the County of Roscommon lying North of a line drawn from Castlereagh to Termonbarry ( not including these Towns) shall constitute the Masonic Province of North Connaught. The Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet at the town of Sligo. Rt Wor Bro Hugh Lyons Montgomery was the first PGM of the Masonic Province of North Connaught.
8/. The County of Galway, that part of the County of Roscommon lying south of a line drawn from Castlereagh to Termonbarry ( including these Towns ) and the Town of Athlone shall constitute the Masonic Province of South Connaught. The Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet at the Town of Ballinasloe. Rt Wor Bro Andrew Browne was installed as P.G.M. of South Connaught.
9/. The Kings County, The Queen’s County and the County of Kildare shall constitute The Masonic Province of The Midland Counties. The Provincial Grand Lodge shall meet at the Town of Portarlington. Major Gereral the Rt Honourable F.P.Dunne was installed as first P.G.M. of Midland Counties.
10/. The County of Carlow, the County of Wexford and the County of Wicklow ( with the exception of the Town of Bray) shall constitute The Masonic Province of Carlow, Wicklow and Wexford. The Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet in the Towns of Carlow and Wexford alternatively. Rt Wor the Rt Honourable Viscount Powerscourt was installed as the first P.G.M. of Wicklow and Wexford.
11/. The City of Waterford, the County of Waterford, the County of Kilkenny and the Towns of Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir shall constitute The Masonic South Eastern Province. The Provincial Grand Lodge thereof shall meet at the City of Waterford. Sir John H. Keane Bart served as first P.G.M. of South Eastern.
12/.The City of Limerick, the County of Limerick, the County of Clare, the County of Tipperary ( excepting the Towns of Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir ) and that portion of the County of Kerry lying north of a line drawn from Tralee Bay to Clydagh Bridge, not including Miltown nor the Town of Tralee shall constitute The Masonic Province of North Munster. The Provincial Grand Lodge shall meet at the City of Limerick, as heretofore. Lord Dunboyne was re-appointedto his previous position as P.G.M. of the enlarged Province.
13/. The City of Cork, the County of Cork, and that portion of the County of Kerry, lying south of a line drawn from the head of Tralee Bay to Clydagh Bridge including Miltown and the Town of Tralee shall constitute the Masonic Province of Munster and the Provincial Grand Lodge, as heretofore, shall meet in the City of Cork.General Sir John Chatterton Bart was re-elected to serve as P.G.M. of Munster.
This is a little known yet fascinating part of our Irish Masonic History, showing the approach taken by Grand Lodge to rationalise the formation of Provincial Grand Lodges throughout the Island of Ireland. Some knowledgeable Brethren may already know that there were earlier Grand Lodges such as Cary and Dunluce, North Antrim Northern and Southern, Belfast Massereene and North Down, to name but a few. And of course, the earliest of our overseas Provinces- New Zealand was constituted in 1859, by The Duke of Leinster, who set out that this Province should meet in Auckland, New Plymouth, Thames and Dunedin, at the regular meeting places of the Lodges concerned.
And despite the enthusiasm of some of our Provincial Grand Lodges, the Resolution to form the Masonic Provinces was only promulgated by The Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes at their meeting on the 2nd April 1868 and then signed into our Statutes by the Deputy Grand Master on the 24th April 1868. It would have taken a further couple of months to come into effect, and it will be interesting to see from the individual Provincial Grand Lodge Minutes, when and where these new Masonic bodies were Located and Constituted. I would however be surprised if any of these Provincial Grand Lodge bodies came into being before ( at the earliest ) September 1868, when I image that most Anniversary celebrations will take place.