St Patrick and Freemasonry


The Grand Lodge of Ireland can trace its official history from the press report in the Dublin Weekly Journal No 13 of Saturday the  26th June 1725, when a report was printed recording the Installation of The Earl of Rosse as Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Ireland. This was followed in 1730 with the introduction of Lodge Warrants, the document which gave the Lodges authority to meet, conduct their business and give degrees. In Ireland, the tradition was that Lodges were known primarily by their number, rather than any particular name.

However in 1737, we find the new Lodge No 77, based in Newry, Co Down, taking the name St Patricks in memory of Ireland’s first missionary Saint. Patrick was always a bit of an enigma, a British subject, from either Scotland or Wales, who was brought up as an Anglo-Roman subject, was captured by Irish raiders and spent a number of years in and around the hill of Slemish, as a slave, tending sheep. This was the man chosen by the Brethren of Newry to be their idealised Freemason – A man, whose life they had hoped to emulate. This Lodge will be celebrating its two hundred and seventy ninth anniversary this year.


We next hear of St Patrick when Warrant No 295 was issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland to Bros Andrew Watts; James Leatham and Robert Sanderson to form `St. Patrick's Lodge' in The 1st IRISH HORSE OR THE BLUE HORSE, later The 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, 24 June 1758. The Warrant was signed by “Right Honourable. Lord Moore, Grand Master; John Burry, Esq., D.G.M.; Major Edward Windus and Charles Gardner, Esqrs., Grand Wardens.” The Regiment was at this time under the command of Lieut. General Brown. This was one of the great regiments of the British Army fighting for King and Crown, all around the globe The 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards was raised in 1685 by the Earl of Arran as Arran's Horse (or Cuirassiers), and ranked as the 6th Horse until 1687 when it became the 5th Horse! In 1746 the regiment became the 1st Horse on the Irish Establishment, and in 1788 becoming the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards.


One hundred and six members of the Lodge served in the 1914-18 War and Bros. J. Attenborough, Lieut. A. Hunt, W. Johnstone, R.C. McFarlane, A.J. Pegler, F.C. Talbot, Lieut. M. Thwaites and E.G. Whiteman made the supreme sacrifice. In 1922 an amalgamation produced the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, as the Lodge is still known right up to the present time.

At the March 2016 Communication of Grand Lodge, held in The City Hotel, Armagh, we were saddened to learn that Warrant No 295 will be returned to Grand Lodge later this year.

The next Lodge to be named after St Patrick came into existence on the 4th June 1761, when Warrant 367 was issued to a group of Brethren in Downpatrick, the county town of the County of Down. This Lodge was known as St Patrick’s Union Lodge No 367. In many ways this was an excellent name for the Downpatrick Lodge, as Downpatrick has, by tradition, been the burial place for all three Irish Saints – Saint Patrick, St Brigid and St Columba. The Lodge room is located within a few hundred yards of this burial site.


A few more years passed before, in the year 1782, another St Patrick’s Lodge came into existence in Derriaghy, Co Antrim. This Lodge No 602 met at Milltown, Derriaghy on the outskirts of Lisburn. This was a Lodge of Brethren associated with the Linen industry. And again it is another Lodge that is still going strong many years after its original formation in 1782.


The following year, 1783, Grand Lodge issued Warrant No 623 to a group of Brethren in the town of Armagh, where they took the name St Patrick’s Senior Lodge. Historically the See of Armagh tried to assert its supremacy over the older establishment at Downpatrick, but they found it difficult with Downpatrick being a popular pilgrimage route in the Middle Ages. The Brethren of Armagh,  in a gesture towards the stonemason origins of our Craft adopted the term “Senior” to describe their relatively late arrival on the scene.


In 1805, we find that Lodge 43, Carrickfergus has adopted the name St Patrick’s, and is followed by 175 St Patrick’s Union Lodge, Raloo Larne Co Antrim in the year 1813. Two years later in 1815, on the year of The Battle of Waterloo, Warrant No 195 was issued to St Patrick’s Lodge which met in Ballyvesey, on the outskirts of Newtownabbey. Over time this Lodge would move on several occasions, before ending up in Arthur Square, Belfast.


In 1847, another new St Patrick’s Lodge was Warranted in Dungannon under Lodge number 122. This was a Lodge that began life slowly, during the period of The Great Famine in Ireland. It was also at that time in our history when the Papal Bulls were finally being enforced throughout the Island of Ireland. Sadly we in the Masonic Order would lose nearly 80% of our membership as a result of these problems and were made much the poorer with the loss of so much talent and ability from our Celtic Brethren. But the newly formed St Patrick’s Lodge would survive and become a beacon of hope for all those other Brethren facing insurmountable difficulties in their Lodges in those most demanding times.


It was at this period that we lost of many prominent Irishmen including Daniel O’Connell, a past master of his Lodge in Wicklow, an active degree giver and a tireless worker for The Grand Lodge of Ireland. It is worth recording the fact that for some 125 years, during many trying and difficulties in the history of Ireland that members of both traditions, who were Freemasons were able to leave their troubles behind and meet on the Level and by the Square as Brother Freemasons. Patrick was clearly a shining example to both traditions as he, of Romano British could return to Ireland and work tirelessly for the good of all. Clearly his contributions were recognised by all, and the name Patrick remained a popular name for Irish Lodges from then-on right up to the present day.


In 1881, Irish Constitution Warrant No 468 was issued to Brethren in Dunedin, New Zealand to hold an Irish Lodge in New Zealand. As there had been an earlier Irish Lodge called Shamrock in the Dunedin goldfields, the Brethren called their new Lodge St Patrick, and have kept the lamp of Irish Freemasonry lit in this far flung outpost of the English speaking world. In 1893, Warrant 79 moved, with Grand Lodge permission from Donoughmore in County Down, and on arrival in Newry adopted the name St Patrick, becoming the second Lodge in the town so named. Then just before the close of the century, a further Warrant, No 199 was issued to Brethren in Cape Town, part of The Southern Cape Province in South Africa to form their new Lodge to be known as St Patrick.


And so Patrick’s foreign travels continued. In 1911 Grand Lodge issued Warrant No 319 to a group of Irish Masons in India, and St Patrick’s Lodge Mumbai came into being under The Irish Constitution. The next Warrant took us within a few miles of Slemish Mountain, where Patrick’s faith grew whilst he tended his flocks. His Brethren, down the road, in Broughshane applied to Grand Lodge and were granted Warrant No 493, which has always been known as St Patricks Lodge No 493 Broughshane.


In 1945 Warrant No 311 was issued to a group of Brethren meeting in Templemore, Rosscrea in the garden county of Tipperary to form St Patrick’s Lodge No 311 in the Masonic Province of North Munster. And our tale comes to a temporary close with the recording of a final St Patrick’s Lodge, founded under the Irish Constitution in 1954 in the vibrant Far Eastern city of Singapore. It is a fascinating history of the many links between St Patrick and Irish Freemasonry, links that have existed for the past two hundred and seventy five years, and links that have travelled with the Irish Diaspora throughout the known world.


This is only one example of the story in a name, associated with Irish Freemasonry. We also have several Lodges named after the Shamrock, or derivatives such as Western Shamrock, Royal Shamrock, The Shamrock or indeed Shamrock in Penang. There’s a Keltic Lodge, Culrathain Lodge, Tara Lodge, Failte Lodge, Slemish Lodge, Erin Lodge  Hibernia Lodge and even a  Suidhe Lodge.  So Brethren, I hope that you have enjoyed this brief review of St Patrick and his links with Irish Freemasonry.  And I hope that you all have a great day, wherever you may be, on the 17th March 2016, as you take part in a local parade, take your children out to climb Slemish, spending an hour or two perusing the many articles on