Freemasonry and The Titanic

Brethren, on the evening of the 14th April 1911, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and just over two hours later at 2,00AM on the 15th April 1911, she sunk, with the loss of some 1500 lives. These are the bald facts of our story, and most of you will have read about the Titanic Commemorations taking place in Belfast, Southampton, Cobh and Nova Scotia in the plethora of newly published books, magazines, articles, radio and television programmes.

We have even had the updating and 3D’ing of Titanic the movie, as well as a new £ 100 million pound purpose built Titanic Centre, that has managed to outflank everyone by having its own 1st, 2nd and 3rd class system for visitors, who can only access and see the relevant features of the public display, in line with their particular ticket price. Sadly, as on the original ship, the Main Staircase to the First Class Dining Room can only be seen and enjoyed by the Corporate and First Class Visitors. So no change there, from the days of The White Star Line.

We in always try to take a fresh look at the world around us, and in this instance, we are particularly indebted to Wor Bro Willie Drennan, the well known Ulster Scots musician and recent member of Three Brothers Masonic Lodge No 775, Ballymena, for permission to host two short videos filmed around two of his songs on the building of the Titanic, and on the tragedy of her sinking. So to get you all in the mood, we invite you to watch our first video presentation on the building of the Titanic.

One interesting fact to come out of the entire Titanic story is the role of a senior Belfast Mason as a witness to history. One of the most popular and well liked senior Freemasons in the North of Ireland is Right Wor Bro Cyril Quigley now in his 105th year. Cyril is still an active Freemason attending his Lodge, Chapter, Council, Preceptory and Chapter of Prince Masons. He is a popular visitor at the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim and at The District Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Antrim, where he served as an effective District Grand King for a number of years.

It turns out the Rt Wor Bro Quigleys father took him down to the docks to witness the Titanic sailing down Belfast Lough some one hundred years ago. So it was but correct, that he was one of the principal guests invited along to the Titanic Quarter on Saturday the 31st March to witness the official opening of the new Titanic Signature Building in Titanic Quarter, Belfast. Cyril of course, rose to the occasion, and enjoyed the day in his usual inimitable style.

Rt Wor Bro Cyril Quigley, a past District Grand King of Antrim reminds us of the first Rt Excellent District Grand King of Antrim – Rt Ex Companion Redfern Kelly, who in his day job was involved with Harland and Woolf as their chief Engineer, responsible for building the Thompson Dock House, in 1911, which still exists to the present day. This was one of the technological marvels of its time, being able to move some 26 million gallons of water within a two hour period.  This was one of the sites associated with the Titanic, Olympic and Britannic, all ships associated with the White Star Line.

We should not overlook the many Freemasons on board the Titanic at the time of its sinking. The best known of these was Bro Oscar Scott Woody, one of the postal clerks on the Titanic. One of the items recovered after the sinking was his 1912 Dues Card, issued by Acacia Lodge No 16 under the Constitution of the A.F & A.M of Virginia. This card and other artefacts are preserved in the museum of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. A very striking pin with the Titanic Square and Compasses logo was designed by Brother William J Baumbach II to honour all of the Freemasons that lost their lives on the Titanic.


Many other Freemasons were on board at the time and we enclose a few examples of the Brethren concerned :-

Newark Star  :  Thursday 2 May 1912

Brief but impressive memorial services for W. Anderson Walker, who lost his life in the Titanic disaster, were held last night by Hope Lodge No. 124, F. and A. M. of East Orange, of which Mr. Walker was master. Acting Master John A. Gilbert was in charge and he was assisted by the chaplain, the Rev. William A. Youngston. Councilman Frank Bliss Colton, of East Orange, gave an address on "Mr. Walker the Man," George W. Fortmeyer spoke on "Mr. Walker the Mason" and Dr. Youngston on "The Phosphorescence of a Masonic Life." The services followed the regular meeting of the lodge, and practically every member of the organization attended.


Western Morning News : Wednesday 24 April 1912

Mr. Turpin was a member of the Masonic brethren of the Lodge of St. George, No2025, Plymouth.


Washington Times  :  Friday 19 April 1912 : President and Senators Pay High Tributes to Dead Hero Memorial services for Major Archibald Butt, whose name is one of the most prominent among the Titanic’s heroic dead, will be held in this city on May 5 under the auspices of Temple Lodge, the Masonic organization of which the late military aide to the President was a member. The most elaborate plans are being made for the event, and not only the President, but the most prominent officials of the Capitol and of the Masonic order, will be present.

The service will be an open one, and among the notables who have been invited as speakers are Col. Henry Waterson, of Kentucky, and Senator Bacon of Georgia. A Memorial service for Major Butt will also be held in Augusta, Ga. This will be a general service and will be open to all the residents, as will also be the one in Washington. Augusta was Major Butt’s home. The President will try to attend this service also. All flags were flown at half-mast at the White House, the State, War, and Navy building, and all other public buildings in Major Butt’s memory today. Senator Crane of Massachusetts said at the White House: “Major Butt’s death is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. It is a frightful thing.”

Monday 29 April 1912 : Narrative Said to Be From Other World, : Told in Church of Soul

Members of the Church of the Soul in the Masonic Temple yesterday listened to what purported to be a psychic message from William T. Stead, the British editor, author and scholar, who perished aboard the Titanic.  For nearly half an hour Miss Cora L. Y. Richmond, the medium, recited the message  - "There is no claim that Mr. Stead is speaking to you," said Miss Richmond before entering the trance condition.  "His message has come and your pastor will give it to you in the exact words." After speaking of the insufficient number of lifeboats the voice said: "The commander, the officers and the crew did their best, but they could not create lifeboats."

We now take this opportunity to host the second of Bro Drennan’s videos about the sinking of the Titanic and this video ties in with well with our previous press report from the Church of Soul. 

This article, once again highlights our well known claim that Freemasonry is a part of Society and not apart from Society. As we have so easily discovered Freemasons were involved in the building of the ship, and indeed died on the sinking of the ship, as did so many other poor souls at the time. Of particular poignancy in this tale is the story of the Addergoole 14 – the fourteen emigrants from the village in North County Mayo, who set off on the Titanic for a new life in the Americas. Sadly eleven of these poor Irish passengers foundered with the ship, and their memory is marked at 2.20AM on the 15th of April every year with the ringing fourteen times of the bell on the local Parish Church.This is the only time during the year that this bell is ever rung. 2012 will be a very special year in Addergoole,  as a new memorial stained glass window will be dedicated to their memory on Sunday the 15th April 2012. All our prayers and good wishes will be with the villagers on Sunday next.