EA Tracing BoardWe are very grateful to Bro Chris McAuley of The Belfast Masonic Lodge No 651 for permission to publish his article on the origin, history, development and use of the Entered Apprentice Tracing Boards.......
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Some comments on Chris's article........
We have heard much of late about tracing boards, and their presence in Irish Constitution Lodge rooms, and I felt that this might be an opportune time to pass some comment. Our starting point should be quite clear, in that, under the Irish Constitution, there is no history or tradition on the use of tracing boards within our ritual. In fact, I may stand corrected, but the only tracing boards, wholly designed and produced in Ireland are the recently designed and well detailed set produced by Bro Martin Jackson of Coalisland.
From our earliest beginnings, there are tantalising references to symbols crudely sketched on the floor, which could be easily erased before the Brethren departed. We still have examples of crudely drawn floor cloths, Lodge banners, illustrated hand drawn certificates and other such old documents. However what we do not have in Ireland (to my knowledge) is a locally designed equivalent to the English Constitution tracing board.
And why might that be, I can hear you ask
The answer Brethren, is quite similar, as to why we did not have printedrituals for the first two hundred and sixty years of our history. We are a Ulster Scottish / Celtic race with a great oral tradition of story telling, and as our history clearly shows, our membership were more than capable of recounting our moral, symbolic and historical lectures without any separate board or design.
Undoubtedly, some of our many travelling Brethren, possibly military or otherwise, acquired and brought back examples of Harris boards, Spencer boards and the many other quaint foreign designs produced over the years. These can be found on the walls of Halls throughout the Constitution, and should not be considered as any more than souvenirs or artefacts preserved for historical interest.
In Ireland and our entire Masonic ethos is designed around the spoken word. Much interesting research has been produced on the English tracing board within the pages of Ars Quatuor Coronati, yet even they do not lay claim to a similar tradition in Ireland. I would particularly refer you to the studies by Brethren such as C.P.Clarke, E.H.Dring, David Flather, T.O.Hauch, W.H. Rylands and O.N.Wyatt, all acknowledged English experts in this field.
Brethren, in my view tracing boards are an illuminating educational tool, which can act as an aide memoir to the well-informed Brother, but they are not a part of our Irish Working. However, I could be wrong in this view, and I invite you all to contact me with details on any specifically Irish tracing boards in your Lodge rooms, or with examples of the use of tracing boards from your Irish Constitution Lodge records.