Irish Royal Arch Masonry



Provincial Grand Chapter of
Cumberland & Westmorland
Masonic Hall, Station Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 6BT
Irish Royal Arch Masonry
Copy of a talk given by Right Excellent Companion Michael Walker,
Grand Registrar of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Ireland at the
Regular Convocation of Supreme Grand Chapter held in Freemasons
Hall, London on December 7th 1996.
ME Pro First Grand Principal and Companions, it gives me much pleasure that it
should have been considered of sufficient interest for a short address on Irish Royal
Arch Masonry to be requested for presentation at this Convocation of your Supreme
Grand Chapter, and that your Grand Scribe E should have invited me to make it.
The first thought that struck me was that I would have to do a fair bit of work to
prepare such an address; but before setting out to search for source documents on
which to base my conclusions, I remembered the advice given by a certain American
University Professor who had been very popular in my younger days, Tom Lehrer,
who advised persons such as myself, in this sort of situation, to - "Plagiarise,
plagiarise. Let no-one else's work evade your eyes. Only be sure always to call it,
please, research". Thus I disclaim any accountability for the accuracy of what follows.
The first recorded reference to Royal Arch Masonry, anywhere, occurs in a
contemporary account of a Masonic procession in the town of Youghal, Co. Cork, on
the southern Irish sea-board, in the year 1743, showing that some form of Royal Arch
Masonry must have existed in those parts as early as that and probably earlier. The
account starts with something that should interest your Grand Scribe E, being a
Naval man, as it states that "the first Salutation on the Quay of Youghal, upon their
coming out of their Lodge Chamber, was, the Ships firing their guns with the colours
flying." The fourth item in the procession is recorded as "The Royal Arch carried by
two Excellent Masons".
Our earliest recorded Minute comes from the same location on July 30th, 1759, from
the records of Lodge No. 19, Youghal, wherein is written "Then proceeded to the
passing of Spencer Scannadem and Samuel) Gardner to the dignity of Royal Arch
Masons, they being proper Officers of the Lodge." This was just less than one year
after the first recorded conferral of the Royal Arch Degree in an English Lodge on
August 7th, 1758. So much for history and the emergence of Royal Arch Masonry in
these islands.
Turnbull & Denslow state unequivocally that "it is to the Irish that credit must be
paid for the popularity of the Royal Arch Degree, but we find our Irish Companions
using a ritual which is entirely different in character from that used in other portions
of the World — we find them "repairing" rather than "rebuilding" the Temple.
Provincial Grand Chapter of
Cumberland & Westmorland
Masonic Hall, Station Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 6BT
The Irish ritual for the degree is founded upon material appearing in the Second
Book of Kings, Chapter 22, and in the Second Book of Chronicles, Chapter 34, in the
18th year of the reign of King Josiah when he had purged the land of idolatry and the
worship of false gods which had been practised under his grandfather Manasseh and
his father Amon, for, in the words of the beautiful ritual of the Degree of Heredom of
Kilwinning this was yet another of the multifarious occasions when "the Israelites
proved unfaithful to their God".
After the death of King Solomon the people frequently lapsed into gross idolatry and
during the reign of Manasseh and his son Amon, so gross was the lapse and so
complete was the darkness, that the knowledge of the very existence of the Book of
the Law was lost and Josiah, their successor, reigned for a period of 18 years before
he saw a copy of it. Josiah, however, was a great and good Prince who piously
undertook the repair of the Temple which had been allowed to fall into a ruinous
condition and had become defiled by idolatrous observances.
Thus King Josiah set about the repair of the Temple, during the course of which a
secret vault was discovered and its contents were found to discover amongst other
items, including the insignia of the three Grand Masters, a copy of the Book of the
Law of the Lord given by Moses. This Book of the Law was taken by Hilkiah the High
Priest, who was directing operations, to Shaphan the Scribe who read it to the King.
Only at this point did King Josiah realise the full extent of the transgressions of his
people, and he consulted a prophetess as to what penalty might be expected.
Fortunately, for him personally, the prognosis was favourable on account of his
worthy deeds and motives.
In our Royal Arch Degree, the first portion, which comprises the Passing of the Veils,
prior to 1864 represented various degrees which were at that time conferred between
the degrees of Master Mason and Royal Arch Mason. In the year 1864 these were
merged in the Degree of the Royal Arch and this part of the ceremony is known as the
Passing of the Veils. The only intervening degree which we now confer is the degree
of Mark Master Mason. The colour of the first veil is Blue, the colour of Craft
Masonry denoting Universal Friendship. The third veil is Scarlet, the colour of Royal
Arch Masonry, and denotes Fervency and Zeal. The intervening veil is Purple, a
mixture of Blue and Scarlet denoting Universal Concord and is significant of the
transition between Blue or Craft Masonry and Scarlet or Royal Arch Masonry.
From the colour of my regalia you will see that Crimson is the colour by which we
designate this Degree. With Blue attributed to the Craft, Purple, the colour derived
from mixing Blue and Crimson, symbolises the transition from Craft to Royal Arch as
signified by the colours of the veils, and indeed we are told that Hiram Abiff was
"skilful to work in Purple, in Blue and in fine linen, and in Crimson".
In the next portion of the degree, the Candidate or Candidates - up to three at a time
- enact the role of workmen engaged in the work of repairing the Temple, who
Provincial Grand Chapter of
Cumberland & Westmorland
Masonic Hall, Station Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 6BT
discover a flagstone which, when prised up, reveals a hidden vault into which one of
them descends and finds, amongst other items on a raised pedestal, the copy of the
Sacred Law which in modern times by extension represents the VSL and, as the
Conductor explains, if the Candidate has been ignorant of its contents, or neglectful
of its precepts, it has been, in effect, long lost to him.
(RE Comp Walker then explained the salute in the Irish Royal Arch.)
Should you visit an Irish Royal Arch Chapter, probably the most disconcerting
moment would be when the Captain of the Host, by command of the Excellent King
and Council, directs the Companions to divide the Word. All the Companions form
groups of three, with the senior Companion facing the East, and perform the
ceremony of dividing the Word. The Senior Companion initiates the division of the
Word and is the only one to repeat the syllables in their correct order. The Captain of
the Host, the Superintendent of the Tabernacle and the Royal Arch Captain watch to
see that all do so correctly, for this is where impostors are most likely to be
discovered and, when satisfied that all is in order, they themselves perform the
ceremony and the Captain of the Host reports to the Excellent King and Council that
the Companions have divided the Word. We have not, and presently see no reason
for so doing, removed the traditional Word from our ceremonies.
The Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland was formed in 1829 and has gone
through a number of changes since then, but the structure we have today is basically
that which emerged in the early 1860s when, though previously working the Josiah
legend, for the first time the King became the Principal Officer with the High Priest
and the Chief Scribe comprising, in that order of seniority, the other members of the
Council. Incidentally, the Zerubbabel legend is not missing from Irish Masonry as it
forms the basis of the Red Cross Degrees which are governed by the Grand Council of
Knight Masons, offering a branch of Chivalric Masonry, on request, to all Craft and
Royal Arch Masons and not solely to Christians. Members of Councils are referred to
as "Sir Knights".
As mentioned earlier, Irish Royal Arch Masonry incorporates and controls the Mark
Degree by the ingenious assumption of having a Mark Lodge attached to every Royal
Arch Chapter. We have, therefore, no Mark Grand Lodge or Mark Grand Officers and
when we visit your Mark Grand Lodge we have to do so as Grand Chapter Officers
being deemed to have equivalent status in both Degrees. When, therefore, a
Candidate is elected to a Royal Arch Chapter, he is first advanced to the Degree of
Mark Master Mason in the Mark Lodge which only opens to advance a Candidate or
to install the Very Worshipful Master and his Officers. The minutes of such meetings
are read in the subsequent Royal Arch Chapter convocation. An English Royal Arch
Mason who affiliates to an Irish Chapter, and who is not a member of a Mark Lodge,
must immediately be advanced to that Degree and, if he is a Past Z, he can receive the
Degree of Very Worshipful Master, by dispensation, by standing in at the next
Installation of a Very Worshipful Master. As such the Officers of the Mark Lodge are
not elected but take their place in the corresponding Offices to which they are elected
in the Royal Arch Chapter, the Excellent King being also the Very Worshipful Master
Provincial Grand Chapter of
Cumberland & Westmorland
Masonic Hall, Station Road, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 6BT
of the Mark Lodge, in which Office he must be installed before he may be installed in
the Chapter.
Whilst Grand Lodge recognises "the Degrees of Royal Arch and Mark Master Mason
so long as the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland shall work only those
two Degrees in the form in which they were worked" when Grand Lodge Law No. 3
was passed, Supreme Grand Chapter is a self-governing and regulating Body and,
unlike the situation within the English Constitution the Grand Master and other
Grand Lodge Officers have no statutory position in Grand Chapter. The Grand King
is elected annually, generally for as long as he is prepared to remain in Office, and
the Grand High Priest and Grand Chief Scribe attain their ranks over a six year
period of progressive Office, having started on the ladder as Grand Chapter Standard
Bearer and Grand Janitor (that is Inner Guard) respectively. The only Grand Officer
common to both Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter is the Grand Secretary who is also
Grand Registrar in the Royal Arch (Grand Scribe E in your parlance). This is for
administrational and cost effectiveness!
Supreme Grand Chapter therefore has the regulating of, in fact, six Degrees being
those of Mark Master Mason and Very Worshipful Master in the Mark Lodge; and
Royal Arch Mason, Chief Scribe, High Priest and Excellent King in the Royal Arch
Chapter. In order to qualify for the Degree of Chief Scribe, the first of the Council
Degrees, a Royal Arch Mason must be an Actual or Past Master of a Craft Lodge at
the time of his election - not installation - as such.
I am sorry if these remarks are a bit disjointed, but time is short and there could be
so much to say. Nonetheless, despite the many differences in our Royal Arch
chronology, working and nomenclature, there is much of a common thread running
through our thoughts and ideas. Diversity of approach only adds to the devotee's
interest and reinforces the theme. We both have a common goal and similar
achievement - the search for and eventual discovery and restoration of that which
was lost - nothing achieved without work which brings its own reward and
satisfaction in the end.
ME Pro First Grand Principal, it has been a great pleasure to be with you all here
today, and I really do appreciate the chance of being able to address you.
A presentation on the origins of Irish Royal Arch Masonry given to the Provincial Grand Chapter of Cumberland and Westmorland by Rt Ex Comp Michael Walker, Grand Registrar.  Click on image for full PDF File (165 KB)