Short History of Kilwaughter
Good Afternoon Brethren, and welcome along to this Stated Meeting of Kilwaughter Lodge 762 Irish Constitution. I’ve been asked to give you all a brief overview on the history of Irish Freemasonry in general and Kilwaughter Lodge in particular. So I hope that you are all sitting comfortably, as this might take some time.
There has been a tradition of Masonic activities in Ireland from the days of The Gobhan Saor (The Free Smith), the man who is said to have designed and built the great sun temple at New Grange in 5000BC. This was the earliest stone building in the world, predating Stonehenge by some 500 years and the pyramids of Egypt by 1000 years. Sadly, in the great scheme of things, few Irish people realise the importance of this building, which survives to the present day, and still functions as a Sun Temple, allowing the first rays of the Winter Solstice Sun to strike the Altar, located some sixty feet inside and towards the centre of the building, by means of a well designed light box, that works as well now, as it did some 7000 years ago. Not a bad bit of work by the first Irish Freemason. And, if you have never been to New Grange, then I would highly recommend that you go down on the 21st December and see the true meaning of the phrase “ Let there be Light, and there was Light” Anyone interested in learning more on this subject should read Bro Chris Mcclintock’s excellent book “The Craft and the Cross”, readily available from his web-site : www.thecraftandthecross.com.
In the intervening years we have found tantalising records, on the activities of Irish Masons, the extensive use of the 90 degree right angle ( The Mason’s Square ) in connection with the activities of St Columba, the suggestions that Irish Round Towers, were built by members of the Celtic Church to be closer to Light, the illustrations in The Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and the Book of Lindesfarne. Even later, in the 16th century we have the intriguing Baal’s Bridge Square, an old square discovered in the North East corner of the foundations of the Baal’s Bridge, in Limerick.
This ancient artefact bears the date 1507 and the legend “ * I will strive to live * with love and care * upon the level* by the square. *” Then we have the St Nicholas Chair, preserved in the church at Carrickfergus, this is an old bog oak chair bearing the date 1685 and on the back are clear carvings of the Compasses and Square in the Master Mason position and the figure of Hibernia.
Now we come to the formation of The Grand Lodge of Ireland in the year 1725. As most of you know, there were other Grand Lodges in existence before Ireland such as The Grand Lodge of York and The Grand Lodge of Westminster, but the Irish Grand Lodge can claim to be the oldest continuously working Grand Lodge in the World, predating our sister Constitution in Scotland by a mere 11 years and the United Grand Lodge of England by 88 years.
Royal Larne Lodge No 615.
The first warrant to be issued to Larne is dated 1783 but there is some evidence that irregular or clandestine masons were active before and even after, that date. The warrant of 1783 was issued to Lodge No. 615, which when constituted had only ten members, but in less than twenty years its membership had increased to eighty. The first Worshipful Master would appear to have been Randal McDonnell, Viscount Dunluce, who later became the Earl of Antrim. The Lodge owes its foundation to Randal the 6th Earl of Antrim, Grand Master of Ireland, 1770 to 1780. In 1783, he went on to serve as Grand Master of the Ancients, an office he would actively hold until 1790, working alongside Lawrence Dermott, his Deputy Grand Master.
Viscount Dunluce appears to have been the first Master of Royal Larne and was responsible for the prefix Royal. He presented the Lodge with its first collar Jewels, some of which are still said to exist. The Earl also presented cap badges to the Royal Larne Volunteers a Corp, one of a number of units formed to provide a local defence force against the threat of attack by the French. You may be interested to learn that this was a real threat, as the Town of Carrickfergus was briefly captured, the castle occupied and the local Masonic Lodge ransacked by the French privateer Thurot and the Whiteabbey Fort was shelled from the sea by the American privateer John Paul Jones.
Kilwaughter Lodge No 976.
It was the start of the 19th century when we first hear mention of the townland of Kilwaughter. On the 5th December 1805, the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued Warrant 976 to Brothers Robert McNinch, Samuel McNinch and William Humphreys to hold a Lodge in the townland of Kilwaughter near Larne, Co. Antrim. Now I don’t know if there are any links or not, but the Grand Lodge Minute Book for this period of our history is missing. Some blame the ubiquitous Alexander Seton, a past assistant Grand Secretary from the Grand Lodge of Ireland who stole the Grand Lodge seal and a hackney coach of our records in 1805, when he tried to form a breakaway Grand Lodge known as The Grand East of Ulster. This was a body that never took off and Seton was ultimately dragged through the courts by none other than Wor Bro Daniel O’Connell, past Master of a Dublin Lodge, expert ritualist and barrister to Grand Lodge. Although O’Connell won his case, our missing paperwork was never returned.
Some say, it was around this time that we first hear of Joe Boyd senior, walking to school in his bare feet, and short trousers.
One great love of our Irish Brethren was the love of Walking to Church on St John’s Day. We find many references in the local papers, and here is one surviving example.
LARNE - Masonry
We the Masters, Wardens & Brethren of Lodges Nos. 253, 270, 615, 746, 825, 917 923 & 976 of the Free & Accepted Masons beg leave to return our heartfelt thanks to our much esteemed Brother the Revd. John Hodges, Minister of Glenarm for his most excellent and truly Masonic Sermon delivered to us in the first Dissenting Meeting House of Larne on the 24th inst. (St. John's Day) to return our sincere thanks to the First Dissenting Congregation for their readiness in giving their Meeting House.
We spent the remaining part of the evening in conviviality & Brotherly Love.
Signed by Order,
Owen McCann, Master 615 &
Henry Hamill, Master 825
Neal Close Sec. No. 825
BNL 30 June, 1807
Indeed it was a direct of the St John’s Day services that the Brethren of 976, applied to Grand Lodge in 1816, seeking a higher numbered Warrant, for the very simple reason that the higher the number, the nearer your Lodge came to the front of the parade. So we find the following bald statement in the records of The Grand Lodge of Ireland.
“Warrant sent in and exchanged for No. 94, 4 Dec. 1817.”
I am told that "Kilwaughter" Orange Lodge is still using the old WM.'s chair from Kilwaughter Masonic Lodge No 976 and the ancient Bible of the Lodge was still surviving in the year 1938. It was bound in calf skin with the remains of the calf’s hair still adhering to it.
Grand Lodge records show that Warrant No 94, was issued 4 Dec. 1817 to David Adams; William. Neilson and James. Magill. Five other names were registered at the same time. Nine more Brethren, all from Lodge 976 had registered with Grand Lodge by the 18 September, 1818, and a total of 79 brethren registered up to 8 January, 1848.
Here again, one of the main activities of the Lodge was to attend St John’s Day services, as the following newspaper extracts will show.
We the Master's, Wardens and Brethren of Lodges Nos. 43, 94, 106, 148, 162, 175, 216, 253, 615, 788, 825, 972 & 1014, return our sincere Thanks to the Rev. James Cochrane, of Larne, for the impressive and appropriate Sermon preached to us this day, from Hebrews 3., 1., in which, after having pointed out the origin, antiquity and utility of Masonry, he proceeded in an eloquent manner to impress upon his audience the duties of Brotherly Love, Loyalty and Piety in General, but more particularly required from those who belong to our ancient and honourable Fraternity.
Master 825, Larne, 24th June, 1820.
BNL 30 June, 1820.
We the Master's, Wardens & Brethren of Freemason Lodges Nos. 43, 94, 175, 238, 248, 253, 255, 257, 276, 309, 713, 788, 1012, & 1014 return our hearty & sincere thanks to the Revd. Wm. Baird, for his very able & appropriate Sermon delivered to us at Ballyboley in Friday 24 of June it being the Anniversary of St. John - His discourse was taken from 1st Peter 3rd Chap. 8th Ver. "Finally be ye all of one mind having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." The Rev Gentleman's abilities on the subject drew the attention of all present, and seemed to give a general satisfaction. -After the different Lodges had refreshed themselves, they all returned to their respective Lodge Rooms, well satisfied with each other & the harmony of the day.
Ballyboley, July 7th, 1825.
BNL 19 July 1825.
WE the Master's, Wardens and Brethren of Masonic Lodges Nos. 41, 43, 73, 74, 94, 122, 160, 162, 175, 177, 195, 238, 248, 253, 257, 276, 645, 1012 & 1014, assembled at Carrickfergus on Thursday the 24th of June being the Anniversary of St. John, return our most grateful & heartfelt thanks to the Rev, W. Flinton for the very impressive & appropriate discourse, which he delivered to us in the Meeting House of the Presbyterian Congregation from Philippians’ III. 8. 9.
Signed by Order,
Sec of No. 43.
BNL 24 June 1830.
In the latter part of the 1820’s Grand Lodge began moves to bring the tradition of Walking to Church and the tradition of Masonic Funerals to an end. This was a move brought on by concerns over faction fights when going to and coming from Church, and a general concern about stirring up unrest and portraying the Order in a bad light. This move was resisted strongly by the coun try Lodges, and as late as 1836, we find the Brethren of Kilwaughter writing to Grand Lodge in the following terms :-
in procession at the present time .... it will be very much against the well being of Masonry...We let you know that no party spirit prevails amongst us ... The Grand need not apprehend that any disturbance on acct. of Masonic processions'
Extract from a letter to Grand Lodge 16 June 1836
Sadly the 1840’s were a hard time throughout Ireland, when our membership fell significantly as a result of famine, emigration, disease and poverty. The Church of Rome enforced its Papal Bulls in Ireland for the first time, and many Brethren including the great Daniel O’Connell were forced to withdraw to obey the tenets of their faith. All of these factors put pressure on many Lodges including Kilwaughter and many Lodges closed down. Kilwaughter number 94 struggled on, but the damage had been done. Finally the “Warrant sent in, 21 December 1855.”
Warrant No 762
It would be nearly one hundred years before another Warrant returned to the townland of Kilwaughter. In 1953 a group of some twenty three local Brethren led by Archibald C. Strawhorne, Hairdresser (41); George F. Whiteside, Draper (317) and Andrew Clements, Farmer (175) applied to the Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes for the issue of a new Warrant to Kilwaughter. Their application was considered at a meeting in Dublin on the 4the June 1953 when Warrant No 762 was Reissued to `Kilwaughter Lodge' LARNE, Co. Antrim.
The new Lodge was Constituted in the Church Hall, Curran Road, Larne, on Tuesday 23rd June, 1953 by Rt. Wor. Bro. Major Rupert Stanley, LL.D., Provincial Grand Master of Antrim. The Lodge had twenty-three Foundation Members and W. Bro. Craig Strawhorne was the first Master. Bros. George Whiteside and Andrew Clements were the Wardens, W. Bro. Archibald Wright the Treasurer and W. Bro. Wm. Hugh Esler the Secretary. Another of the Foundation Members was Wor Bro Joe Boyd, now enjoying his 60th year in the Lodge and acting as Immediate Past Master at today’s commemorative meeting.
No history of Kilwaughter would be complete, without reference to the local Landowners v- the Agnew’s of Kilwaughter Castle. This began life as a four storey tower house complete with turrets, where the Agnew’s lived and acted as tax collectors for James IV. In 1622 Patrick Agnew rebuilt part of it to include a Scottish style plantation house and again in 1803 -07 the house was remodelled by the famous Dublin architect John Nash in his romantic castle style. So popular in the early 19th century. At that date, the estate comprised some 9770 Irish acres. Some one hundred years later a great grand daughter of Squire Agnew went to Italy and married an Italian Count. She returned to Kilwaughter many years later as Countess Balzani, and it is said that she had borne her later husband, two sons Guiseppi and Pepe. It gives me particular pleasure to welcome these two Italian Brethren today, as they fill the offices of Director of Ceremonies and Junior Deacon.
Now back to more serious matters. In 1972 Bro Bob Williamson, a Glaswegian, who served in the RAF during the Second World War, married a local girl and settled in Larne. He was a member of Kilwaughter and served as Master of the Lodge. He was keen to mark his year, by taking the Lodge to Scotland and through his Lodge Secretary, and the Grand Secretaries for Ireland and Scotland he finally made arrangements to cross the North Channel and visit Lodge Kilwinning Stranraer No 208. The Provincial Grand Master of Galloway Colonel Thomas Murray was a member of Kilwinning Stranraer and did all he could to expediate the meeting. At the Scottish end, the expectation was for a visit by 5 to 10 Irish Brethren. However they were surprised to learn that some 55 Brethren had planned to come over from the North, and on the day some 68 Brethren and their wives turned up. Fittingly their boat The Antrim Princess left Larne on time and after a smooth crossing Wor Bro Bob Williamson and Kilwaugher Lodge arrived at Stranraer.
Colonel Murray, the P.G.M. of Galloway and his Officers were on the Quayside, and after all the other passengers had disembarked, he sent his pipers on board to pipe his guests ashore. This they duly did, to the tune “Bonny Galloway”. After the welcomes were completed on the Quayside, the party were put on a bus and taken for a short tour of Stranraer, whilst the pipers and other Brethren of Kilwinning Stranraer returned to their Lodge room to welcome their guests in a true Scottish manner. This was the visit and the year that Rt Wor Bro Tony Baillie comes into the Kilwaughter story, and with the exception of one year, has visited Kilwaughter with a group of Stranraer brethren for 40 of the last 41 years.
Kilwaughter has played a full part in the Masonic Life in Ireland. Several of its members have received Masonic honours and one Brother, the late Rt Wor Bro Adam McKinley served as Provincial Grand Master of the masonic province of Antrim, which at that time comprised some 272 Lodges, a Province that is larger than some Sovereign Grand Lodges around the globe. Rt Wor Bro McKinley served as Junior Grand Warden of The Grand Lodge of Ireland. He had been due to go in to the position of Senior Grand Warden of Ireland, but was called to The Grand Lodge above before he could do so.
Wor Master and Brethren, I would thank you all for inviting me to share this your sixtieth anniversary, and I would give you all my best wishes for continued growth, happiness and success in the years ahead.
Robert T. Bashford.