North Munster Distrcit Grand Chapter

North Munster District Grand Chapter

Visit to North Munster District Grand Chapter by the Companions of The Irish Chapter of Research No 222.  Here follows the text of a short paper delivered on the evening by Ex Comp Robert Bashford.

Most Excellent District Grand King,

Ex King & Council of Eden Chapter 73, Rt Ex Companions, Very Excellent Companions, Ex Companions and Companions all, I bring you greetings from the Ex King and Council of The Irish Chapter of Research No 222 and thank you for this opportunity to join with you at labour in this magnificent modern Masonic Centre here on the site of the old St Munchin’s Parochial Hall, on King’s Island in the city of Limerick. As you know, we trace the history of Supreme Grand Chapter to the year 1829, when Augustus Frederick; 3rd Duke of Leinster became our first Most Excellent Supreme Grand King, and with the assistance of Rt Ex Companion John Fowler, carefully laid the framework of our Royal Arch Order that we still use right up to the present time.

However, Royal Arch workings have been an integral part of Craft Masonry since “Time Immemorial” and before 1830, it was the Irish Tradition to work Higher Degrees under the sole authority of a Craft Warrant. The late Rt Wor Bro Chetwode Crawley, in Faculus One of his book entitled “Caementaria Hibernica” has demonstrated in a masterly manner how the esoteric symbolism of the Royal Arch appears innate and imbedded in the Irish Rite of 1730. The old pre 1817 Warrant issued by The Grand Lodge of Ireland contains the following regulation – “We do hereby Give and Grant unto . . . and their successors full power and lawful authority from time to time, to process to election of a new Master and Wardens, to make such  Laws, Rules and Orders, as they, from time to time shall think proper and convenient, for the well being and ordering of said Lodge; reserving to ourselves and our successors, Grand Masters and Grand Wardens of Ireland, the sole right of deciding all differences which shall be brought by appeal before us”.

In effect this section of the Warrant was all the authority necessary to allow Irish Lodges to work any degress, provided of course that a competent lecturer could be found to give same in Lodge. Old records and surviving manuscript certificates show that the Lodges in Limerick worked Royal Arch and High Knight Templar degrees in the 18th century. A very fine example of one of these certificates can be seen downstairs in the museum, issued by Lodge 13 and dating from the year 1791.

We are all familiar with the 1744 references in Faulkner’s Dublin Journal to the St John’s Day Masonic Procession in Youghall where the Royal Arch was carried by two Excellent Masons. Indeed if we read the whole article, it becomes clear that there are two groups of Officers present, the Master and Wardens representing the three Kings in the Josiah legend and the Deputy Master and Excellent Masons ( Deputy Wardens ) representing the three Principals in the Zerrubabal legend. This was the position that existed up to 1868, when the Josiah legend was confirmed in the Royal Arch, and Zerrubalel was moved to the Red Cross or Council of Knight Mason degrees. And of course, our Brethren in Limerick, had the added confusion of the Royal Order of Philippi. In your circular for tonight’s meeting, we have a photograph of the only other reference to Philippi, which is found on a hand drawn and hand illustrated certificate hanging in one of the rooms in the old Bishop’s Palace Lodgerooms in Londonderry. Here in a certificate dating 1780, and drawn for a Bro William Reid is a series of Masonic illustrations including one, of a figure inside a lozenge  bearing the legend – “We Stop at Philippi”.


Official Royal Arch Masonry came early to the West with Warrant No 60 being constituted on the 29th April 1830 in the Masonic Hall, Ennis. The Grantees included John D’Arcy the foundation EK, Patrick Marshall, James O’Dwyer, James O’Gorman, Joseph Green, Michael Cullman, Patrick Daly, Burton D’Arcy and William Talbot. However, like many other Chapters in the mid 19th century, things were tight in Ennis and Royal Arch Warrant No 60 was Sent Up on the 21st July 1858, to be held in trust. In this case, the trust was well founded and the Companions of Ennis prepared a memorial on the 15th November 1867 for the reissue of Royal Arch Warrant No 60. Supreme Grand Chapter granted this request on the 24th March 1868. And here the Warrant remained in operation until 1955, when Supreme Grand Chapter gave approval for Chapters 55 and 73 Eden, to amalgamate and hold combined meetings in Limerick. The old Ennis RAC Warrant remained current until the 5th November 1975, when it was finally returned to Supreme Grand Chapter.   

Warrant No 271 Limerick was granted on the 1st May 1830 to Companions Michael McNamara, William Bassett, William Bradshaw, Philip Hughes, John Jepson, Philip Doyle, William O’Sullivan, Robert O’Shanghnessy, Patrick Hogan and Edward Sargent. It is interesting to note that there are a number of surviving manuscript certificates from Lodge 271 including :-

(1)    Royal Arch certificate, with red ribbon and wax impression of seal, issued 19th March, 1805, by Lodge 271, Limerick — [See page 96 of the 1924 Transactions]

 (2)    M.S. Certificate by the Archbishop and other Dignitaries of a Royal Congregation of the Royal Order of Philippi, under sanction of Lodge 271 Limerick; “That John Shaw was passed a Knight Templar and then Installed Emperor of the Royal Order of Philippi."  Dated 21st June, A.D. 1813 and of Phillipine Masonry 1413. 

 (3)    Contained in Francis Crossle's scrapbooks and illustrations ( Box 1 page 45 ) –  Copy of a Red Cross Certificate issued to Bro. John Hill by Lodge No. 271, Limerick, 1790.
 Sadly, this new Chapter would have a short independent history, as it was cancelled by Grand Chapter on the 28th  January 1844, as a consequence of the Cancellation of the Warrant to Lodge No 271, on its transfer to a new higher numbered Warrant -Eden Lodge 73, Limerick.

Royal Arch Warrant No 13 was issued to Antient Union, Limerick on the 22nd June 1831. The Grantees on this occasion were Thomas Walnut, John Ingram, T.G.Willis, John Hunt, Henry Watson, Edward Sayers, Robert Currie, James Dickson and George Furnell. Amongst the surviving Royal Arch letters from Antient Union is one dated 22nd September 1842 which includes a reference from Michael Furnell PGM to the holding of a Lodge meeting, on board his yacht during the Limerick Regatta in 1842. The Masonic emblems Square /Compasses proudly flying at his top mast. Over the years various dispensations were given to the Chapter Registrar to give the Royal Arch degree to military Brethren, before they went off to serve overseas. One such was issued to Bro Edward Pardoe of the 15th Regiment, dated 6th February 1845 so that he could get his Royal Arch degree, before he set off for service in the West Indies. Royal Arch meetings were held quarterly by the Companions, in the various meeting places throughout Limerick, but after sixty years of Labour in Limerick the Companions finally Returned Royal Arch Warrant No 13 to Supreme Grand Chapter on the 8th November 1890.

The following nine Companions Joseph Myles, Michael Furnell, William Myles, William O’Sullivan, I.H.Turnsell, Mannsille  Ormsby, Henry W. Smith, Charles Creed and Thomas Renmerson reapplied to Supreme Grand Chapter on the 15th May 1844, and on the 14th June 1844 were Granted Eden Royal Arch Chapter Warrant No 73. Eden has been a beacon of Royal Arch Masonry ever since. With the approval of the Grand Royal Arch Board of General Purposes on the 2nd November 1955, it amalgamated with the companions of Chapter 60, giving them a home, when Warrant 60 was finally Returned to Supreme Grand Chapter on the 5th November 1975. Eden Chapter No 73 remains active right up to the present time.



A Memorial application was received by Supreme Grand Chapter, on the 22nd January 1846, and Granted on the 27th January 1846 for the issue of Triune Royal Arch Warrant No 333. In this case the Grantees were Samuel Dickson, Michael Furnell, Frederick Savile, John S. Brown, Thomas Jervis, Thomas Wright, William Massey, Henry W. Massey and Thomas J Quenton. Sadly this Warrant was Sent Up in Trust to Supreme Grand Chapter on the 3rd November 1862. Some years later on the 11th February 1870, a further Memorial was sent to Supreme Grand Chapter applying for the reinstatement of their original Warrant. On this occasion the Grantees were Charles M. Wilson, William Molloy, Richard Prise, Thomas Carte, Alexander Rowand, Charles Armstrong, Joseph Fogerty, Charles M. Spoons, Richard Wallace and George A. Dartnell. Once again problems arose fairly quickly and the Warrant was called In on the 6th November 1886. Another revival took place on the 8th May 1929, Supreme Grand Chapter again reissued the Warrant on receipt of payment of one guinea. On this occasion the Grantees were John H. Singleton, William H. Walsh, Alexander E. Jordon, James Le Gear, William R. Miller, James Long, Arthur V. Callender, George C Millar and Joseph E. Galbraith. Triune Chapter has never looked back and continues to conduct Royal Arch business right up to the present time.

A further Warrant, was applied for, by a group of Royal Arch Masons, members of Excelsior Lodge No 268 in the year 1873. This matter does not appear to have been followed up, and it appears that Royal Arch Warrant No 268 was never issued to the Companions of Excelsior.

In 1914, Supreme Grand Chapter moved to improve administration by Constituting the District Grand Chapters of Munster and North Munster. In the case of North Munster, the District comprising Eden Chapter 73 and Triune Chapter 333, was enlarged to include Premier Connaught RAC No 14 in Galway. This was a chapter that came into existence in October 1880 and its first Excellent King was Ex Comp the Rev. J. Gardiner Robb. This Galway Chapter is the only Chapter in South Connaught, and plays an important part in the District of North Munster. Currently the District Grand Royal Arch Chapter meets three times a year in Limerick, and then holds its September meeting in the Galway Hall.

 Companions, this has been a very short and hopefully succinct look at the history of Royal Arch Masonry in the North Munster area. We in The Irish Chapter of Research No 222 are particularly pleased to have had this opportunity to join with The District of North Munster, and of course, our Companions in Eden Chapter 73 here this evening. As your District is relatively small, I have tried to name as many of the past Royal Arch Masons as possible, and I’m sure that our Limerick Companions will recognise and know most of the Companions so named. I’m sure that the names mentioned are, in fact, those of earlier family members.  

Downstairs is probably one of the best local historical resources in the entire Masonic Constitution of Ireland. It contains, amongst others, an excellent selection of well displayed local Royal Arch artefacts, including jewels and I highly recommend that you all spend a few moments down there, at the  end of the meeting. If you have any questions on what you see,or have heard, then please do not hesitate to approach me and ask.