ICOM 2017 – irishfreemasonry.com

Les Origines Irlandaises de la Grande Loge des Anciens - PART I

As an active member of The Right Worshipful the Grand Lodge of Ireland, I wish you all “Cead Mile Failte” and thank you for this opportunity to bring good tidings from the land of the Solstice Square. In our island the arts of stone masonry are long-established; and we can trace their origins back approximately five thousand three hundred years ago to the magnifient sun temple complex at New Grange, probably the earliest surviving stone-built building in the world.

This is a building that was in existence for five hundred years before the Stonehenge monument was constructed in England and a thousand years before the pyramids came into existence in Egypt. It is my intention today to give you all a flavour of  the origins of Freemasonry on the Island of Ireland, and then highlight the links and influences of The Grand Lodge of Ireland in the formation of The Grand Lodge of the Antients in London in the year 1751. We will do this by referring to some of the surviving artifacts and records still preserved in the halls and lodge-rooms of Ireland and these will illustrate how Ireland came to play such an important part in the origins of The Antients.

The origins of Freemasonry remain in obscurity, despite the many theories being put forward on a regular basis by researchers around the globe. One interesting new thesis, researched in Ireland and presented by Bro. Chris McClintock, points out the many similarities between the ritual of a modern Irish Lodge and the activities of the ancient priests, as they recorded sunrise and sunset daily to build up weather profiles on a year by year basis. As we look at the daily tools and activities used by the priestly class, we can see strong similarities with activities within the Lodge. For those who want to learn more I would refer them to the book entitled The Craft and the Cross, which gives comprehensive detail of the McClintock thesis to anyone interested.

One of our earliest surviving Masonic artefacts, the Baal’s Bridge Square, was recovered in the year 1830, from the foundations of the medieval Baal’s Bridge, a bridge that had been built over with shops and accommodation, much in the style of the famous old London Bridge ( which eventually burned down ).The old brass square was located under the eastern corner of the foundation of the northern land pier on the King’s Island or English Town side of the river Shannon running through the center of the city of Limerick. This fascinating old artefact bearing the date 1507, has the following inscription: ‘I will strive to live with love and care, upon the level, by the square.’ These words still resonate in the Irish Constitution right up to the present day.

On a similar vein in 1921 there is recorded the discovery of a bog-oak medallion, located in the ruins of an old cottage just outside the village of Dromore in Co Tyrone. The discovery appears to have been well documented at the time with formal statements from a number of local Brethren from Trillick, Lisnahanna, Enniskillen, and the Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Tyrone and Fermanagh. This medallion bears the date 1517 and bears, on both faces, a plethora of Masonic symbols including the usual symbols of mortality.  Here again, brethren, we find another intriguing artefacts, suggestive of a long history of Freemasonry in Ireland.

In Trinity College, Dublin, records still survive of a 1688 student’s Tripos – a harangue prepared in Latin, by one of the candidate Bachelors – which pokes fun at university life at the time. Of particular interest to us today are the references to the order of Freemasonry, its speculative membership, and the fact that at that time there appears to have been two varieties available – the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ way. This may well be a reference to the evolution from operative to speculative, or indeed may even refer to the ongoing political scene at the time leading up to the ‘Glorious Revolution’ in 1690. Either way it is an important affirmation of the long establishment of Freemasonry in one of our oldest Irish universities, as quite clearly it would be pointless to poke fun at an organization that no-one else had ever heard of. 

Clearly, this was a period when lodges were becoming more common around the country. Some of our gentry held their own lodges in their houses for the benefit of their family, friends and retainers. One such lodge met in Doneraile Court, in County Cork, home to Sir Arthur St Leger, 1st Viscount Doneraile, in the early years of the eighteenth century. Sir Arthur's daughter, the Lady Elizabeth, was in the library one day and fell asleep in the warm afternoon sun. When she awakened, she could hear voices and it slowly dawned on her that what she could hear were the voices of the brethren, members of her father's lodge as they met in another part of the library.


They were giving the Fellow-Craft degree to an initiate, and, as the degree proceeded, the Lady Elizabeth became more and more concerned.  At one stage she tried to leave the library, but on opening the door, was apprehended by her father’s old butler, who had been outside acting as Tyler. Her father and the rest of the officers were in quite a quandary, but ultimately decided to take her back into the lodge-room and, after she had given the requisite undertakings, they made her a Fellow-Craft Freemason, and for the next sixty-three years of her life she faithfully lived up to her responsibilities as a Fellow-Craft Freemason.

Unlike the many other stories of women who were alleged to have been Freemasons, the story of the Lady Elizabeth is well recorded, with her name appearing in many of the Masonic publications of the day as a subscriber. In the collections held in Tuckey Street, Cork City, are the apron and breast jewel said to belong to the Lady Elizabeth and on the second floor is a small ornate canopy chair said to have been used by the Lady Elizabeth. Set in the floor, in front of the bishop’s throne in St Fin-Barres cathedral, Cork is a brass memorial plaque, to the memory of the Lady Elizabeth, and recording her entry into Freemasonry in her father’s lodge in the year 1712.      











One aspect of our ritual is the existence of a developed three-degree system in Ireland around the year 1711. Documentary proof was found in the collections of Trinity College, Dublin, and was subjected to some very detailed inspection by the brethren of Quatuor Coronati Lodge in the early part of the twentieth century. Here one will find many matters that only appeared in English and Scottish ritual at a considerably later date. Knoop, Jones & Hamer in their seminal work The Early Masonic Catechisms give a complete copy of this short catechism, which had previously been published in its entirety in the Transactions of The Irish Lodge of Research No CC for the year 1924.

Whilst on the question of ‘constitution rolls’ it is worth noting that the esteemed Dr Anderson, in the preface to the 1723 Laws and Constitutions makes claim to the fact that he used some of the old Irish records in the preparation of his new book. As many of you know, Dr Anderson’s claims have not always been borne out by subsequent facts. However, it is of great interest that he would feel the need to mention Ireland as an early source of Masonic regularity, if in fact Freemasonry was not already well known in Ireland at that time.

In 1725, we find the first independent record of the existence of The Grand Lodge of Ireland. In the Faulkner's Dublin Journal of 24th June 1725 there is a record of the Installation of The Earl of Rosse as Grand Master of The Grand Lodge of Ireland, with all the pomp and ceremony that one would expect from the 18th Century. As you read the article, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not the Constitution of The Grand Lodge of Ireland, but in fact, a record of the installation of a Grand Master into a pre-existing organization.

In 1730 John Pennell, Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Ireland, published his Laws and Constitutions. Interestingly, these follow Anderson’s 1723 edition in many ways, but in some quite particular issues they differ very substantially, and reflect the actual Masonry worked in Ireland at that time. Irish Freemasonry was then largely Roman Catholic and our Charges reflect that point. Of particular interest on the title page is the introduction of a very fitting Latin motto “Fraternitatem Diligite” – Love and Brotherhood. Here written succinctly in a mere two words is a motto that condenses the entire teaching of the Craft.

The frontis piece engraved by Phillip Simms, Dame Street, Dublin shows the Sun God, in his chariot crossing the heavens from morning to night, and underneath are the outgoing Grand Master handing over the written constitution of The Grand Lodge of Ireland to his successor. In this case it would have been Richard 1st Earl of Rosse ( at the end of his second term of office as Grand Master) handing over to James 4th Lord Kingston, his duly elected successor. However, as in all things Masonic, we not only see a representation of the actual event, but we also get an allegory of the change, from the light half to the dark half of the year. Here again, well instructed brethren, can learn quite a bit from this picture, and in particular, if they consider the number and placement of the sets of columns, the Royal Arch in the distance and the importance given to the keystone.

Pennell provides a fulsome dedication at the front of his book where he exhorts his Brethren to ‘quit themselves like men, walk by the line, stand by the plumb, live upon the square, and level their friendship to the end of time’ and that ‘while here, they build to themselves, and dwell in earthly tabernacles, they will make sure of an everlasting Habitation not made with hands.’ It is my view that this choice of wording, and associated symbolism, was quite deliberate in the case of Pennell in that he was laying out a clear road map for those in the know, pointing them to the goal of a well-built arch.   

One important aspect in this book, and subsequent repeated in other Irish masonic works, is the presence of an extensive four page list of subscribers, totaling some 136 names of Brethren from all across the island of Ireland. Amongst this number are two Esquires, eighteen Gents, three clergymen, one military Captain, a number of Merchants, six non commissioned Officers and the rest are Misters.

The prayer said at the Opening of the Lodge and at the Making of a Brother, appears for the first time at page 52 of Pennell’s work. Douglas Knoop at pages 244-245 of his excellent work “The Genesis of Freemasonry” is of the view that as Pennells Constitutions were the defacto Constitutions of The Grand Lodge of Ireland, then it was reasonable to assume that this version of the Opening Prayer

was in common use throughout the Irish Constitution. The prayer itself is Trinitarian in character, and as Andersons work was of a Deist nature, it should not be too surprising that Anderson makes no references to Prayer.

In 1723 it is clear from Anderson that the grade of Fellow-C raft is the highest Craft degree then in use in London. For example, he notes that:-


  1. No Brother can be a Warden till he has passed the part of Fellow-Craft.                                                                          (Charge 4)


2.   The Treasurer and Secretary shall each have a clerk, who must be a Brother and a Fellow-Craft.                      (General Regulations 13)


3.   In the absence of the Grand Wardens the Grand Master shall Order private wardens to act as Grand Wardens (pro tempore) whose places are to be provided by two Fellow-Craft of the same Lodge, called forth to act.


Now let’s look briefly at Pennell:


4.   In the 4th Charge - . . . of being made a Brother (entered apprentice), And a fellow- craft and in due time a Master; and when qualified he may arrive to the honour of being a Warden, then Master of his Lodge.

As we noted previously, Anderson only refers to a ‘Brother’ and ‘Fellow-Craft’. So it would appear that the third degree, noted in the Trinity College manuscript of 1711, was by 1730 recognized by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and in general use by the brethren at large.

Ireland is always credited with the introduction of warrants, the properly constituted written authority of a Grand Lodge, issued to a group of Brethren permitting them to assemble as a lodge and conduct the business of a lodge.  Strictly speaking this is not quite true, as we know that Mother Lodge No. 0, Kilwinning, was in the habit of issuing some form of charter to its daughter lodges in the latter half of the seventeenth century, authorizing them to assemble and meet as a duly constituted body. However, Kilwinning did not issue laws and constitutions, or provide any of the other support functions of a Grand Lodge, and it then fell to the Grand Lodge of Ireland to formalize the requirement for Warrants and enforce the use of same throughout its area of control. Warrants were usually of two set types, being either ‘stationary’, issued to a specific town or village or ‘travelling’, attached to an army or other military body. It was from this starting point in 1731 that the Grand Lodge of Ireland spearheaded the spread of Freemasonry throughout the known world.  

I would just take a few moments to reflect on the early records of the issue of warrants by the Grand Lodge of Ireland. In 1732 Warrant No. 11 was issued to the First Battalion Royal Scots, beginning our links with this regiment which would continue until the year 1847. In the same year Warrant No. 12 was issued to Major General Dalzeel’s Regiment of Foot, which later became the 33rd Foot. One year later in 1733 Warrant No. 23 was issued to Colonel Hamilton’s  Regiment, which later came to glory as the 27th Foot Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Then in 1734 Warrant No. 33 was issued to the 21st Foot, better known today as the Royal Scots Fusiliers. By this means the leading edge of Irish Masonry travelled in the van of the British Army, as it ensured the safety of England and her many colonies throughout the world. We in Ireland still have a proud boast today in that ‘The Sun never sets on Irish Freemasonry.’ We have active lodges in places as diverse as the Caribbean, Gibraltar, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. In the past we had outposts in England, Scotland, The Isle of Man, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Australasia.

Meanwhile in England, in the late 1730’s the Brethren in The Grand Lodge of Westminster, were becoming frustrated with the numbers of Irish Masons, working in London, who were seeking financial assistance from their Grand Lodge. Eventually in 1730, they unilaterally moved to stop the practice of Charity monies being available to Brethren from the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Samuel Prichard published his exposure “Masonry Dissected” that same year, in which he claimed to give an impartial account of the regular proceedings in initiating new members in the three degrees of Masonry. This work became very popular with English Freemasons, who used the work as an aide memoire and with many non-Masons who wanted to learn their secrets. This caused great concern to those in authority in the Grand Lodge of Westminster, and they decided to make a number of significant changes in passwords, signs and symbols of their ritual, which only Freemasons, members of Lodges under their control would be aware of. These changes had a significant effect on their ritual, disrupting the lessons contained therein, and placing the Grand Lodge of Westminster at odds with their Brethren in Ireland.

In 1735-6 a series of Masonic manuals were published by Bro William Smith under the titles “The Pocket Companion” issued in Dublin in 1735, for the use of Irish Freemasons; “The Pocket Companion” issued almost simultaneously in London, for the use of English Freemasons; and “The Book M” issued at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1736 for the use of Brethren in the North of England. These books have regional differences in detail, but generally are substantially identical in legislation and dogma. Indeed, the very careful recording of minor regional differences by Brother Smith is the clearest proof that there were virtually no major ritual differences at that time. However, he had not been aware of the major changes, made in the ritual in London, by The Grand lodge of Westminster. In the very year that “The Pocket Companion” was issued, The Grand Lodge of Westminster refused admission to the Master and Wardens of an Irish lodge, at their meeting on the 11th December 1735, stating that they could not grant admission unless the Brethren concerned wanted to apply for a new Westminster Constitution. Sorry to say, the Die was now set.

James Anderson was not at all happy at the issue of this work, and raised a complaint on the 14th February 1735 in which he stated that “one William Smith, said to be a mason, had, without his privity or consent, pyrated a considerable part of the constitution of Masonry, aforesaid, to the prejudice of the said Bro Anderson”. Smith clearly learned a quick lesson, and held back the issue of his Irish volume until he had secured the blessing of the Rt Hon Henry Barnwal, Lord Viscount Kingsland, Grand Master of the Most Ancient & Right Worshipful fraternity of Free and Accepted Mason’s of Ireland. This seems to solve his problems in Ireland, and the Irish edition sold very well indeed.

We have previously made passing reference to Royal Arch Masonry, and at this point I would like to draw your attention to its earliest history in Ireland. We first find mention of the Arch in Pennell’s 1730 volume of Constitutions. Here we find the well-known phrase ‘And let the cement of the Brotherhood be so well preserv’d that the whole body may remain as a well built Arch.’ This statement has to be considered in conjunction with the frontispiece used by Pennell (and Anderson) which shows the Grand Masters standing beneath an arch, and the vista of columns supporting the Masonic edifice terminates in a ‘Well Built Arch’, ornamented with an unmistakable keystone    

Bro. Philip Crossle has written extensively on the Royal Arch degree, and it was his contention that Irish Masonic workings always contained an element of what we now call Royal Arch Ritual. In its earliest form, it was worked in Ireland as the Master’s part, allowing the Master an opportunity to recover what was lost. However, by the time that we find further reference to ‘Excellent Masons carrying the Royal Arch’  in a newspaper report from Youghal reporting on a St John’s Day parade in 1743, matters had clearly progressed to a position where the Royal Arch workings were then a totally separate degree.



Rt Wor Brother Robert T. Bashford.

The Irish Lodge of Research No CC in The Grand Lodge of Ireland.


Appendix 1 : Further Reading.


Notes on Laurence Dermott and his work by William Matthew Bywater P.M. No 19 London 1884.


Masonic Facts and Fictions comprising A New Theory on the Origin of the "Antient" Grand lodge by Henry Sadler PM and PZ Grand Tyler and sub-librarian of The United Grand Lodge of England. Published by Diprose & Bateman of Lincoln's Inn, London. 1887.


Caementaria Hibernica being The Public Constitutions that have served to hold together the Freemasons of Ireland. Researched and written by W.J. Chetwode Crawley LL.d., D.C.L., F.R.G.S.,F.G.S., F.R.Hist.S., Past Grand Senior Deacon Ireland, Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Instruction Ireland, Past Master Quaruor Coronati Lodge No 2076 U.G.L.E.


Fasciculus Primus ( 1726 - 1730 ) – Pages 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21.


Fasciculus Secundus ( 1735 - 1744 ) – Pages 1, 2, and 6.


Fasciculus Tertius ( 1751 - 1807 ) – Page 6, 7, 13, 15, and 16.


Laurence Dermott - His Masonic Life and Work. compiled from the writings of many distinguished Masonic Authors and from the records of The Grand Lodge of the Ancients, by Wor Bro Richard J. Reece M.A., M.D., P.G.D., P.M. and Secretary of Grand Master's Lodge No 1. United Grand Lodge of England. 1914.


Volume 1 History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, written and researched by John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle. Published in Dublin by The Lodge of Research CC. 1925. Check references to Dermott at pages – 89, 161, 166, 183, 237, 249, 271,306 and 434. Ahiman Rezon at pages 236, 239 and 241, Dermott’s bookplate at page 240. Secretary G.L. England ( Antients ) pages231 ssq, and 238 ssq.


See also notes on Grand Lodge of the Antients at pages - 85, 99, 183, 205, 208, 209, and 269. Notes on R.A. Degree at page 99.


Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland – Bicentenary Festival Banquet Freemasons Hall 4th June 1925 – The Story of the Past two Hundred Years, researched and written by Philip Crossle – Page 4.


Paper presented in volume XLVI part 2 Ars Quatuor Coronatorum pages 239-306, entitled Ahiman Rezon – The Book of Constitutions, researched and written by Bro Cecil Adams M.C., F.S.A., P.G.D.


The Genesis of Freemasonry - An account of the rise and development of Freemasonry in its operative, accepted and early speculative phases by Douglas Knoop MA. Hons., A.R.I.B.A. and G.P. Jones MA Litt D. Published by The Manchester University Press - 1947.


The Freemasons by Eugene Lennhoff ( New edition published by Lewis Masonic 1994 ) refer to pages 58 - 63.


Vol II of the History of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland researched and written by R.E. Parkinson and published by Lodge of Research No CC, Dublin. refer to page 29, pages 79-80, page 176, page 267, page 279 and page 303.