ICOM – Part II – irishfreemasonry.com

Les Origines Irlandaises de la Grande Loge des Anciens. PART II

In the following year, 1744, Dr Fifield Dassigny published a book which was so rare that a copy was not located until 1867, when it was finally discovered by that famous Masonic student and member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Bro. W. J. Hughan. This book is mainly of interest today as a result of the following few lines of print:

In his Serious and Impartial Enquiry Dassigny clearly states that ‘Brethren have no right to the benefits of Royal Arch Masonry until such time as they are duly qualified (having past the Chair) and make application in the proper manner, and only then, are they entitled to progress further towards the rank of Excellent Masons.’ It is interesting to note that Dermott’s name appears in the list of subscribers for the Impartial Enquiry along with that of Elizabeth Aldworth, the Lady Freemason and her son Boyle.


I hope that in the foregoing remarks you fully understand my contention that the Royal Arch, unlike any other so called ‘higher degree’, was in fact an integral part of Craft Masonry from the earliest times. Its current position in Ireland has evolved from this intimate relationship with the Craft, and in part explains why the historical part of our Irish ritual is different from that worked either in England or Scotland.

In an old cupboard in the Coleraine Masonic Hall can be found the original collars and silver officers’ jewels which used to be worn by the officers of the Vernon Lodge No. 123, Coleraine. These jewels were the gift of Dominic Hyland, first Master of the lodge. A little bit earlier on 8 May 1741 Warrant No. 123 was issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland to ‘William Kinkead, gent., Alexander McCracken, gent., and Dominick Heyland, gent.’ to hold a lodge at Coleraine in the County of Londonderry. This would appear to have been a pre-existing or time immemorial lodge, which was regularizing its position in response to a press advertisement in Faulkner’s Dublin Journal of 1 July 1740, when ‘Grand Lodge called on all Time Immemorial Lodges to apply for warrants, or they would be proceeded against as Rebel Masons.’

These officers’ jewels are unique, as they carry the usual Craft symbols on the obverse face and have Royal Arch symbols on the reverse.  Each jewel bears the name Dominic Hyland and the date 1747. They are all magnificent eighteenth-century Georgian silver jewels, well engraved with Masonic symbols and bearing the name Vernon Lodge and the date 5747. There are various Masonic mottos on the jewels, and they all record the fact that they were the ‘gift of our worthy Brother Dominick Heyland Esq.’ All three jewels are engraved on both sides and include a fascinating mixture of Masonic Craft symbols, except however for the reverse face of the Wardens’ jewels, where we find specifically Royal Arch symbols, including the Sun, the Snake and the Pick-Axe, in each of the three corners and, in the centre, a Holy Royal Arch set up over an altar in the Holy of Holies. The arch comprises five separate courses, with a keystone on top.

The Worshipful Master’s jewel is a beautiful silver square, suspended from the centre and bearing engraved representations of the Compasses, Square and Volume of the Holy Law on one face, and the Sun, the Moon and the Master’s Gavel on the other. Suspended under the Square, supported by three short lengths of silver chain, is a finely-wrought equilateral Triangle, bearing on one face the All Seeing Eye, the 47th Proposition of Euclid, The Two Pillars, Three Candlesticks, Level and Compasses, Square and Plumb-Line. On the reverse of the Triangle is a repeat of the Royal Arch design on the back of the Senior Warden’s jewel.

A few miles down the road, in the town of Enniskillen is the magnificent floorcloth, that has been framed and preserved on the wall behind the Senior Warden’s chair. This magnificent artefact was produced in 1749 for the constitution of Masonic Lodge No. 205 attached to the 35th Regiment of Foot. This regiment was stationed at Charlemont Fort, which lies on the river Blackwater, opposite the town of Moy. If I may, I would like to remind you all of the importance of this particular relic, dating from the year 1749, as the central design on the floorcloth has the Worshipful Master in his blue cloak sitting on the Master’s Throne, facing a figure in a red cloak wearing a red apron with an Arch containing a holy of holies under the keystone.

Over the head of the figure are drawn three golden crowns, emblematic of the Trinity, the Three Grand Masters, and the Three Kings, who clearly ruled the chapter at that time. Beside the three crowns is a bishop’s mitre, emblematic of the High Priest, another very important officer in the chapter. Some telling text is found written at the top of the floorcloth which reads as follows: ‘Our wondrous Arch is yonder vaulted sky / Our mighty keystone is the All Seeing Eye’.


Laurence Dermott was an Irishman, born in 1720. He was initiated in Lodge No 26, Dublin, in 1740, and having served all the offices in the Lodge, including Secretary, he was Installed as Wor Master of Lodge 26 on the 24th June 1746. And in the same year ( 1746 ) he was exalted to the degree of Royal Arch Mason. We know, that he was a Brother of limited means, who travelled to London and got himself a position, working for a Master Painter. Quite clearly, he had received a well rounded education, which clearly shines through in his writings and correspondence. Dermott was one of the very many Irish Brethren who emigrated to England in the 1740’s in response to the ongoing series of potato famines, that swept the country at that time.


Irish Brethren and others, began to come together and form unaffiliated Lodges, which came together initially in an informal way. Probably not many more than 80 Brethren, assembled in six modest Lodges of mechanics, workmen and shopkeepers, many of whom were Irish, met together and formed a Grand Lodge of the Old Institution. They never implied that any of their Lodges were older than The Grand Lodge of Westminster, but as their intention was to preserve certain of the ancient features of the Craft, lately changed, by that assembly, they assumed the title in their earliest records of “Antient Masons” , and the members of the older body came to be called “The Moderns”. John Morgan became the first Secretary of this new grand body, and the earliest surviving record of their activities is recorded in a volume known as Morgan’s Register, the greater part of which is a membership register, of those Brethren supporting this new Grand Lodge. It also contains an index and a series of some 18 Rules and Orders headed :-


Rules and Orders to be observed by the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons. As agreed and settled by a Committee appointed by a general assembly, held at the Turk’s Head in Greek Street, Soho on Wednesday the 17th June 1751” This was followed by a list of 16 rules. A further rule was added on the 6th April 1752.

For many years the considered wisdom was that this body broke away from the Grand Lodge of Westminster in a schism over the ritual changes implemented by that body in response to the publication of a number of Masonic exposures. Bro Henry Sadler, Past Grand Librarian of The United Grand Lodge of England, finally dismissed that theory when in 1887 he discovered the Minute Books belonging to the Ancients’ Grand Lodge, and published a summary of these in his excellent book "Masonic Facts and Fiction". However, it was thanks to the writings and actions of one man – the Irish immigrant Laurence Dermott – that we still pay great regard to the Ancients today. Dermott labored in troubled times, and was a staunch supporter of Masonic discipline. He was often attacked and vilified by his enemies, but thankfully he was himself a fighter, and an administrator extraordinaire. It is thanks to him that in so many ways English Masonry has developed as it has, and his mark can still be seen today.


In 1752, we learn that Dermott, after visiting a Modern Lodge then joined Lodge 9 affiliated to The Grand Lodge of the Old Institution. He shortly left Lodge 9 and joined Lodge 10, which also supported the Old Institution. At the meeting of The Grand Committee held on the 5th February 1752, we learn that Bro John Morgan, had lately been appointed to a position on His Majesty’s Ships and resigned as Grand Secretary of The Old Institutions. After an interview by Morgan and election in Grand Lodge Dermott became the new Grand Secretary. He appears to have started work immediately and on the 1st April 1752, the question of Byelaws for private Lodges was raised in Committee. A draft set of Byelaws had been prepared by the outgoing Grand Secretary, but this was set to the side once Dermott produced a copy of the Byelaws used in Dublin by his Irish Lodge. “The latter being deemed the most correct, it was unanimously resolved, that the most correct copy should be received and acknowledged as the only byelaws for private Lodges in the future. And public thanks was given to Bros Philip McLoughlin and John Morgan for their good intentions, and trouble in drawing up the former byelaws.


The Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Ireland, Edward Spratt, was a noted ritualist and masonic lecturer in Dublin. Clearly, Dermott had seen him in action, on many occasions, and held his ritual skills in high regard. In the Minutes of The Grand Lodge of the Antients under date 24th June 1752, we find that Dermott was invested as Grand Secretary. Once the ceremony was finished, Dermott repeated the entire ceremony again, in the manner that he had learned from Bro Edward Spratt Esq, the celebrated Grand Secretary of Ireland. The long recital of this solemn ceremony gave great satisfaction to the audience, many of whom, never had the opportunity of hearing the like before. Dermott re-introduced the ceremony of Installing the incoming Master, in the Irish manner. having previously been discarded by the Moderns in about 1739. In Ireland it was established custom that Irish lodges installed their Masters twice a year on the two St John’s days, on the 24th June and 27th December each year. This ceremony was not used by the Moderns until after 1813, when it was put forward and eventually approved, by those Brethren sitting in The Lodge of Reconciliation.

It is worth noting that, in the eighteenth century, it was the Irish tradition to elect the Masters to serve for a period of six months from St John's Day to St John' Day.

It was not until 1875 that this rule finally changed, and now we only elect our lodge Masters once a year. This fixed period of election in Ireland, installing the new Master on the next meeting after St John’s day, 27 December each year, is at variance with both the Scottish and English practice of electing and installing their lodge officers as and when the lodge so wishes.


In Ireland the lodge officers are elected on the votes of the Master Masons, the members of the lodge, whereas in England the usual form is that all except the lodge Treasurer are appointed by the Master. Next, I would make mention of the lodge Deacons, an integral part of Irish Masonry from its earliest times and again only introduced into England by Dermott via the Grand Lodge of the Ancients. Finally, I would draw your attention to the Charge to the Candidate, given after the ceremony of Initiation, which in one form or other is given in nearly every Masonic constitution around the world. This charge is of Irish origin, having been initially presented to the world in Smith’s Pocket Companion published in Dublin in 1735. This work had the approbation of the Grand Master Kingsland, his Deputy Brennan and the Grand Wardens and was sold to the Brethren under the banner: ‘Approved of, and recommended by the Grand Lodge.’   

One early move by Dermott was his introduction on 14 September 1752 of the resolution which directly led to the issue of Warrants by an English Grand Lodge. He was the man who, on the back of his experience in Dublin, introduced the legislation which led to the formation of a Grand Master’s Lodge under the Ancients in line with Irish Working.

And on the back of the adoption of Warrants by The Grand Lodge of The Old Constitution, Dermott commissioned a new Grand Lodge seal directly based on the seal used by The Grand Lodge of Ireland. It was an exact copy, down to the Jewish motto, which translates as “Holiness to the Lord”.


By the end of 1752, 12 London Lodges were affiliated to The Grand Lodge of the Old Institution. In 1755, The Grand Lodge of the Antients, followed another Irish tradition and began issuing Travelling Warrants to our military Brethren, as they set off around the globe to carry out their military duties. This to, had an effect on the growth of Grand Lodge and we note that the number of Warrants issued had grown to 45 by 1766, and had increased to 88 by the beginning of the 19th century. By the time that the two Grand Lodges finally came together in 1813, there were some 359 Warrants issued to Antient Lodges, some of which, had ceased working, or were no longer active.


One old law, from Andersons Constitutions sets out that “No person hereafter, who shall be accepted a Freemason, shall be admitted into any Lodge or Assembly until he has brought a certificate of the time and place of his acceptation, from the Lodge that accepted him”. Bro Dermott, in his role of Grand Secretary was verbally assaulted by Bro John Hamilton at a meeting of Grand Lodge on the 2nd March 1757. Hamilton had previously been excluded from Grand Lodge, but sought special dispensation to attend on the 2nd. After much debate, his attendance was approved and he appeared in front of the assembled Brethren and questioned whether or not Dermott was regularly made in Dublin. Dermott rose to the challenge and called on two of the Brethren present, both Past Masters of Lodge 26 Dublin, to vouch that he had been initiated in Lodge 26 and had served the various offices, as he had claimed. This the two Brethren willingly did, and then to conclusively settle the matter, Dermott produced a manuscript certificate signed by Edward Spratt Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Ireland, dated 1746 and sealed with the Grand Lodge seal. You may be interested to learn that this is the first recorded occasion, when a clearance certificate, issued by any Grand Lodge has been produced, in this instance on the 2nd March 1757.  


Dermott was a great promoter of the Royal Arch degree, which he brought over from Ireland, and it was the introduction of this degree which would prove to be a great point of   dissention for many years with the “Moderns”.


Dermott had been strongly influenced by the production in 1751 of " The New Book of Constitutions of the most ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, containing their history, charges, regulations etc - for the Use of the Lodges in Ireland by Edward Spratt secretary Dublin 1751". Having read and studied the contents of this volume, Dermott was moved to consider the production of a similar book for use by the Brethren making up the membership of The Grand Lodge of the Old Institution. And so he began.

Dermott spent some time in the drafting, editing, printing and publishing of his opus – Ahiman Rezon- which came to be the Book of Constitutions of The Grand Lodge of the Ancients The first edition was finally printed in London in 1756 and sold on behalf of Bro Laurence Dermott by James Bedford, bookseller whose shop was at the Crown in St Paul's Church Yard.

One cannot overstress the importance of this work which ran to many editions, in England, Ireland and the Americas. It was adopted and used by nascent Grand Lodges throughout the world.

But surely his greatest gift was his oft-stated wish that he might “live to see a general conformity and universal unity between Masons of all denominations”. Sadly this wish was not to be fulfilled and Dermott passed to The Grand Lodge above in June 1791. However when the Articles of Union were finally signed in Kensington Palace on the 25th November 1813, it was Dermott’s legacy which won the day, providing the form and administration which would serve the United Grand Lodge of England so well in the years thereafter.

Brethren, as our presentation is taking place in Toulon, on the southern shores of France, I should mention that The Grand Lodge of Ireland, issued only one Warrant in Continental Europe, and this Warrant, No 503 I.C. was issued in the year 1773 to The Count of Villeneuve, Francis P. Burton Esq and M. Davillon to hold a Lodge in Beziers, in the Department of Herault. This was a town that in the late 18th century was noted for the manufacture of woolens and silk. And one of its main markets was in Dublin, Ireland. There is only one provable link between the members of this Lodge and The Grand Lodge of Ireland. The senior warden Francis P. Burton esq, became with the passage of time better known as The Right Honorable Francis Pierpont ( Burton ) Conyngham, who succeeded his uncle Earl Cunningham in 1781, as second Baron Conyngham, from whom is descended the current Marquis Cunningham, in the records of the Irish Peerage.

During this same period, the Moderns Constituted two new Lodges in France, notable The Lodge Candour at Strasbourg in 1772 and the Lodge Parfaite Amitie at Avignon in 1785. The Antients, not to be outdone also Constituted another Lodge in Brest in 1773. Details of the Antients and Moderns Lodges will be found in John Lane’s comprehensive “Masonic Records”.




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.