The early history of Freemasonry in Ireland is involved in the deepest obscurity. It is vain to look in Anderson, in Preston, Smith, or any other English writer of the eighteenth century, for any account of the organization of Lodges in that kingdom anterior to the establishment of a Grand Lodge.
All the official records of the Grand Lodge of Ireland before the year 1760, and all the Minute Books prior to 1780, have been lost (see volume 6, page 52, History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, 1925, Brothers John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle). Brother Wilhelrn Begemann (Freirnaurerei in Ireland, page 8) alludes to the remarkable circumstance that Old Constitutions have not been discovered or traced in Ireland although many copies were found in England and Scotland. The absence of such documents is singular. Brothers Lepper and Crossle (History, page 36) refer to the vear 1688 and to the existence then of a Speculative Lodge at Trinity College, Dublin. Of this interesting instance, Brother W. J. Chetwode Crawley first submitted some particulars in the Preface to Brother Sadler's Masonic Reprints and Revelations. The following quotation is from the manuscript left by the author John Jones, a friend of the famous Dean Jonathan Swift:
It was lately ordered that for the honor and dignity of the University there should be introduced a society of freemasons, consisting of gentlemen, mechanics, porters (etc., etc.) who shall hind themselves by an oath never to reveal their mighty no-secret and to relieve whatsoever strolling distressed brethren they meet with, after the example of the fraternity of freemason in and about Trinity College, by whom a collection was lately made for, and the purse of charity well stuffed for, a reduced brother, who received their charity as follows.
Then come some academic jokes which in the course of centuries have lost the savor of their salt and finally the writer acknowledges he has offended his acquaintances "I have left myself no friends.... The Freemasons will banish me their Lodge, and bar me the happiness of kissing Long Lawrence'- (see The Differences between English and Irish Masonic Rituals, treated historically, by Brother J. Heron Lepper, 1920, Dublin).
Weighty as are the items collected by Brothers Lepper and Crossle none have greater romantic lure than those relating to these Lady Freemason, the Hon.Elizabeth Aldworth, about the only instance as the commentators suggest where the supposed initiation of a woman rests upon something more than mere tradition. Essays dealing with this curious ceremony are in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, by Brothers Crawley and Conder, and there is also a pamphlet by Brother John Day of Cork, Ireland, Memoirs of the Lady Freemason, 1914. A significant point is that in a portrait of her a small trowel is worn suspended from the left shoulder. This emblem on her breast is still deemed in the United States the distinguishing Masonic jewel of the Craft and its prominence in the day of Mrs. Aldworth and more recently for a like purpose in Ireland is another tie between the Lodges of the two countries For further information in this direction the reader may consult a paper, Irish Inguence upon American Freemasonry, by Robert I. Clegg, read at a Belfast communication of the Lodge of Research, No. 202, Dublin.
Briefly as to the Lady Freemason, we may here say she was the only daughter of the first Viscount Doneraile. Born in 1693, married in 1713 to Richard Aldworth, she died in 1773, aged 80. The tradition first printed in 1811 is that as a young girl, before her marriage, she by accident witnessed the meeting of a Masonic Lodge, held at Doneraile House, where her father was Master, and on her discovery was initiated. She is credited with a life-long love of the Craft, her portrait shows her wearing a small trowel and a lambskin apron trimmed with blue silkstill preserved by her descendants, her name appears as a subscriber to Brother Fifield D'Assigny's famous book, the Serious and Impartial Enquiry, 1744, and after her death the Freemasons in 1782 toasted the memory of "our Sister Aldworth of New-Market" (Ahiman Rezon, Belfast, 1782, page xx). The date of her initiation, neglecting the other details as we may prefer, in connection with the Jones account, indicates an early Masonic activity in Ireland before what is now considered the Grand Lodge era.
But Dr. W. J. Chetwode Crawley, former Grand Treasurer of Ireland and a brilliant student of the Craft has done much to lift the veil from the early Irish Freemasonry. A contemporary newspaper has been discovered, which gives an account of the installation of the Earl of Rosse as Grand Master of Ireland in June, 1725; and this account is so worded as to leave little room for doubt that the Grand Lodge of Ireland had already been in existence long enough to develop a complete organization of Grand Officers with at least six subordinate Lodges under its jurisdiction (see Brother Crawley's Caementaria Hiber nica, Fasciculus ii).
Brother W. J. Chetwode Crawley (caementaria Hybernica, Fasciculus i, page 3) tells that in the year 1876 the Council-book of the Corporation of Cork was carefully transcribed and edited by Richard Caulfield, LL.D., Librarian of the Queen's College at Cork, an antiquary of more than local repute, who brought to light two entries of Masonic importance. Under the date of December 2, 1725, he found this item, "That a Charter be granted for the Master Wardens and Society of Free Mafions, according to their petition." Two months later, on January 31, 17254, he described this entry: "The Charter of Freemasons being this day read in Council, it is ordered that further consideration of this Charter be referred to the next Council, and that Alderman Phillips, Mr. Croker, Foulks, Austin, and Mr. Com. Speaker, do inspect same."
Brother Crawley found that beyond these two, no references are made, before or afterwards, to the Charter, or to Freemasons. He further states that the records of other Corporations in the South of Ireland have been published by the same diligent antiquary, but no similar entries have been found, "though we know the towns were thick-set with Freemasons."
The Minute of the Grand Lodge of Ireland for December 27, 1726, with which the records of the Grand Lodge begin, is not the earliest entry, either in point of time or of position. The transactions of a subordinate Lodge, which evidently acted as a Mother Lodge for Cork, and intermixed, and systematically entered by the same hand, in many cases, on the same page as those of the Grand Lodge. An entry of this sort holds the first page, and shows us the subordinate Lodge in full working order. "With some little pride," Brother Crawley continues, we can point out that the first recorded transaction of Irish Freemasons is concerned with the relief of a poor brother.' " He also points out that "The Minute of Grand Lodge plunges so boldly in mediatress, that we cannot help harboring the suspicion that this was not its first meeting." The wording of the item is as follows:
At an Assembly and Meeting of the Grand Lodge for the Provinee of Munster at the Lodge of Mr. Herbert Phaire in Corke on Saint John's Daye being the 27th day of December ano Dni 1726. The Honble. James O'Brien Esqrs, by unanimous consent elected Grand Master for the ensuing year. Spningett Penn Esqre. appointed by the Grand Master as his Deputy.
Walther Good Gent} Thomas Riggs Gent} appointed Grand Wardens.
The Grand Master was the third son of William, Earl of Inchiquin, and represented Youghall in the Irish Parliament. The Deputy Grand Master, Springett Penn, or Penne, as he signed himself, was a great-grandson of Admiral Penn, the famous Commonwealth Admiral, and grandson of the still more famous Quaker. Born in 1703, he died in 1744. Brother W. Wonnacott, Grand Librarian of England added to the above information by Brother Crawley the further interesting item that Springett Penn was a Brother in 1723 of the Lodge at the Ship behind the Royal Exchange at London as recorded in the Grand Lodge Minute Book No. 1.
In 1731 Lord Kingston, who had been Grand Master of England in 1729, became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Munster and also of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, in connection with what appears to have been a reorganization of the latter Body. No more is heard of the Grand Lodge of WIunster, and from 1731 to the present date the succession of the Grand Officers of the Grand Lodge of Ireland is plain and distinct (Gould's Concise History of Freemasonry, page 273). In the year 1730, The Constitutions of the Freemasons Containing the History, Charges, Regulations, etc., of that most Ancient and Right Worshipful Fraternity. For the use of the Lodges, was published at Dublin. A second edition was published in 1744, and a third, in 1751. In 1749, the Grand Master's Lodge was instituted, which still exists; a singular institution, possessing several unusual privileges, among which are that its members are members of the Grand Lodge without the payment of dues, that the Lodge takes precedence of all other Lodges, and that any candidates nominated by the Grand Master are to be initiated without ballot.
In 1772, the Grand Lodge of Ireland recognized the Grand Lodge of the Ancient and entered into an alliance with it, which was also done in the same year by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. This does not appear to have given any offense to the regular Grand Lodge of England; for when that Body, in 1777, passed a vote of censure on the Lodges of Ancient Freemasons, it specially excepted from the censure the Lodges of Ireland and Scotland.
In 1779, an application was made to the Mother Kilwinning Lodge of Scotland, by certain Brethren in Dublin, for a Charter empowering them to form a Lodge to be called the High Knights Templar, that they might confer the Templar Degree. The Kilwinning Lodge granted the petition for the three Craft Degrees only, but at a later period this Lodge became, says Findel, the source of the Grand Encampment of Ireland.
The Grand Lodge holds jurisdiction over all the Blue Lodges. The Mark Degree is worked under the Grand Royal Arch Chapter. Next comes the Royal Arch, which formerly consisted of these three Degrees, the Excellent, Super-Excellent, and Royal Arch the first two being nothing more than passing the first two veils with each a separate obligation. But that system was abolished some years ago, and a new ritual framed something like the American, except that the King and not the High Priest is made the Presiding Officer.
The next Degrees are the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth, which are under the jurisdiction of the Templar Grand Conclave, and are given to the candidate previous to his being created a Knight Templar. Next to the Templar Degree in the b Irish system comes the Eighteenth or Rose Croix, which is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Chapter of Prince Masons or Council of Rites, composed of the first three officers of all the Rose Croix Chapters, the Supreme Council having some years ago surrendered its authority over the Degree. The Twenty-eighth Degree or Knight of the Sun is the next conferred, and then the Thirtieth or Kadosh in a Body over which the Supreme Council has no control except to grant Certificates to its members. The Supreme Council confers the Thirty-first, Thirty-second, and Thirty-third Degrees, there being no Grand Consistory.
The Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for Ireland was established by a Patent from the Supreme Council of the United States, at Charleston, dated August 13, 1824, by which the Duke of Leinster, John Fowler, and Thomas McGill were constituted a Supreme Council for Ireland, and under that authority it continues to work. Whence the advanced Degrees came into Ireland is not clearly known. The Rose Croix and Kadosh Degrees existed in Ireland long before the establishment of the Supreme Council. In 1808 Doctor Dalcho's Orations were published at Dublin, by "the Illustrious College of Knights of K. H., and the Original Chapter of Prince Masons of Ireland." It is probable that these Degrees were received from Bristol, England, where there are preserved the earliest English records of the Rose Croix.
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