We are where we are, because…
It is without any doubt that Freemasonry, as practised in Ireland, has had a very considerable influence on the way speculative Masonry has developed and is now expressed throughout the world.
Logo of the Grand Lodge of Ireland
By David Thomas Robinson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Image Linked: wikemedia
The exact year of the formation of the Irish Grand Lodge – the second oldest in the World – cannot be determined with precision, since none of its official records exists prior to 1760. The generally recognised date is 1725, and that year was accepted for the Bicentenary Celebrations of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 1925. Irish military lodges played a major role in the expansion of Freemasonry all over the world.
The earliest extant document on Irish Masonic ceremonies is the so-called Chetwode Crawley Manuscript of about 1700. The 8-page long hand-written document was found in a lot purchased in 1904 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland from a second-hand collector. It contains one of the earliest-known versions of a form of ritual called a Masonic catechism (questions and answers) and alludes to a very short ceremony.
In the early 1700s, a ritual with every word and ceremonies with every gesture, step and movement prescribed had not been evolved. Lectures did not exist. “A Short Charge to be given to new admitted Brethren” appears in Smith’s Pocket Companion for Free-Masons published in Dublin in 1735. While the greater part of the book was simply a piracy from Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions, the charge was new and was immediately approved and sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Augustus Frederick FitzGerald, bedecked in Masonic regalia
Image Linked: wikimedia
While the Grand Lodge of England at first condemned the charge, it was gradually adopted and integrated in nearly all the initiation rituals in the world. Prominent during the early 19th century for the Grand Lodge of Ireland was the 3rd Duke of Leinster, who presided as Grand Master for an impressive period of 61 years.
The practice of issuing Lodge warrants, now adopted by every Grand Lodge in the world, started with the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Grand Lodge of Ireland was also the first Grand Lodge in the world to issue ambulatory [travelling] warrants to military regiments.
Among other characteristics of Irish Freemasonry are:
– giving a number and a name to a lodge
– granting lodge warrants
– issuing membership certificates
– annual elections instead of appointed officers
Ritual and ceremonial traditions
– the appellation of St. John’s Lodge
– the introduction in of regalia inspired from military traditions: sashes, swords, decorations, medals, hats,
– the ring of swords at the initiation
– the use of the expression “so that profit and pleasure may be the result”, rather than “at the will and pleasure of the Worshipful Master”
– the pass phrase at the opening of the lodge
– table lodges
– Masonic fires
John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle, A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ireland, Dublin: Lodge of Research, CC, 1925.
It is well worth visiting lodges in Ireland (the island of Ireland is all under the one Grand Lodge of Ireland), as a very different perspective and focus is given to the lodge work from ours under United Grand of England (UGLE).
Smith’s Pocket Companion for Free-Masons – free e-book on Google Books
Chetwode Crawley manuscript transcription on theoldcharges website
R.W.Bro. Dr. W.J. Chetwode Crawley – Irish Masonic History
Ornaments to the Society
A matter of Provincial [Derbyshire] historical interest this year  was about the full dress regalia, by then 136 years old, of the Provincial Grand Master (PGM). It had become so badly worn and beyond repair and displayed obsolete emblems, the replacement by new regalia was urgently necessary. The old set had been purchased in 1825 for £21.7s.6p, ( £21.37 ) and the total paid for the replacement was now £121.83.
An approximate cost now, in 2020, for a complete set of the Provincial Grand Master’s full dress regalia could well be around £1,500!
 The Revd Canon Dr Herbert S O’Neill,
A History of Craft Freemasonry in Derbyshire 1926-1976, Pub. Sheffield Masonic Press, ISBN 978-1-9998013-2-2
Copies of this Book are available through Provincial Grand Lodge of Derbyshire website
[Publisher’s Note: The Revd Canon Dr Herbert S O’Neill was the author’s father]
Article by: Hugh O’Neill
Past Master of Craft lodges under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England. Member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076, the world’s premier Masonic research lodge. Masonic historian and orator on Masonic topics.
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