Ashlar Chippings

The well qualified Master Elect

Right at the beginning of the Installation of the Master of a Craft Lodge, the Installing Master recites to the Master Elect three sets of qualifications which are essential in every candidate for the Master’s chair. 

They cover his relationship with the brethren of his Lodge, the technical qualifications for the post and his moral standing and abilities. 

We all know that when we recite rituals, occasionally our words are not quite what we intend. 

On this occasion, the Installing Master obviously knew his ritual well and was performing in full flow with confidence. 

In the last of these three sets, however, he inadvertently inserted, still with utmost confidence, that the Master Elect ‘must be void of all moral worth’! 

So familiar is that phrase from a completely different context that he didn’t even notice he had said it.

An Irish Obligation

Since 1836, the Constabulary (Ireland) Act, (1836), Cap XIII, section XVII has required the following obligation to be made by all Police officers.  Obviously this could now only apply within Northern Ireland but it has an interesting mention of Freemasonry. 

Its specificity in respect of our institution could possibly be a result of the like waiver in the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799.

Persons appointed under this Act to take an Oath previous to acting.

XVII. And be it enacted, That no Person appointed under this Act […] until he shall take and subscribe the Oath here following; (that is to say,)

Form of Oath.

‘I A.B. do swear, That I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King in the Office of Inspector General, Deputy Inspector General, County Inspector, or Sub-Inspector, Receiver, Paymaster, Clerk, Magistrate, Chief Constable or Head Constable, [or Constable, or Sub-Constable, as the Case may be,] without Favour or Affection, Malice or Ill-will; that I will see and cause His Majesty’s Peace to be kept and preserved, and that I will prevent to the best of my Power all Offences against the same; and that while I shall continue to hold the said Office I will, to the best of my Skill and Knowledge, discharge all the Duties thereof, in the Execution of Warrants and otherwise, faithfully according to Law; and that I do not now belong, and that I will not, while I shall hold the said Office, join, subscribe, or belong to any political Society whatsoever, or to any secret Society whatsoever, unless to the Society of Freemasons.

So help me GOD.’

And the said Oath shall be administered, either at General or Petty Sessions or otherwise, by any Two Magistrates, and shall in all Cases be subscribed by the Person taking the same; and the said Oath shall be administered by any Two Magistrates, either in open Sessions or otherwise; and such Magistrates shall forthwith give to the Person taking the same a Certificate thereof under his Hand, such Certificate to be forwarded to the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant, or the Under Secretary, or to such Person as he may appoint.

It goes almost without saying this is contrary to the view that was briefly taken in recent years in England until roundly denounced by the European Court of Human Rights. [1]

A chair going spare?

A couple of extracts from The Sussex Weekly Advertiser or Lewes and Brighthelmstone Journal caught my eye as they appeared in successive issues – could there have been any connection between them?

24th April 1815 – The Neapolitan Freemasons, it is said, have it in contemplation, to petition KING MURAT, for the loan of the POPE’s CHAIR, for the use of their Lodge, until his Holiness is permitted to return to Rome, to resume his Papal dignities. [2]

1st May 1815 – The POPE’s BULL, issued against the FREE-MASONS, since the flight of his Holiness from Rome, we hear, has been consigned to the Temple of Cloacina[3] that being deemed the only situation in which it could possibly be rendered useful.

Hirsute Masons

Presumably masons suffered from silicosis in the Middle Ages as in modern times, though it is possible that the beards and moustaches formerly common, acted as natural respirators which protected the craftsmen from stone dust. 

It is said that when the Scott Monument in Edinburgh was being built [inaugurated 1846], the clean shaven masons suffered by far the most from stone dust, those with strong moustaches fared much better, and men with full bushy beards and moustaches were practically immune.


Hans Langseth Mooreton, held the record for the world’s longest beard – it measured 5.33m when he died in 1927
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Nature’s Bounty

During the War, rationing was severe but with remarkable generosity E. Comp. K D L Bale somehow managed to save enough from his personal weekly ration of about 1½ ozs of butter to give to the Companions to enjoy with their meagre meals. 

On one occasion the Hotel advised Scribe E that it was impossible for a meat meal to be supplied.  This gave rise to some trepidation on the part of Scribe E who passed on the afflicting intelligence to Comp. John Walker. 

He, living in the country, thought of rabbits, and procured a large enough number of them to be sent to the Hotel as ‘care of the Mount Sinai Chapter’, so providing the Companions with their meat meal.


[1] For further information, see A Reference Book for Freemasons, Frederick Smyth, pub. Q. C. Correspondence Circle Ltd. (ISBN 0 90765541 6) ‘Statutes Relating to Freemasonry’; also The Red Triangle, Robert L D Cooper, pub. Lewis Masonic (ISBN 978 0 085318 332 7) index ‘European Court of Human Rights’; also ECHR Application Nos. 35972/97 and 37119/97.

[2] Pope Pius VII was briefly expelled from the Papal States in 1809 and held prisoner by the French.

[3] The Latin word cloaca translates as a sewer, from which comes the Roman goddess, Cloacina, of the sewers that slithered under the cities.  So I leave to your imagination the suggested use of the document in the ‘temple’!

Article by: Hugh O’Neill

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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