History of Lodge 14

Notes on Freemasonry in County Galway

 
Since Masonry was organised in Ireland there have been twenty Lodges warranted in different parts of County Galway. These never were all working at any one time, and some of them appear to have had but short lives; on the other hand there is slight evidence to shew that Masonry was at work in some centers long before the Lodges were warranted.

The oldest of the Galway Lodges was our own, now known as the Premier Lodge of Connaught and referred to as No. 14 in our Warrant that dates from 1733. It is a type called a re-sealed Warrant, and it stamps the Lodge as one of the oldest in Ireland. On May 1st 1733 Robert Andrew, John Cox and Dominic Lynch applied for permission "to erect a Lodge of Freemasons" in Galway City. It was granted by "Lord Viscount Netirville," G.M., the Rt. Honble the Lord Viscount Kingsland," D.G.M., and the "Honble Will'm Ponsonby, & Dillon Pollard Hampson, Esqrs," G. Wardens to "Robert Andrews, John Cox and Dominick Lynch," as Master and Wardens, to erect a Lodge of Free Masons in the "Town of Galway in Ireland." It is dated 1st May, 1733, and signed by "Edw: Spratt, Sec'r." It is endorsed as follows: - "No. 14. This is but a Duplicate of the Warrant. The Original being Destroy'd by Vermin or otherwise Rendred useless; Therefore the Grand Lodge has order'd that this shall be and continue in full force and ample manner as the Original, were it in being. Dublin 18 June 1753. Sign'd by order, Edw: Spratt, Sec'r."

Beside 14 there were five other Lodges warranted for Galway City, Lodge 91 (which lasted from 1738 to 1810), Lodge No. 106 (from 1739 to 1801), Lodge No. 274 (from 1756 to 1825), Lodge No. 368 (from 1761 to 1830 and Lodge No. 9 (from 1825 to 1855). Four warrants were issued for Loughrea, three for Tuam, two for Gort, two for Ballinasloe, one each for Ahascragh, Eyrecourt and Headfort. Also there was a Lodge (No. 329) held in 1759 at Summerville on the west side of Claregalway. The Blakes of Menlo had a large house there about half a mile from the main road and the Lodge probably was held in the house or one of the outbuildings. The first Master was Andrew Blake and the Wardens were Brabazon Nolan and Anthony Nolan. After eleven years the Warrant was moved to Donmacreena on the Mayo border, where another branch of the Blakes had an estate. There is no record to show when the Warrant was cancelled. Summerville long since has disappeared; part of the yard wall remains and the rest has been incorporated in several modern farmhouses.

Five of the County Galway Warrants were cancelled in 1813 and four more in 1825. Only five Lodges seem to have survived the severe pressure exercised in 1825. Two Lodges were founded after that date: No. 137 at Ballinasloe in 1842 and No. 161 at Tuam in 1869. Tuam Lodge ran strongly until 1894 and Ballinasloe was raided and burnt out in 1922. By great fortune the Ballinasloe Warrant was saved and with the help of Brethren from Athlone a new home was found for it, just over the Shannon. Lodge 14 is now the only one meeting in this County.

No minute book - or book prior to 1840 is known to exist to tell the continuous history of any of these twenty Lodges. Until quite recently the meeting took place in private houses or hired rooms or taverns. Even Lodge 14 had no abiding home until 1877. Lodge properties and records were kept in chests and when numbers dwindled away these would pass into individual hands. Some of the items would be retained as a set off against money owed, some as souvenirs, some in the hope of preserving them until, in happier times, they might once more grace a working Lodge. We have examples of all these motives in our Galway history. There are plenty of reasons for burning the books of transactions. Our present inside knowledge of local Freemasonry is largely derived from letters and returns that have been kept in Grand Lodge.

We get a glimpse of the vicissitudes that sometimes overtook early Lodges from the petition of a Brother of 326 Ballinasloe. In 1829 he writes to G.L. from Liverpool praying for a duplicate Masonic Certificate. "The reason," he says, "why 326 was cancelled was in consequence of the greater part of its members being tradesmen in the building line who embarked for America in consequence of the badness of the times in Ireland, & there are not at present more than 4 Masons in Ballinasloe and they are very poor." This applicant - en route for France - lost all his luggage, which was washed overboard as he was returning from the West Indies: his losses included M.M. (1814) and K.T. Certificates, suggesting that over a century ago the Knight Templar Degree had been worked in Ballinasloe.

Lodge 455 worked at Eyrecourt from 1767 to 1847, having an average Membership of nineteen between 1825 and 1837.Names still well known in the district appear again and again in their lists: - Seymour, Eyre, Egan etc., Dr. Montgomery, the Secretary in 1836, in making his Lodge return takes the Grand Secretary to task; "you shall take particular care," he writes "to have the number [of Members] inserted in its proper place, viz.: under the head of your yearly dues received, in your next circular and I also beg to remark that there is no arrears due on this Lodge since it was first granted, being near a centuray."

Lodge 14 was warranted as far back as 1733, but the first registrations of Members in the G.L. books start in 1798, and at present all its earlier history is a sealed book. The first notice of interest is published in the newspapers of 3 May 1815. In Galway there had been a bitter clerical attack on the Craft, and all the Masons in Galway assembled to draw up a protest. This document is printed at length and signed by James Valentine Browne, whose family continued to be closely associated with Galway and with Lodge 14 for half a century. It was drawn up in the Lodge-room in Church Lane, and seldom has the Masonic position been better stated: -

 

GALWAY: At an aggregate meeting of the members of the different Freemason Lodges of Galway, and of many visiting Brethren, held pursuant to public notice, on Sunday the 23rd of April instant; and by adjournment, on Tuesday the 25th instant, it was unanimously resolved that the following PROTEST should be signed by the Master of the senior Lodge and published.

 "Galway: 23rd April 1815.

"We the Freemasons of Galway, having heard with astonishment and regret, that two Roman Catholic Clergymen - Mr. McDermott and Mr. Finn - both of this town, have thought proper to attack the Institution of Freemasonry, whilst publicly addressing their respective congregations, in a strain of obloquy and abuses, as little applicable to the subject as creditable to themselves, think it in some degree necessary to disclaim and disavow any right or privilege on the part of those Clergymen, or of any other, of whatever persuasion, to interfere with, or control the proceedings of a Society founded on the basis of Belief in God and Morality - rendered venerable by it's antiquity - valuable by it's Charity - useful by it's Loyalty - and respectable by it's numbers, and among the members of which have been included, at all periods, and in all ages, the exalted in rank and the humble in spirit - the Hero and the Sage - the Patriot and the Saint - in every civilised Nation on the face of the habitable Globe. We censure, with no small reluctance, the act of Persons, the sanctity of whose profession we feel a disposition to respect, and the number of whose colleagues we esteem and regard - some of us as Protestants, from a Knowledge of their gentlemanly habits, moral conduct and sterling worth; and the others, as Catholics, from an additional Knowledge, also, of the obedience we owe them as Spiritual Pastors. But we cannot, however, suffer the Altar of God to be converted into a rostrum from which to heap unmerited infamy and odium upon our principles as Masons, and our characters as Men, without coming forward to fling back such libels to their source. We do not mean to assert that there are not many profligate and unworthy Members to be found among the great body of Freemasons. We do not mean to say that there exists in the Institution of Freemasonry, that perfection which no Institution, exclusively human, ever did or can possess. But we do assert that the frailty of the professor should not tarnish the beauty of the Science - that the vices of the individuals are not fairly attributable to defects in the System - that the man should be separated from the Mason - and that censure should not be pronounced indiscriminately upon the guilty and the innocent. Such of us as are Catholics are desirous to declare, and such of us as are Protestants join the declaration, that thundering the most severe anathema of the Catholic Church - that holding out the most dreadful visitation of it's vengeance against a society, which contains among it's members the good, and the great, and able, and disinterested advocates of Catholic Freedom, is not the most appropriate return that could be made by any of the Roman Catholic Priesthood for the services of such men as a Sussex, a Kent, a Moira, a Donoghmore, a Grattan, a Fitzgerald, an O'Connell, and many others, whose titles or names it is unnecessary to enumerate. We feel, however, no small degree of satisfaction in the conviction that a want of liberality, generosity, and gratitude, is confined to a very limited circle indeed of the Catholic Clergy. If the arduous labour of preaching down masonry - and an arduous labour it would be - were to have been imposed under a mistaken idea of discharging an ecclesiastical duty - it's performance would have been committed to much abler hands. It would have been committed, in this most Catholic part of Ireland, to some of the respectable and respected members of that fraternity whose uniform practice has been to preach "Peace on Earth and Good-Will towards men" - to some of the more gifted Catholic Clergy, qualified by their talents to convert - by their manners to conciliate - by example to instruct - by their influence to sway - to some person, in short, whose language would not have been in direct violation of the Commandment of his God - 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.'

"Signed by order of the meeting

James Val. Browne,

Master of Lodge No. 14,

The Premier Lodge in Connaught."

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