Past Provincial Grand Secretary of Meath.
Ten years have rolled over in the great cycle of human time since the late Provincial Grand Master of Meath, our well beloved, true and trusty Brother Colonel King-Harman, first took the chair of the province as Provincial Grand Master of Meath. The previous Provincial Grand Master, R. W. Wm. Fetherstonhaugh, 33°, an eminent member of the Masonic Order, had been recalled to the Grand Lodge above, on the 1st August, 1879, deeply and sincerely regretted; and the Most Worshipful the first Duke of Abercorn, then Grand Master of Ireland, appointed in his room Colonel E. R. King-Harman, 31°, Her Majesty's Lieutenant of the County of Roscommon, and one whose intellectual gifts and capacity for leading others, apart from his social rank, pointed him out as being a Brother adapted by exalted qualifications for the position of Provincial Grand Master of the Masonic Province of Meath, comprising as it does, the counties of Meath, Westmeath, Longford and Cavan. The Provincial Grand Secretaryship of the Province also became vacant at this time, owing to the resignation of that office by our present, beloved and respected Provincial Deputy Grand Master, Norman J. De Arcy, 32°, subsequent to the demise of the chair. It is a matter well known to all that the secretarial and executive functions of the province had been carried on by Brother De Arcy from the formation of the province with that ability, zeal and brotherly courtesy and consideration which for so many years he has devoted to the interests of the craft. It was by an order of the 2nd April, 1868, from the Grand Lodge of Ireland, that the Masonic Provinces throughout Ireland were constituted; and on the 10th June, 1869, the first communication of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath was held, Lord Castlemaine being first Provincial Grand Master, and from that until December, 1879, subsequent to the death of Provincial Grand Master Fetherstonhaugh, Brother de Arcy was foremost in everything, as indeed he has been since, in his capacity of Provincial Deputy Grand Master, to advance the interests of the province, of which he may well be designated "the Builder".
It was on Tuesday, the 21st September, 1880, that R. W. Colonel King-Harman sat in this town of Cavan, in the County Courthouse, for the first time, as Provincial Grand Master of Meath. On the 1st July, in the same year, he had been formally installed into that high and important position in the Grand Lodge of Ireland, so it only remained for him to take his seat, the installation ceremony having been previously performed, and notice thereof duly transmitted from Grand Lodge by the Deputy Grand Secretary for Ireland, the late lamented and amiable Brother Samuel B. Oldham. No stated communication of the province had been held from the previous December, so that coupled with the important occasion, rendered it a day anxiously looked forward to by the Brethren. The Past Deputy Provincial Grand Master, Brother Babington, since deceased, was present, as was also the Past Provincial Grand Secretary. No officers having been installed for the year, the offices were provisionally occupied. Brother Rev. E. M. Moore, Provincial Grand Chaplain (likewise since deceased), was therein his official capacity; an office to which I had also been appointed in 1879 in the province, but never actually filled. On the 21st September, 1880, I was present, in obedience to the request, both by letter and telegram, of the Provincial Grand Master, but had no idea that my attendance was desired with the object of my being appointed Provincial Grand Secretary. Immediately after a short address, in which Colonel King-Harman paid a touching to the masonic virtues and character of his predecessor in the chair, he announced that he had appointed Brother de Arcy as Provincial Deputy Grand Master, by no means, as he remarked, a reflection on the excellent Brother who had filled the office previously to the satisfaction of all concerned, but as a mark of thankful admiration of the labour and energy displayed by Brother de Arcy as Provincial Grand Secretary for a long series of years. The practical reflection of over ten years proves the wisdom of that appointment. Words would fail me to describe – nor in the province of Meath is there need that I should endeavour to describe – what our Provincial Deputy Grand Master has been to the working and efficiency of Freemasonry during this decade. I could not if I would, and in his presence I would not if I could. To me he has always been a devoted Brother, a genial and cultured gentleman, and a kind friend. May the Great Architect of the Universe long spare him in the Deputy's chair in the Province of Meath, of which I have before designated him "the Builder".
My own appointment as Provincial Grand Secretary on that same 21st September, 1880, was at the suggestion of the Provincial Grand Master, who had known me for some years before; and the proposition having been made by the new Deputy and Past Grand Secretary, and seconded by Brother the Reverend Alexander Ferguson, I was unanimously elected, and immediately installed, and then and there took charge of the books and correspondence, and conducted the remaining business of the communication. Ten years last September have rolled over, and during that period the stated communications of the Provincial Grand Lodge have been regularly held each quarter, and this is, consequently, the forty-second time we have met since that day of which I speak. It has pleased the Most High so to have blessed me with health and strength, and to have kept me free from "let or hindrance" throughout the entire time, that I have been enabled to be in my place as Provincial Grand Secretary at every one of those forty-two communications; and I heartily thank that Mighty Centre of the Freemason's trust and all His mercies so graciously and beneficently bestowed, and withal so truly undeserved.
The other Provincial Grand Lodge officers elected on the 21st September, 1880 were – Bro. W. S. Garnett, as P. S. G. W.; Bro. Captain Lindsay, P. J. G. W.; Bro. M. F. Barnes, P. G. Treasurer (re-appointed); Bros. Revds. E. M. Moore, M. A., W. J. Dundas, D. D., Joseph S. Bell, LL. D., re-appointed P. G. Chaplains, with Bro. Rev. A. Ferguson; Bro James Geoffroy, P. S. G. Deacon; Bro. W. A. Barnes, P. G. J. Deacon; Bro. Thomas Gill, P. G. Superintendent of Works; Bro. John Ringwoood, P. G. Director of Ceremonies; Bros. W. A. Greene and R. Bole Shaw as P. G. Stewards; Bro Robert Mervyn, P. G. Sword Bearer and Bro. William Radcliffe, P. G. Inner Guard. Of these on two remain as officers of the Provincial Grand Lodge in 1890, viz. V. W. Bro. William A. Greene, who today terminates his year as Senior Grand Warden, and Bro. Rev. Dr. Dundas, who is still one of the Provincial Grand Chaplains. There have been removed by the Great Reaper, and we trust are in a brighter temple not made with hands, viz., two chaplains, Bros. E. M. Moore and Alexander Ferguson, and Bro. Robert Mervyn, of Lodge 90, who in 1880 was elected Provincial Grand Sword Bearer. Brother W. S. Garnett was not installed and did not attend as Senior Warden in 1881, to which he was elected, and since then four excellent and well-known brethren have held that chair, the senior of our elected officers, viz., Bro. W. A. Barnes, in 1882, '83 and '84, Bro Captain Lindsay, 1885, '86 and '87, Bro. Ringwood in 1888 and '89, and Bro. W. A. Greene in 1890. Need I say how worthily this senior chair has been in each instance bestowed? Brothers Ringwood and Barnes, so well and affectionately known in No. 244, Kells, the former being its principal founder in the year 1872 (of which a brother, A. E. O. Hayes, long since left Meath, but who was at the opening ceremony, reminded me a few days ago), the latter its able and energetic secretary almost since that foundation, and the exponent of masonic life and teaching wherever he may be; Brother Lindsay, for years the secretary of Lodge 90, himself the very essence of good masonry; and Brother Greene, of No. 131 who is there who knows anything of the Province of Meath in whose ears the sweet melody of his tuneful voice does not ring, breathing, as it has so often done, charms not alone of "harmony", but of brotherly love, where e'er "he blew", "soul-animating strains, alas! too few".
At the first communication, to which I have thus so largely adverted, presided over by Colonel King-Harman, when our present Provincial Deputy Grand Master was appointed to that honour, which he has since held with such marked efficiency and zeal, it was unanimously agreed to present an illuminated address to Brother Babington, the Deputy under. W. Fetherstonhaugh, and Brothers De Arcy, Moore, and myself, were nominated as a committee to carry out that intention of the Provincial Grand Lodge, which was accomplished without unnecessary delay, and I have since heard that the beautiful address in which we expressed the esteem in which he was held by the brethren of the province, and their thanks for the services rendered by him while Provincial Deputy Grand Master of Meath, was largely appreciated and esteemed by that respected brother.
For a considerable time before 1880 it was observed with much regret that Lodge 300, Belturbet, was well-nigh dormant, and one of the first things I had to do in the province was to ascertain the condition under which it was at the time. Unfortunately I found that, from the difficulty of obtaining a suitable place of meeting, and the fact that several of the members had left the neighbourhood, it was thought by the remaining brethren that they could not it on, and they accordingly returned the warrant to the Grand Lodge of Ireland in the spring of 1881. I have still hopes that Lodge 300 might be revived in the town of Belturbet; and if some of the zealous and energetic brethren, of whom we have many in the northern portion of the province, would take up this useful work, and confer with the existing brethren resident in or about Belturbet, it is quite possible that they might now be enabled to apply for a restoration of the warrant; and even supposing the numbers were small, it would be a matter of masonic congratulation that this old Lodge should be revived, and thus increase not alone the numerical strength of the Province of Meath, but the vitality of Freemasonry in an important town. By the return of the warrant in 1881 the number of our Lodge was reduced by one; but this reduction did not remain long, as by the energy of Brother George H. Miller, Secretary at that period of Lodge 308, Ballymahon, and today my successor in the Provincial Grand Secretaryship, aided by the co-operation of Brothers Allan Armstrong, B. J. Lloyd, and Rev. Frederick Foster, a Lodge which has since been most successful, was started in the town of Granard, under warrant No. 65, in 1885. This warrant was by no means new in the locality, as in the year 1814 in had been established in Finnea, a village about three miles from Granard, and it remained there until 1849 when it was returned to Grand Lodge. The warrant having been issued, in 1854, to the 72nd regiment, and returned by them in 1860, remained then dormant, until its revival in Granard five years ago. Since that it has been gradually progressing; and I am informed on competent authority that masonic ceremonial is admirably carried out there, and as an exemplification of the attention paid to the discharge of masonic obligation, I may advert to the splendid record that Lodge 65, Granard, was officially represented at fifteen out of the seventeen Provincial Grand Communications held from the date of its consecration to the present time. I do not count today's communication, as the roll has not yet been called. Of the other Lodges I may now give you the statistics of their representation at Provincial Grand Lodge during the ten years. Forty-one stated communications thus (counting September in both years 1880 and 1890) were held, of which, out of a possible seventeen, Granard was officially represented fifteen times. The other Lodges were represented as follows:-
|Lodge 90, Cavan…………………..…..||34 times||Lodge 252, Oldcastle………………...||27 times|
|" 244, Kells…………..…………...||34 times||" 795, Cootehill………….…...…||22 times|
|" 308, Ballymahon………..…….||29 times||" 796, Bailieborough.……...…||18 times|
|" 76, Longford………..…….….||28 times||" 310, Killeshandra..………..…||17 times|
|" 131, Mullingar………..……....||28 times||" 405, Ballyconnell.………....…||15 times|
This is only official representation, as, of course, many of these may have had brethren present at other communications, either being Provincial Grand Lodge Officers or in their private capacity. Our By-Law XV requires official attendance on the part of subordinate Lodges twice in each year; consequently it will be seen that three Lodges failed in the ten years to maintain the average representation; but, on the whole, I consider the representation of subordinate Lodges to have been very good, and the large number of brethren attending on each occasion, and the interest at all times evinced in our proceedings, was creditable, and most satisfactory to myself and others responsible for the working of the province.
Our Provincial Deputy Grand Master, previous to his resignation of the office of Provincial Grand Secretary, had started a fund to found a memorial of the late R. W. William Fetherstonhaugh; and subsequently it became my duty to take up that very laudable undertaking, which I was happy to see carried to a very successful issue. The sum of eighty guineas was collected, and as the erection of the Female Orphan School was in active progress at the time, we devoted the money to assist that important work; and in June, 1881, I was enabled to report to our Provincial Grand Lodge that the Building Committee had approved of the inscription I suggested, and had undertaken to have a brass slab inserted in the wall of the entrance hall of the Female School building. Accordingly this was done, and any brother visiting the school can see the mural slab, on which the following inscription is engraved: - "Erected by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath, in memory of R. W. William Fetherstonehaugh, 33°, late Grand Master of the Province, who died on the 1st day of August, 1879. The sum of eighty guineas was subscribed to perpetuate his memory, and allocated to the building of the playroom of this school, a memorial to his masonic worth, and a mark of the esteem in which he was held by those over whom he presided for upwards of ten years."
I will now briefly allude to another memorial which we founded during the decade in the Masonic Orphan Boys' School, when the present commodious premises at Clonskeagh were in the course of reconstruction. At that period, October, 1886, the only son of our Provincial Grand Master died, having been a short time previously initiated into the order in Oxford, and although he had not been personally known to the province, it was felt a small memorial in connexion with the Boys' Masonic School would be a graceful and brotherly mark of sympathy with our respected and esteemed Provincial Grand Master. After a lapse of some little time, by the kind aid of several brethren who acted as collectors throughout the province, I was enabled to arrange with the committee of the Boys' School that for thirty guineas subscribed a prize of £1 would be given annually to the most deserving of the boys leaving the institution at Christmas, and that a brass mural slab should be erected in the school. At the December Stated Communication, 1887, the Provincial Grand Lodge approved the of details which I then laid before them, with which also Colonel King-Harman was much gratified; and any brother paying a visit to the school will see in the large dining-hall there a brass tablet, inscribed as follows: - "In memoriam Brother Lawrence King-Harman, son of R. W. the Provincial Grand Master of Meath, ob. 22nd October, 1886, aged 23 years. The brethren of the Province of Meath subscribed a sum of thirty guineas to found a memorial prize in this school, and to bear the designation 'The Lawrence King-Harman Prize'." I would take the liberty of advising the brethren to visit the schools, where they will see not alone these monumental brasses, reminding them of our province in the years now past, but the splendid practical results of our masonic charitable collections – those noble schools in which we ourselves educate and care the sons and daughters of deceased brethren confided by the dictates of Freemasonry as the objects of our fraternal solicitude. I believe if the brethren would more largely visit and inspect these schools, and thereby see for themselves the substantial work done, and the conspicuous monument they are to the vital reality and usefulness of our ancient and time honoured craft, almost every brother would be a governor of one or both schools, and that no such thing would be longer possible as a Lodge without either permanent or annual official governors. May I be permitted earnestly to comment this subject to the Lodges of the province for which I have so great and deeply cherished a regard. During the decade the Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath founded three permanent official governorships in the Female School and two in the Boys', and annually contributed to both schools; so that £72 in this manner has been devoted from our charity fund within the period to those institutions in the form of Provincial Grand Lodge subscriptions.
The historic and interesting occasion of the Jubilee of H. M. G. Majesty the Queen was celebrated in 1887; and on the 15th June in that year, at Kells, the brethren had the opportunity afforded them of participating in the loyalty of that period of national jubilation. It was then unanimously resolved, "That we, the Freemasons of the Masonic Province of Meath in Provincial Grand Lodge assembled, this 15th day of June, 1887, desire to express our humble and loyal congratulations to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen on the happy completion of her jubilee, and our devotion to her throne and person, and heartily pray that the Great Architect of the Universe may long spare Her Majesty to preside over the destinies of her great empire." Lodge 244 entertained the Provincial Grand Lodge that day with conspicuous hospitality, and a few days after the three County Longford Lodges gave a jubilee banquet in the town of Longford, when close on 100 brethren sat down. Three times before in the history of Great Britain had sovereigns attained a jubilee; but the Victorian semi-century period then completed was so conspicuous for the extension of civilization, art, science and social advancement of every kind, that the Masonic Body, not less cordially than others, utilized the prevailing spirit of gratitude to the Most High, by starting various funds for the promotion of practical charity. At the Provincial Grand Lodge Communication in Kells we collected five guineas in aid of the jubilee fund of the Boys' School, and some time afterwards voted five pounds more to the Victoria Jubilee Masonic Annuity Fund, which was set on foot in 1887, and has prospered most satisfactorily since, with the object of affording annuities to aged and distressed brethren, their widows or orphans. I earnestly trust that this most useful effort will continue to receive generous support, and that it will rank in the minds of my brethren on a par with the Orphan Schools. I should indeed regret if the schools suffered in consequence of this newly-organized annuity fund; but I fail to see in so extensive a body as the Freemasons of Ireland, and composed of men in comparatively affluent circumstances, that there should be the least difficulty in maintaining three charities of such pressing and practical utility as our two schools and the Jubilee Annuity Fund. But the jubilee was not the only time that our Provincial Grand Lodge expressed that feeling of loyalty which the freemason is bound ever to show to the sovereign of his native land. In the early part of the year 1882 an attempt was made by a demented individual upon the life of the Queen, and at the March Communication in that year the following was passed and forwarded for presentation to Her Majesty: - "That we, the Provincial Grand Master, Provincial Deputy Grand Master, and brethren of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath, in Provincial Grand Lodge this day assembled, desire to express our loyal congratulations to Her Most Gracious Majesty on her recent escape, as also our sense of thankfulness to the Great Architect of the Universe for His providential care extended upon the occasion. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath further desire to record their continued loyalty to Her Majesty's person and throne."
Our charitable collections during the decade were, I think, fairly creditable. I have already alluded to several special appeals that were made through the province; but now I turn for a moment to the collections at our stated communications, both at labour and refreshment, in aid of masonic charity, and find that during the decennial period a sum of £131 9s. 2d. was collected, or an average of about £3 4s. 5d. each quarterly provincial gathering. The major portion of this went to the masonic schools, as I have before shown; but we also subscribed from our Provincial Grand Lodge Charity Fund very handsomely to several deserving cases which from time to time were brought before the Provincial Grand Lodge. In fact I think I am correct in saying that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Meath has never failed in her duty of stretching out the right hand to alleviate distress when called upon to do so. The great Masonic Bazaar in Dublin of May, 1882, was the masonic event in Ireland of the decade, and the stall of our province had the proud distinction of making more money for the great object in view than any other provincial stall, save that of Antrim and Down, which was a combination of two great northern provinces, each of which contains more subordinate Lodges than any others in Ireland. The Provincial Grand Master, Colonel King-Harman, paid for the upholstering of the stall, and the exertions of himself and family were indefatigable, with the result that, in addition to the £10 paid from our P. G. L. funds which we had to lodge with the bazaar committee when engaging our stall, we were able at the expiration of the bazaar to forward an additional £200, thus making the sum of two hundred guineas from the Province of Meath stall. It was a busy time, and fortunately I had more leisure time then to attend to such work; but the result repaid all trouble, as in the end the bazaar committee were not alone in a position to furnish the new Female Orphan School then completed as they aspired to do, but in addition had enough over, which, when funded, left the school with its head-rent an taxes for ever free.
In the year 1881 it was for the first time arranged to hold one stated communication in each year in the towns of Mullingar, Kells, Cavan and Longford respectively. Previous to 1881 the stated communications were for the most part were held in Mullingar, though occasionally in Cavan and Kells, and twice in Longford; but the arrangement now pertaining is most satisfactory, and thereby each county in the masonic province, which comprises four counties, has one meeting in each year; and according to our revised By-Laws (21st December. 1887) these meetings are so arranged that the September Communication, at which the Provincial Grand Officers are elected, is held in regular order in each of the four towns consecutively. In 1880 the only masonic hall in the province was that at Mullingar; but at present, each of the four centres alluded to where the Provincial Grand Lodge meets has a commodious hall. That at Cavan was erected in 1885, the foundation stone having been laid by the Provincial Deputy Grand Master on the 29th June in that year, and is mainly due to the exertions of Brothers E. T. Lindsey, Samuel Jones and John Ousley Moynan, C. E., who deserve the highest commendation for their energy in the promotion of such a useful undertaking. The masonic hall at Kells was the result of the conversion in 1883 of an old building, and its reconstruction, to render it suitable for masonic purposes, and is to be ascribed to the zeal of many willing masonic hearts and heads, notably our present Provincial Grand Master, the Most Noble the Marquess of Headfort, Bros. Barnes, Ringwood, Sparrow, Clare and Armstrong; and the masonic hall in Longford, opened on September 9th last, with ceremonial honours, by the R. W. The Marquess of Headfort, P. G. M., is a masonic memorial of the large-hearted and philanthropic Colonel King-Harmon, 31°, M. P., P. C., our late lamented Provincial Grand Master, who died on the 10th of June, 1888. This building is principally to be ascribed to Bros. Lyndon, P. G. Treasurer, G. H. Miller and John Ousley Moynan, C. E., the latter of whom gave his professional services gratuitously, both at the building of this and the Cavan masonic halls, and, to show our appreciation of which, he has been today installed Provincial Grand Superintendent of Works. Shortly after the demise of our late Provincial Grand Master, it was arranged to commemorate him in connexion with one of our orphan schools; but when the brethren of the three County Longford Lodges amalgamated, with the object of erecting the hall lately completed in the town of Longford, the former idea was abandoned, and the brethren asked by Provincial Grand Lodge to support the Longford building as the masonic memorial to our departed chief. The Longford brethren worked manfully to secure the success of the enterprise, for which the Earl of Longford, though not himself a Freemason, contributed a site and £15; and I would fraternally ask the assistance towards defraying the small balance still due by them on their memorial hall, as well as those who can admire enthusiasm and zeal in the working of the craft, as of the many far and near in whose memories the many noble qualities of the generous friend called, we trust, to the Grand Lodge above, will long be green. The Longford brethren are still persevering to clear off the debt, and only on Thursday last gave a concert with this object in view, at which they had four professionals to perform. In this and through every other method Brother Lyndon is losing no opportunity to effect the desired end, and it is a pity he is not assisted more largely by Lodges in other provinces through the spirit of masonic co-operation. Brethren, it is with great gratification I have now to announce that Mrs. King-Harman has generously authorized me to state that in response to a suggestion from our Brother Lyndon that she should send a portrait of the late Provincial Grand Master to hang in the new building, she purposes to have a copy of Sir John Millais' great picture made, and present it to the province for the Longford King-Harman memorial hall; so for years to come, perhaps even in the distant future, the familiar features of the honoured brother so deeply loved, and, alas! so keenly mourned, will be depicted, as though by the great painter's touch, on masonic walls within the Province of Meath, consecrated to the memory of his illustrious individuality, his ennobling influence and far-reaching philanthropy, ever ready to stretch out the right hand of sympathy to the poor and unfortunate, and alleviate the misfortunes of distressed brethren of suffering humanity.
"Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And even his failings leaned to virtues side,
And to his duty prompt at every call,
He watched, he wept, he pray'd, he felt for all."
Our present Provincial Grand Master, R. W. The Most Noble the Marquess of Headfort, K. P., having been appointed by His Grace the Duke of Abercorn, M. W. the Grand Master of Ireland, to succeed to the provincial chair in succession to the deceased Colonel, was installed at Kells by R. W. Robert W. Shekleton, 33°, Deputy Grand Master of Ireland, on the 19th of September, 1888. Long may the Most High preserve him to shed the advantage of his most exalted position on Freemasonry in the Province of Meath, and to extend and enlarge the true tenets and principles of the craft, not alone by the influence of rank, powerful as it naturally is, but by the magnetic attraction of the principles of the square, the level, and by the plumb, and by the practical exhibition of that inspiring grace among those over whom he wields the gavel committed to his trust, that grace of which we know his lordship is so largely the possessor, "charity" which "never faileth"; and long may the brethren of Meath be loyal to the Provincial Grand Master of whom they are justly proud. The first official act of the Marquess after his installation gave great satisfaction, and was universally anticipated – the re-appointment of the kind and popular "Builder" of the Province, Brother Norman De Arcy, to the office of Deputy – "semper floreat".
Regularly each year returns were obtained from all subordinate Lodges giving an account of their working during the previous twelve months, and on each occasion the reports were highly satisfactory. Some years ago Lodge 405, Ballyconnell, showed signs of decrepitude, and at the request of Provincial Grand Lodge I visited it. Since then it has much improved, and is getting on tolerably well, notwithstanding the competition of a Lodge in the vicinity, consecrated only a few years ago, in the Masonic Province of Tyrone and Fermanagh. It would be a mattermuch to be regretted if this warrant were not sustained, having been working in Ballyconnell since 1763. It is not the oldest Lodge in the Province of Meath, the warrant of Lodge 90, Cavan, bearing the date 1738. We also have two other eighteenth century Lodges, 795, Cootehill, and 796, Bailieborough, both warrants dating fro 1794, and both Lodges in flourishing circumstances. I may here state that last year 120 communications of craft Lodges were held in the Province of Meath, exclusive of the four communications of Provincial Grand Lodge, a statistical fact which, coupled with the progress made in the number of masonic halls, speaks volumes for the activity of the masonic province. But it was not confined to the limits of the Province of Meath, in which we showed our desire to assist the building of masonic halls, as although the annual income of the Provincial Grand Lodge is small, and not much in excess of what is required to meet the expenses of its working, yet it rarely if ever neglected the important duty of setting an example to subordinate Lodges in our desire to aid and assist any Lodge, no matter where located, in a laudable effort to erect or acquire premises to be set apart for the purposes of Freemasonry. At the present time in this country every Lodge should endeavour to provide themselves with a suitable hall; and I think it is the fraternal duty of Lodges to assist each other in so necessary a cause; and if this spirit of co-operation were more widespread, it would fall but lightly on each, and such undertakings could be without difficulty effected. To-day, for example, this Provincial Grand Lodge has voted a subscription to a building fund for Lodge 495, Mohill, in the Province of North Connaught, and not long since we similarly assisted Lodge 248, Roscommon, in the Province of South Connaught, thus indicating the desire of Meath to do her part in Freemasonry cheerfully, and in a broad spirit, and that her several Lodges should be similarly actuated. The charity fund of the Provincial Grand Lodge has been disbursed on the same principles, the necessity and masonic desserts of the applicant being alone considered without reference to distance or locality.
A very important work was concluded most satisfactorily in December, 1887, the revision of the By-Laws of the Provincial Grand Lodge. Every care that time and attention could display was brought to bear, and I think as they stand at present they meet with general approval. Under rule IX it was provided that "no brother shall hold the same office for more than two consecutive years, save the Provincial Grand Secretary, Treasurer, Chaplains and Superintendent of Works", and since then, by recommendation of the Provincial Board of General Purposes, it is generally understood that, except in peculiar cases, the same brother will only serve for one year. This was thought desirable, owing to the activity and zeal displayed by several Lodges of the province, and the consequent result that as there are so very many brethren most worthy of Provincial Grand Lodge honours, the path of promotion should not be unnecessarily retarded. I would advise that, as far as possible in the selection of Provincial Grand Lodge Officers, each Lodge should be represented, and in order that the most suitable and acceptable brethren be selected, I would suggest that the different Lodges make known to the Provincial Board of General Purposes, through their representatives, the brother they would wish to be recommended, in case of a vacancy, as their representative on the list of Provincial Grand Lodge Officers, and that each vacancy be so filled up from the different Lodges in regular order. This, I apprehend, would effectively dispel those little difficulties which unfortunately sometimes occur relative to the appointments in Provincial Grand Lodge. The scheme I venture to suggest is, that the Provincial Board of General Purposes make its selection of brethren to fill vacancies from the subordinate Lodges in their consecutive rotation, and that the brother so selected from each Lodge be nominated by the Lodge through their representative on the Board. Thus no Lodge can justly complain of being neglected in the appointment of Provincial Grand Lodge Officers, nor find fault with the selection of the particular brother recommended by the Board.
Brethren, it is not for me to give a lecture on the principles of Freemasonry in the Province of Meath, or to instil its weighty truths and the important lessons inculcated by its allegories and the beautiful language of its symbolism. That would be an undoubted trespass on the domain of the Provincial Chair; but now that I am retiring from the responsible position I have occupied as Provincial Grand Secretary for the past ten years and three months, I feel certain I may be permitted to say a few words of fraternal advice (the result of my ten years' experience) when now bidding the Province of Meath in my official capacity an affectionate and fraternal "farewell"; - continue the splendid reciprocity of feeling which exists between the subordinate Lodges and the Provincial Grand Lodge. Let the Provincial Grand Lodge ever evince a sincere interest in the welfare of its Lodges, and use every exertion to maintain their vitality and efficiency; and, on the other hand, let the subordinate Lodges at all times show that they appreciate rather than resent this most useful superintendence – a superintendence which should ever be fraternal and sympathetic, rather than inquisitorial or censorious. I believe the appointment of Provincial Grand Lodge Inspectors, which are about to be tried in this province for the first time, will be most efficacious, not alone towards the exposition of accurate ritual, but in the furtherance of life and activity in the subordinate Lodges. I would also sincerely hope that the subordinate Lodges will one and all arrange for a sufficiently frequent representation at the Communications of Provincial Grand Lodge. I don't think there is any excuse for the neglect of this duty; and as it has been laid down by the Provincial Deputy Grand Master very often, the Lodges should pay the expenses of a brother sent officially to represent them. Similarly let me impress upon those who hold, or may hereafter hold, Provincial Grand Lodge office, the stern importance of obedience to By-Law XVII, in attending at least three times in each year. The non-attendance of Provincial Grand Lodge Officers at all times entails inconvenience, shows an apathy which is most detrimental to the interests of the province, and sets an injurious example, besides being unfair to other brethren, who if in office, would attend. The teaching afforded by R. W. George J. De Arcy, the respected and esteemed Deputy, always inculcates zeal and reality in masonic life, as it is equally replete with brotherly love, relief and truth, that if it be only observed in your midst, energy and fervour must abound coincidently with those bright gems od a broad-minded charity, an enlightened forbearance, and expansive sympathy – the true characteristics of Freemasonry, which ever sparkle in the coronet of her glory.
And now, Right Worshipful Provincial Grand Master, Provincial Deputy Grand Master, and brethren of every Lodge in dear old Meath, in which I have spent and taken my part humbly, and with many failings, as Provincial Grand Secretary, I say "good-bye". I thank you heartily for past support, and I trust, as indeed I feel assured, that my successor will find the same facilities extended to him by subordinate secretaries, as I have always done, and equal loyalty and equal fraternity of regard from all, and should he require it, as I have, an equal measure of forbearance too. Bit, brethren, as I breathe "farewell" in my old post of Secretary, let me finally say a word of those who during the decade have been summoned from their labours in the Lodge below. How many good and worthy brethren, with whom we long worked and laboured, have been removed since 1880! How many have passed from amongst us we trust to enter into rest, the calm which succeeds the storm! Ten years make many gaps in the ranks where at starting all stood shoulder to shoulder. Our late Provincial Grand Master gone in the prime of life, influence and usefulness, and many other good and true, likewise beloved by the brethren of their mortal labour, launched into eternity amid the havoc which the scythe of time makes among the human race, all the sons of Adam being alike brothers of the dust. Since the circulars convening this Communication left my office I heard of the decease of Brother Henry W. Rotheram, P. M., 252, who was many and many a day in this Provincial Grand Lodge reflecting the spirit of masonry, apparently without a flaw. Truly busy has the reaper been within the decade of which I speak, and many true and trusty brethren have been "called up", oh! let us hope and trust, to the Provincial Grand Lodge! for
"Death is the crown of life.
Were death the end? Good men
Would live in vain.
Were death the end? To live
Would not be life.
Were death the end? Even fools would
Wish to die."
Of the brethren thus deceased those during the ten years who held Provincial Grand Lodge office were – R. W. William Babington, P. P. D. G. M., Bro. Captain Vandeleur, P. P. G. S. W., Bros. Rev. E. M. Moore and Alexander Ferguson, Provincial Grand Chaplains; Robert H. Mervyn; George H. Dundas; and Thomas Battersby, all of whom we held in ties of affection and regard. Brother Rotheram also for six years represented his Lodge on our Provicial Board of General Purposes. The others I will not individually name, save Brothers Clinchy and O'Donnell, of 76, and J. T. Myles, of 308, kind, amiable and excellent brethren, with whom I was largely associated in the active working of Freemasonry. Doubtless the memories of all our departed brethren are fresh in the Lodges to which they respectively belonged, and if "admired while living", surely they are "adorned when lost". But which of us can foretell the obituary of the ten years to come, or those of us who will be enumerated then. "A few more seasons come, a few more years shall roll, And we shall be with those who rest, asleep within the tomb."
Let us, then, be practical and faithful to our masonic obligations, to the teaching and the reality of our Divine Institution, relying in humble confidence upon the help of the Most High, the Mighty Builder of the Temple in which we are craftsmen one and all, and cemented by the ties of brotherly love each to the other; so that as the brittle thread of life is cut, and we severally fall from the post of earthly labour, the epitaph may be inscribed of us, as we have pronounced it of others, loyal to their trust, who are gone before – "tried and found true".