History of Lodge 14

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."

The Lodge was noted as working at "The St. Andrews Cross" in Lombard Street, Galway in 1735.


John Cox (1710 - 1757) and six of his children are buried in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church in Galway.

By 1822 the Lodge had fifty-one members on the Roll but by 1828 they were down to only twenty-two and meeting only irregularly. By 4 October 1836 we find a letter from the Master to Grand Lodge requesting to know the amount outstanding to that Body. Grand Lodge advised the "Master" that the Warrant had been cancelled in February 1835, but if full dues for nine years were paid the cancellation would be withdrawn. It would appear that the Warrant was saved but in 1852 the Treasurer stated that it was nearly fifteen years since the Lodge had met. It would appear that the Grand Lodge Dues were being paid by a Brother Robert Martin and in 1855 he made an attempt to revive the Lodge. By 1862 membership was down to only four or five and the Warrant was ordered to be sent in. (35)


An Act of Parliament closed many Lodges in 1823 and Robert Martin of Ross remarked in 1834 :-

".... the law which for a time put a stop to the meetings of Masons .... has ever since been so injurious as to leave that Lodge (no.14) almost dormant"

By 1855 Lodge 9 ceased to have a separate existence in Galway. No specific reason is stated in the records, but it would appear that the difficulty of finding suitable accommodation was largely responsible. Whatever the reason, it amalgamated with Lodge 14, paid up its arrears to Grand Lodge, and sent in its warrant.

Here follows some extracts from minutes still in the lodge:-

In 1869 the fees were for Ballot twenty-one shillings; [£1.10, €1.39] for Initiation forty-two shillings; [£2.10, €2.66 ] annual dues thirty shillings; [£1.50, €1.90 ] master mason's certificate seven shillings and six pence [£0.371/2, €0.47] and the affiliation fee was twenty shillings. [£1.00, €1.27]

Lodge 14 seemed to revive from 1869 onwards, elected new Officers every six months, and had its members dine twice a year, on the two St. John's Days, and met at the Railway Hotel (now the Great Southern Hotel, Eyre Square), Stauntons in the Square, and, once only in Buckland Buildings. The members dined in public at Woodlawn in June 1870. There is no early record of where the Freemasons met in those years other than to state that they had done so at the house of Brother Harrison a fellow member. In 1873 they met at a house in Victoria Place, behind the Provincial Bank.

In the early 1870's there would appear to be a sense of urgency not normally associated with the west of Ireland. On the 14th February they called a meeting "to consider the propriety of paying the railway fare of such brethren as chose to attend the lodge meeting in Ballinasloe." It lasted ten minutes!

In 1874 seven candidates were proposed on the same night, this was the greatest number of candidates. In December 1875 for the first time our Worshipful Master was elected for twelve months rather than the usual six month period. June 1876 Grand Lodge issued a stern rebuke for giving candidates more than one degree on the same night.

In August 1876 W. Bro. Alex. Moon donated a site in Eglinton Street to be used solely for Masonic purposes. The premises were opened in June 1878.

In 1899 the lodge being in good heart financially electricity was installed. An appeal from Drum Lodge 184 on behalf of a Roman Catholic member Bro. James Smith was read and a sum of ten shillings [£0.50, €0.63] unanimously voted.

Preserved in the minute book is a letter that was read to the lodge on Tuesday 13th September, 1910. Signed by Winston Churchill it conveys the thanks of King George V for the lodge's letter of sympathy on the death of Edward VII.

In 1922 because of the `Troubles' the lodge premises were barricaded and meetings held in the garden house of the Grammar School. In February 1923 the secretary reported that an outrage had been committed on the lodge premises during repair work but that the contractors were continuing their work even though serious damage had been done. The total bill amounted to nine hundred and sixty one pounds.

Not being quite sure of the date of their foundation Lodge 14 held a special meeting followed by a supper to celebrate their bicentenary on the 12th May 1925 and they celebrated again with a dinner on the 22nd April, 1933. Then in December the secretary read a letter from the Grand Secretary stating that the date of the warrant was entered as 1732 in error and the correct date was 1733 but anyway Lodge 14 was a `time immemorial' lodge working before the issue of Grand Lodge warrants.

Twenty-seven members served in the 1914-18 War and Bros. T.H. Clesham and E.C. Holmes made the supreme sacrifice.

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). Six 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 meetings 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 Lodge is reputed to have met at Richardsons Public House, before moving to Church Lane, and then to a purpose built Lodge at Mill Street, Galway in 1878, (built by a Portadown building firm, Collen Brothers). Freemasons Hall was sold in June 1968. The Lodge held it's meetings in the Parochial Hall, Woodquay until the Lodge moved to it's present premises at 69 Prospect Hill, Galway in April 1979. The first notice of interest is published in the newspapers of 3rd 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."