From "The History of Island of Inch Masonic Lodge No.589" by W.Bro. Ian Bartlett September 1994


Transcript of The Warrant of Lodge No.589

 By The Right Worshipful. Randal William, Earl of Antrim, Grand Master of all the Lodges of Freemasons in The Kingdom of Ireland, The Right Worshipful Joseph Keen Esq., Deputy Grand Master, The Worshipful John Jones and Richard Bolton Esquires, Grand Wardens.  Whereas our truly and well loved Brothers, James Craig, James McDowell and James Hodge have besought us that we would be pleased to erect a Lodge of Freemasons in the Island of Inch, County of Donegal, of such persons who by their knowledge and skill in Masonry may contribute to the wellbeing and advancement thereof. We therefore duly weighing the promises and having nothing more at heart than the prosperity and true advancement of Masonry and reposing special trust and confidence in our truly and well beloved Brothers, the said James Craig, James McDowell and James Hodge of whose abilities and knowledge in Masonry we are satisfied: do by these presents, of our certain knowledge, and meer motion, nominate, create, authorize and constitute the said James Craig, James McDowell and James Hodge to be Master and Wardens of a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, to be held by them and their successors lawfully admitted into the said Lodge for ever. And we hereby give and grant unto the said James Craig, James McDowell and James Hodge and their successors, full power and lawful authority, from time to time, to proceed to election of a new Master and Wardens, to make such Laws, Rules and Orders, as they from time to time shall think proper and convenient, for the well being and ordering of the said Lodge; Reserving to ourselves and our successors, Grand Master or Grand Wardens of Ireland, the sole right of deciding all differences which shall be brought by appeal before us and our successors, Grand Masters and Grand Wardens of Ireland. By witness whereof, we have hereto set our hand and Seal of Office this Third Day of May in the Year of Our Lord God 1781 and in The Year of Masonry, 5781.

Entered by me

Thomas Corker, D.G.Sect.

Antrim G.M.

Joseph Keen D.G.M. 


"The Early Years"

Island of Inch Masonic Lodge No. 589 was warranted by the Grand Lodge of Ireland on the 3rd  May 1781. It was one of ten Lodge warranted in Ireland in that year. 589 is the oldest Lodge now sitting in the City of Londonderry and the fourth oldest in the Province of Londonderry and Donegal, the preceding Lodges being No. 531, Moneymore, No. 532, Curran and No. 588, Ancient Donegal. Lodge 589 has worked continuously for a period of 229 years.

Grand Lodge had started the practice of warranting Lodges in February 1731 as a means of extending its authority and having Lodges acknowledge its supremacy. By the end of 1787 some seven hundred warrants had been issued but Lodges in the north of the country were slow to apply for them, in fact, only two Lodges in Ulster had warrants before 1737.

The Warrant is the only document that has survived from the foundation of the Lodge. It bears the signatures of the Grand Master, Lord Antrim, the Deputy Grand Master, Joseph Keen, and the Deputy Grand Secretary, Thomas Corker.

Lord Antrim was born in 1749 and was appointed Grand Master for the first time in 1772 at the age of 23, he again held that office from 1778 to 1781 and in 1783 he became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England (Antients).

The Deputy Grand Master, Joseph Keen, first served in 1770 then again from 1776 to 1782, and finally from 1785 to 1789. He was Clerk of the Ordnance for Ireland for 32 years. It seems that Brother Keen was held in high respect by Grand Lodge because they granted a sum of money for presentation to be made to him in 1783.

Thomas Corker was appointed Deputy Grand Secretary in February 1768 and held that office until 1801. In 1767 the office of Grand Secretary became Honorary and the duties were carried out by the Deputy. Corker was a major figure in Irish Freemasonry and during his long term in Office the Craft prospered.

The other Grand Officers mentioned on the warrant are, the Senior Grand Warden, John Jones, who was a Dublin Attorney and the Junior Grand Warden, Richard Bolton, who was an Iron Founder and Merchant.

Of more local interest are the names of those warranted to erect the Lodge. James Craig was the first Worshipful Master and James McDowell and James Hodge the first Senior and Junior Wardens. Between 1781 and 1784 twenty members were registered in the books of Grand Lodge.

Unfortunately the minute books for the period May 1781 to July 1859 are lost. The Grand Lodge archives contain some letters from the Lodge Secretaries between 1824 and 1879 which help fill some of the gaps in the early history of the Lodge



A digression from the history of 589 Craft Lodge is necessary at this point. Prior to 1829 when the Supreme Royal Arch Chapter of Ireland was formed, the Royal Arch Degree was conferred under the authority of the Craft Lodge Warrant. There was much diversity of working and indeed the present Royal Arch ritual was not adopted until 1864. In general, Lodges were quite slow to acknowledge the supremacy of the new Grand Chapter and it took many years for it to establish complete control over the degree.

In 1831 the Lodge applied to form a Chapter under the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter. It seems that this was belated recognition of the Supremacy of the Grand Chapter over the Royal Arch Degree as the letter of application was written in a rather contrite manner:

" Please to lay our case before your committee. We acknowledge our neglect in not writing to you our acquiescence concerning the Grand Royal Arch Chapter and hope that you let our remote situation together with the regularity of our Lodge for fifty years back plead for our mistake. If you shall be so good as to admit us on the terms as our neighbouring Lodges."

The first members of Island of Inch Royal Arch Chapter No 589 were registered in the books of Supreme Grand Chapter on 19th March 1833. There are only extant minutes for three meetings of the Chapter in November 1865, November 1867 and March 1870. However some of the Lodge minutes in 1859, 1860 and 1863 refer to Royal Arch Chapter Degrees being conferred in the Lodge. It appears that the Chapter, as such, met only once a year to elect officers and that the Royal Arch Degrees continued to be conferred at the Lodge Meetings.

The fact that certain Lodges did not recognise the new Grand Chapter and also that some Royal Arch Chapters refused to recognise Royal Arch Masons who had received their Degrees in Craft Lodges led to certain difficulties. A member of 589 who had received the Royal Arch Degree under the "old" working was refused admission to Chapter 633 as they only recognised the degree conferred under the control of the new Supreme Grand Chapter. It was to take several years to create uniformity of working.


1953 was a significant year in the history of Lodge 589. In July the last meeting was held in Inch Masonic Hall when Mr Bertie Reynolds received his First Degree. The minutes of the meeting record that he paid his initiation fee of 7.7.0 and that the Degree was conferred by Worshipful Brothers George Blair and Dick Campbell.

At the next meeting which was held in Londonderry on 25th September the Secretary stated that it was the opinion of some of the Brethren that the hall on Inch should be disposed of as it served no useful purpose. It was agreed that the matter should be discussed at some future date and the Secretary was instructed to make enquiries about the whereabouts of the deeds of the hall. The Secretary wrote to some of the older Brethren including Garnet Wolseley, Gilmour Fleming and Hamilton Tate, but none of them were able to provide any information about the title to the hall or the location of the deeds.

The minutes of the communication held on the 26th February 1954 record the death of Very Worshipful Brother Harry Little.

The question of disposal of the hall on Inch was raised again in May 1954 when Caulfield Wilson handed in a notice of motion:

"That Lodge 589 take the necessary steps to dispose of Island of Inch Masonic Hall on Inch Island."

Very Worshipful Brother Wilson also proposed that the Secretary make application to the Provincial Grand Lodge for permission to proceed with the sale of Inch Hall. TheProvincial Grand Lodge gave permission for the sale of the Hall at its stated communication held at Moville in June 1954.

The proposal to dispose of the hall did not meet with the approval of all the Brethren. When Very Worshipful Brother Wilson's notice of motion was discussed at the September communication an amendment was proposed by Worshipful Brother George Blair that the hall should not be sold. The amendment was put to the meeting and only seven Brethren voted for it. The motion was then put and sixteen members voted for it and the Worshipful Master declared it carried. The arrangements were left in the hands of Brother William Long. It was sold in 1956 to Inch Presbyterian Church for 100.

The proceeds from the sale were donated to the Masonic charities. The Lodge Altar was given to Ramelton Lodge and the chairs and pedestals to St. Johnston Lodge.

In September 1956 formal permission was received from the Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes for the Lodge to use the title "Island of Inch""

A further honour was conferred on Very Worshipful Brother Caulfield Wilson in May 1955 when he was appointed as representative of the Grand Lodge of Alberta to the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Brother Wilson served with distinction as permanent Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies for many years.

At the conclusion of the October communication at which the Provincial Grand Master, Sir Basil McFarland, was present the Brethren adjourned to the dining room where a presentation of Regalia was made to Right Worshipful Brother Wilson. The Provincial Grand Master spoke in glowing terms of the amount of good work carried out by Right Worshipful Brother Wilson all over the Province and also of the enthusiasm with which he discharged his duties in Provincial Grand Lodge.