The earliest recorded Lodge meeting was held in the Beresford Arms Hotel, Masonic lodge rooms, Armagh on 2nd May 1857.
W.M. John Woods presided and concern was raised “that it was impossible to get members of the Lodge to attend for the transaction of business”
Lodge officers were installed for a 6 month period. A resolution was forwarded to Grand Lodge that the business of Lodge 39 be conducted quarterly on the 2nd Wednesday of February, May, August and November & a duplicate warrant was applied for as the ‘old one’ was defaced and not legible.
Bro. David Griffen was installed as W.M. for a 6month term & Grand Lodge dues of £1.13.6d was paid. A letter from Grand lodge accompanied a new edition of the ‘Laws & Constitution.
Secretary of the Lodge during this period was Malcolm McAneale Johnston.
The Lodge meeting of the 22nd of December was held at 6.00pm and 9.00pm to confer degrees on Bro. Edward Alcock as there was concern he may be called away on recruiting duties. The Secretary received communication from grand lodge in Dublin that replacement warrant would cost £2.2.0d. (2 guineas). But if new names were added, a fee of £7.0.0 would suffice and the old warrant returned to Grand Lodge. The Lodge decided to seek a warrant renewal “ and the Brethren are deposed to pay for it”.
Communication received from grand lodge stated that the lodge were in arrears of dues and the warrant would be cancelled. A petition was then sent to Grand lodge & all arrears were paid. Grand lodge was also asked to reconsider the matter of issuing a suitable warrant. A reply from the Grand lodge Board of General purposes stated a duplicate warrant would be issued and marked as such.
Accounts for lodge meeting in May were submitted:-
Initiation - £1.1.0d; Lodge Dues 14s/0; Expenses; - stamps 1s/0d; meal 13s/9d;
Tyler 2s/6d; waiter 1s/0.
Officers returned in November were, J.C. Marks, W.M.; D.Griffen, S.W.; M.McAneale Johnston, J.W.; James Crilly, Secretary/Treasurer. Bro’s Robert Turner & William Smith of Lodge 623 were admitted as members of the lodge. Comments made in the minute book for December were, “The year closed with a number of Brethren assembled, but did not think it was necessary to open the lodge”.
Meetings were held quarterly from the 2nd of April. The W.M. Bro. J.C. Marks was stated as having been ‘removed to Cork’ & the Lodge made a special address to him by letter& published it in the local press. He was presented with a special Masonic jewel ‘as a mark of the high esteem in which he was held in the lodge’. Bro. James Christopher Marks replied & inserted it in the Armagh newspapers & a report was given by G.W. James Caffery.
Mr. Jacob Healy of the Ulster Gazette was ‘placed on the books’.
A resolution was passed that ‘clothing and jewels’ be purchased for the several officers without delay.
Dr. James Leslie was admitted on transfer from Lodge 623. Members were encouraged to ask for new candidates for the Lodge as membership was in decline.
An emergency meeting was held on 23rd December when 2 brethren from lodge 409 were ‘proposed & balloted for’ and ‘the beans were declared fair and square’. Two Brethren were also initiated at the same meeting. Initiation fees for the year were £2.5s.0d. and six months dues was 5s/- .
A new Lodge seal was purchased at a cost of 13s/- including carriage from Belfast, and it was also decided to have a supply of lodge circulars printed similar to those of lodge 409. Bye-Laws for the guidance of the lodge were prepared and submitted for approval.
Lodge officers were debited 10s/- towards the cost of new collars. In the minutes of July 1863 the lodge Number was recorded as 523, but no record as to why it was changed. It was also recorded that a Brother paid £1 guinea in dues in respect of that lodge number.
A decision was taken in December that “in future all persons proposed for membership, are to appear on the books for 1 month previous to admission, except in a ‘peculiar emergency”
An emergency meeting was called in February to initiate Mr. Richard Walfenden Mathews before he was transferred to India. He also received the ‘fellow Craft’ degree on the same evening. Refreshment account for the meeting was 2/6d. Bro. Mathews was ‘raised’ 2 days later at the Installation of Officers.
Accounts for the Installation for refreshments & waiters were 34s/9d and candles were purchased at 8d.
During the next few years it was recorded that quite a few emergency meetings were held, as records show that Brethren were moving to other parts of the world.
The Lodge Tyler’s expenses were raised to 2s/6d in May for each ‘Night of sitting’.
Brethren of the Lodge discussed providing ‘a suitable Lodge room’ and other necessary accommodation unconnected with a hotel, in accordance with Grand Lodge rules.
In June, bye-laws were adopted for Lodge 39 and a code of 9 rules were submitted and approved, and all members received a copy.
The lodge had written to the Rev. Charles Carroll in Tipperary, with reference to renting a house in College Street, Armagh, ‘for general Masonic purposes’. He consented to taking lease of the house for £15 per annum and keeping the property in good repair. The W.M. Bro. William Cochrane was appointed as a trustee and a special meeting with lodge 409 and 623 on the 21st September 1865, the Worshipful masters from the three Lodges along with 19 other members unanimously resolved that the offer be taken with the rent commencing on 1st November. Two members of each lodge were appointed to ‘have full power to arrange all matters of detail with respect to carrying out the forgoing proposal’.
A special committee of the W.M’s and Secretary’s of lodges’ 39, 409 and 623 resolved that Brethren lodge their dues with Bro. Thomas McDowell of the Northern Bank and Bro. Henry Beere of the Bank of Ireland who kindly consented to act as treasurers.
The subject of the house at College Street ‘for general Masonic purposes’ was again discussed as Lodges 39 and 623 had unanimously adopted the resolution, but no decision was taken by lodge 409.
In April a resolution was passed ‘that this Lodge (39) and 623 take possession of the house in College Street as soon as possible’. Bro. Crask was appointed Tyler and caretaker and received the sum of 1d (one penny) per week and an agreement was drawn up between the trustees that he was to receive compensation for the use of the kitchen and parlour adjacent to the lodge room, and he would also receive free gas for the kitchen and parlour.
An idea from Bro. Wright related to the Lodge joining a Provincial Grand Lodge with the Lodges from Armagh and Monaghan. It was agreed to ‘give as much assistance as possible’.
The year ended with the Brethren having a celebration on St.John’s Day and the expense was to be debited equally amongst the members attending. From the records this seems to be the first occasion when the lodge met for 12 months in succession.
Lodge Secretary was instructed to write to Grand Lodge on forming a Royal Arch Chapter.
An account was paid for coal 6 shillings, gas 1s/5 1/2d, deacons 1/4d and the caretaker, Bro Crask 10shillings for cooking supper.
Initiation fees were raised to £3.3.0 (3 guineas).
Grand Lodge were to be asked to rule if the refreshment room could be used for non-Masonic purposes & replied they did not have any objection as long as the Lodge room was used for Masonic purposes only.
A proposal from Bro. Robert Turner being W.M. that a resolution be forwarded to Grand Lodge that ‘the members of Lodge 39 strongly approve the consideration that the Counties of Monaghan, Cavan, Louth and Armagh be formed into a new Masonic Province to be entitled “The Province of Armagh” – the Grand Lodge and centred in the City of Armagh’.
Lodges 39, 409 and 623 held a Special Meeting in the Beresford Arms Hotel on 27th February to consider the proposal. The members of the aggregate meeting of lodges strongly agreed to the recommendation of the Committee, and that the ‘central position’ to be in the City of Armagh, being surrounded by the towns of Portadown and Tandragee and it’s accessibility by rail from every direction is particularly desirable. Grand Lodge was informed by First Post of the decision.
Notice was received from the Grand Lodge on the mode of applying for a Royal Arch warrant, but as Chapters 623 and 409 had warrants for a long time the Board of General Purposes could not see any reason to issue a 3rd warrant to Armagh.
Grand Lodge communicated in a circular dated 2nd April 1868, that the newly formed province be entitled “the Provincial Grand Lodge of Armagh”, and to meet in Armagh and Dundalk alternatively.
Lodge 39 proposed a recommendation that Bro. Marshall be appointed as Provincial Grand Master.
The first recorded lodge of Instruction was held on 16th September 1868 for the business of ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ a Lodge. Three emergency meetings were held for the purposes of Instruction.
It was noted that St.John’s Day was celebrated in December for the next few years.
Brethren were informed by Grand Lodge that Bro. McClose had been appointed as Provincial Grand Master.
An inventory of Lodge furniture had been ordered & on 13th January the following items were listed:- Bible, Square, Masters’ Jewel, Senior & Junior Warden gavels, 24” Gauge, 3 candlesticks, Ballot box, cash box, warrant in case, seal, half share in furniture with Lodge 623, ink bottle, Officers jewels, 5 point lamp, 1 dozen lodge aprons, 4 dozen books lodge bye-laws, 18 tumblers, 16 wine glasses, 2 decanters, sugar bowl, 2 hot water jars, 2 dozen dinner plates, 2 dozen dessert plates, 2 dozen cheese plates, 1 beer jug, 2 kettles, 4 vegetable dishes, 8 joint dishes, 2 sauce funnels:
It was also decided to paint lodge furniture “a suitable colour with the various insignia of the Offices on the pedestals, cost not exceeding 30/-” equivalent to £1.50 today. Bro. William Wood was to be paid liberally for painting the front of the house.
Brethren had an excursion to Warrenpoint on St. John’s Day 26th June & met at 9.00am for the Installations of Officers before departing.
The sum of £3.0.0 from Lodge funds was donated to ‘Charitable purposes’ , half in June and half in December and distributed by the Lodge Treasurer on the order of the W.M. A resolution instructed all brethren of the Lodge ‘not to carelessly throw away Lodge summons, so the contents would become known to their servants of some other non- Masonic person and were urged that it was ‘absolutely necessary to destroy it after reading’.
Cost of St.John’s Day celebration dinner was 5/- (25p) and it was agreed that ‘any brother might invite another brother mason provided he pay for the expense.’ The lodge also donated £1 each to the ‘male and female orphan schools’ as an annual subscription.
Bro. McCullough of Lodge 26 attended as a visitor & was asked to produce his W.M certificate. Two brethren of the lodge were asked to retire to test Bro. McCullough before being admitted.
Discussion took place between Lodge 39 and Lodge 623 on 8th March on moving to a ‘more suitable premises’ and at the subsequent meeting in April a letter was received from lodge 623 of ‘their intention to leave the house’.
As the monthly meeting in July fell on the 12th it was decided to hold the meeting on the 3rd Wednesday in July.
Grand Lodge held a communication in the ‘Loutive Rooms’ in Armagh on 31st August. The Lodge appointed at Tyler and to be paid 2/6 per night (12½p)
Members of the lodge who were in arrears of dues were to have their name read out in full until the debt was paid.
Lodge dues were increased to £1 per annum to be paid in two sums of 10 shillings. The lodge bye-laws were revised to include a list of subscribing members.
During a meeting the Secretary was ordered to ‘obtain a proper bandage for the eyes of a candidate’. Applications were submitted for the election of candidates to the ‘Masonic Female Orphan School’ in respect of Elizabeth Mary Gill and Frances Smith.
A committee was appointed to consider the financial position of the lodge and accounts owed by lodge included, rent £22-10-0, Lodge 623 £12-18-0, members dues £12-18-0, cash n hand was £19-19-5½d.
Members of lodges 39 and 623 were invited to attend the ‘laying of a foundation stone for a Masonic Hall in Tandragee.
On 14th October the Lodge meeting was postponed in memory of the late Duke of Leinster, who had been grand Master.
Officers of the lodge were for the 1st time elected for a 12 month period in accordance with the new Grand Lodge rules and Constitution.
Brethren were invited to a St. Johns’ day celebration organised by Lodge 623 in the Beresford arms hotel and agreement was reached in October permitting Lodge 299 to ‘hold meetings in the Masonic Hall. Installation supper dues were 2s/6d (12½ p).
Lodge attendance was once again on the decline as the lodge failed to open on 3 occasions during a 12 month period.
Mrs. Allender was granted use of the refreshment Room at 7s/6d (37½ p) per quarter. It was unanimously passed that the lodge adjourn in the months of July, august and September from the current year.
A committee was formed with a view to starting a scheme to raise funds to build a Masonic Hall that would be a credit to the Masonic Order in the City of Armagh.
Mr. John Moody Campbell of the Beresford Arms Hotel was initiated a member of the Lodge. Approval was given for a school room to be used for lodge purposes in 1882.
An unusual circumstance happened in 1882 in which a Brother Fredrick Kay changed his name to Fredrick William Harrison during an enlistment to the Army Hospital Corps in Egypt, as he was ashamed of having ‘enlisted’ and ‘foolishly resorted to an alias’ in order to hide his identity. An appeal was made to the County Magistrate to be known as his rightful name on returning home and had to procure proof of his identity and certificate of birth.
Bro. Jenkinson who had been Secretary was ‘kindly presented a handsome ink stand with a large supply of pens and a wrapper for the minute book’.
Only 1 recorded meeting of the lodge took place in 1883.
A donation of £25 was given out for the erection of a new Masonic Hall. Twenty-four members were returned in November 1884. The sum of 5/-s was donated to Newry Masonic building fund.
The Tyler was awarded an increase in salary to £18 per year plus outgoings and this was to be paid in proportion by the 4 Craft lodges and 2 Chapters to the number of members on the books. Several donations were handed over to the Treasurer of the new Masonic Hall committee when Lodge funds permitted.
In October 1887 Bro. Edwin Best proposed that ‘no Brother shall be entitled to promotion who shall not have attended 2/3’s of the meetings in any given year – a Bye-Law that stands to this day.
Installation dinner tickets were issued for the 14th December at 7s/6d each and the secretary to decide if the Lodge was to open at 5 or 6 o’clock depending on the business to be conducted.
No meeting of the lodge was held in June 1889 due the ‘considerable railway accident at Armagh on the usual day of meeting’. At the July meeting a subscription of £5 was donated ‘towards the sufferers of the railway accident’ and the Secretary to forward a letter of condolence to the Chairman of Armagh Town Commissioners.
At a Centenary bazaar held in aid of the Masonic female orphan school, Miss Best from The Mall, Armagh represented the Lodge and was given ‘an illuminated address’ by the lodge and a record to be entered on the minutes for ‘zeal and energy displayed by her, collecting money for the Armagh Provincial Hall.’
Throughout the 1890’s there seamed to be distinct lack of lodge funds as many Brethren were in arrears of dues and the average attendance for meetings was about 10 members. A new lodge seal was purchased in 1894 and a set of lodge collaret’s were purchased in June 1896 at a cost of £7.16.0d. By the end of 1897 a financial statement of accounts were described ‘as very satisfactory’ showing a balance of £31.8.10d and the thanks were given to Bro. Munroe for his “just care and attention”.
The death occurred in October 1897 of Charles Ensor of Ardress “he was zealous mason whose lose will be felt by every member in the Masonic province of Armagh and as local treasurer of our schools to make provision for the orphans of our deceased brethren.”
Thomas Henry Hardy of Richhill (of Hardy Memorial School, Richhill) was initiated a member of Lodge 39 on 13th May 1896.
A Masonic service was held in June 1898 and the Treasurer submitted a statement that £143.17.0 was collected and expenses incurred of £8.17.0d. Under the direction of the committee £45 was distributed to each of the charities – Female Masonic Orphan Schools, Masonic Orphan Boys School and Victoria Jubilee Annuity Fund. Towards the end of the 19th century brethren were asked to contribute 1shilling per meeting as a means of raising a subscription to the Centenary Fund of the Masonic Orphan Boys School & the year and century ended with a Masonic service held in Loughgall.
Brethren of the lodge passed on congratulations “to Bro. John Stanley of this lodge on his appointment to the position of Judge of the High Court of Calcutta”.
In a letter from grand lodge it was suggested that lodges open a bank account in the name of 2 brethren of the lodge and that “it should be left to the Master and Treasurer to the choice of bank”. Lodge members decided to change the months of closing the lodge to July, August and September and the donations to the ‘Centenary Fund’ was closed at £30.
On 13th February 1901 a discussion took place regarding the death of “Our most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria” and a resolution was send to King Edward VII on behalf of the lodge. – “May it please your Majesty, we the members of St. John’s Masonic Lodge No.39, Armagh, properly assembled, at this our first communication since the death of our beloved Queen respectfully beg to tender to your Majesty and through you to the other members of the Royal Family, out most heartfelt sympathy in the bereavement which you, your family and the whole Empire have sustained” and “in congratulating you in your accession, we pray that the Great Architect of the Universe may endow you with divine wisdom to follow her illustrious example”. Signed, T.J. Uprichard, W.M., A.C. McBride, Secretary.
A reply was received from the Grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of England on 19th February 1901.
Armagh Board of General Purposes at the March meeting in 1905, had intimated to the lodge that it was considering heating the lodge room with hot water pipes as the present arrangement was unsatisfactory.
The Lodge passed a resolution on 11th May 1911 to His Majesty King George V, sending ‘their heartfelt sympathy to Your Majesty and other members of the Royal Family on the death of our beloved King, His Majesty King Edward VII”. The Lodge adjourned without transacting business in respect of His Majesty. A reply was received from the Grand Lodge of England and inserted in the minutes.
In October 1911 £1.1.0 (1guinea) was given to Portadown brethren appealing for assistance in erecting a suitable memorial to the late Bro. Hugh Wallace, Provincial Grand Instructor.
Grand Lodge of Ireland issued a directive in May 1912 ‘that there be no discussion on the ‘Government of Ireland’ bill placed before the House of Commons’ and a grand Lodge committee was appointed to watch the progress of events. In the same year Armagh Provincial Grand Lodge held a service in St.Patrick’s Cathedral on 13th October and the collection amounted to £135.
Communication from the Deputy Grand Secretary in January 1913 directed the brethren that in accordance with custom, lodge shall assume a period of mourning for 3 months on the death of the Duke of Abercorn K.G. Most Worshipful Grand Master and jewels or rosettes on aprons should be covered in crape.
Provincial grand lodge of Armagh appealed for subscriptions to provide comfort etc, to ‘brethren on active service’ with the Ulster Division in France during October 1916. At the Installation Dinner of the lodge in 1919 a celebration was held “for all the boys who had come home” from France.
A letter of sympathy from the lodge was sent in April 1920 to the wife of the late Lord Primate of Ireland, His Grace Lord Crozier.