Wright Memorial Masonic Lodge No. 448 Newtownards

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WRIGHT MEMORIAL MASONIC LODGE No. 448 NEWTOWNARDS

DEDICATED 17th FEBRUARY, 1919


A History compiled by W.Bro. Martin McCartney (Deceased)


The warrant was first issued to Ramelton in 1766 and continued until 1785. From 1814 till 1825 it was situated at Castleblaney, and in Dunedin, New Zealand, from 1866 till 1882. Since then it was dormant until issued to Newtownards in 1919.

The lodge was dedicated to the memory of Lieut. Matthew Wright, Royal Irish Rifles killed in action at Thiepval in 1916.

The dedication ceremony took place in the Masonic Hall, James Street, Newtownards February, 1919, over which Rt. Rev. Bro. J. D. Williamson, M.D., J.P., presided accompanied by other members of Provincial Grand Lodge, one of whom was V.W.Bro. William Wright, D.D., father of Lieut. Matthew Wright.

The Provincial Grand Lodge opened on the First or Entered Apprentice degree and the ceremony followed, after which the Wright Memorial Masonic Lodge No. 448 was declared at labour, and the newly constituted lodge was saluted according to ancient custom. There were 21 foundation members present and 59 visitors.

The lodge met every month and during the first year 23 meetings were held - one in February, two in March, one in April, two in May, three in June, two in July, one in August, three in September, two in October, two in November, one in December, two in January and an Emergency before the February stated communication.

The first W.M. was William John Wright (no relation to the Wright family) and the secretary was W.Bro. James McCormick.

At an emergency meeting held on 3rd March, 1919 the name of V.W.Bro. Rev. William Wright, Prov. Grand Chaplain, was proposed for affiliation as was his son, Bro. R. P. Maxwell Wright (both 447). Two more candidates were proposed for affiliation and four for initiation.

The first two members to be initiated were Bros. Frank Apperson (hotel proprietor) and Samuel Murphy (plumber). W.Bro. Thomas Lilburn conferred the E.A. degrees. The account for the dedication dinner (held in Friendship Hall) was passed which amounted to £32. 5s. 3d. W.Bro Joseph Lindsay presented a ballot box for use in the lodge.

At a stated communication on 14th April V.W. Bro. Dr. Wright was invited to preside and he considered it a great honour to do so. He apologised for the absence of his two Masonic sons, one of whom, W.Bro. W. Martin Wright was presiding at a meeting of 447.  He then presented a complete set of working tools and hoped that the lodge would go on and flourish. The W.M. And W.Bro. Lilburn thanked the Provincial Grand Chaplain for the magnificent gift. A code of by-laws had been drawn up and put before the lodge and passed. An account was passed for gas mantles and candles amounting to 2s. 8d. Six candidates were balloted for and all were elected; an E.A. degree conferred and a further candidate was proposed for ballot. No time is given when the lodge closed! Dues collected amounted to £1.

At a meeting on 16th June, W.Bro W. Martin Wright was proposed for affiliation and subsequently elected at a later date.

On 18th August 1919, a letter of condolence was sent to the Wright family on the death Wor. Bro. Dr. Wright and members expressed their appreciation for all that the family had done for 448 and it was agreed that the lodge go into mourning for six months.

From the 21 foundation members the numbers rose steadily to 59 in 1920; 108 in 1930, and peaked at 132 in 1951. They remained at over the 100 mark until the mid-seventies when a steady decline set in and in 1992 the membership stood at 62.  In 2011 it was 45.

Treasurers tended to be long-serving — W. Bro. Joseph Lindsay, the first treasurer notching up a total of 26 years, and W.Bro. Harvey Hamilton completing 21, with W.Bro. Bertie Coyle serving 11 years.

Since the dedication of the lodge all monies had been lodged in the bank in the name of two members but in January 1946 it was decided that a general lodge account be opened to be known as the No. 1 Account, and a benevolent account to be known as the No. 2 Account. The credit balance of both amounted to £180. 0s. 2d.

W.Bro Whalley tendered his resignation as secretary in 1947 and despite a deputation visiting him in the hope that he would change his mind, his resignation was accepted with regret and tribute was paid to his work as secretary for ten years. W.Bro. John Heron was elected to fill the vacancy.

At a meeting in June 1952 it was decided that the lodge cease to meet in James Street hall and move to Regent Street, because membership had increased so much that the accommodation was not suitable. At the same meeting the affiliation fee was increased to £3. 10s. and dues to 2s. 6d. per month. Three years later 4s. 0d. per month was payable.

The installation of officers for 1955 had to be postponed until an emergency meeting later in January as owing to an oversight the authority for installing officers had not been received from Grand Lodge.

During the next ten years the work of the lodge was mostly routine, 25 members being initiated, passed and raised, so the degree team was kept busy. Membership numbered 112 in 1964.

In January 1965 Grand Lodge recommended that all lodge dues should be increased to at 5s 0d. and after discussion 448 dues were raised to 5s. 6d. per meeting.

The Provincial Grand Master (R.W.Bro. R. F. Sheldon) paid a visit to the lodge in April and was accompanied by R.W.Bro. James Spence (Asst. Past Grand Secretary) who, incidentally had been initiated in 448 in 1926.

A Social Committee was elected in 1966 and the first ladies night was held in January 1967.  W.Bro. Whyte and W.Bro. Foley were the conveners of the committee, and through their enthusiastic efforts the dinner dances, which were held in the Savoy Hotel in Bangor, attracted upwards of 300 guests and on several occasions buses were laid on to bring supporters from Belfast and over the ten years they were held, the charities benefited to the extent of £1,500.

In December 1967 all Masonic meetings were cancelled throughout Ireland on instructions from Grand Lodge owing to steps being taken to prevent the spread of a serious epidemic of foot and mouth disease.

Dues were increased to £3. 60p per annum in 1973 and in 1974 the initiation fee was raised to £12.

The 'Spuds and Scallions' June festive board was cancelled in 1974 owing to lack of support the previous year. Suggestions were put forward for a barbecue and also a bus run but there no enthusiasm for either of these ideas.

During the workers strike in May 1974 the secretary (W.Bro. McCartney) was prevented from travelling from Bangor with the minute book and consequently no minutes were read for the first time in 448.

Also in 1974 Grand Lodge recommended that the initiation fee for all lodges be increased to £20 and two years later lodge dues were raised to £6 per annum.

In March 1976 there was a backlog of degree work - six thirds, two seconds, one first and two ballots - and it was agreed that no more names be put forward for membership until the position had eased somewhat.

In May 1979 a Masonic Service was held in Strean Presbyterian Church to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the lodge.

Lodge dues were increased to £9 in January 1980.

In April 1980 it was reported that the hall committee had recommended plans for the proposed stages of extension to the present building - stage 1, £19,000; stage 2, £180,000; stage 3, £140,000. No decision was reached at that meeting but a year later it was agreed to support the idea.

Lodge dues were once again increased to £12 in September 1981. At that meeting a unique ceremony took place when the third degree was being conferred on Bro. John Hunter, who was received by his son Bro. Robert Hunter.

 In January 1984 dues were again increased to £14, in 1984 to £21 and £30 in 1992. In 2009 dues were increased to £50.00

Through the years ten members were elected to serve as Provincial Officers, while others were elected as Life governors of the Masonic Schools and the Victoria Jubilee Annuity Fund. Community spirit was also quite evident — W.Bros. Stanley Woods, Jack Beckett and Bro. Joe McCullough serving the Borough as First citizen, while the last-named three members along with W.Bro Norman Nevin were appointed Justices of the Peace.

In the Queen's Honours list W.Bro S. Derek Smyth was awarded the O.B.E., M.B.E.'s were awarded to W. Bros. Norman Nevin, John McGreeghan, James Whyte, Wilbert Heron and Bros. William Gazzard and Wyndham Scott while Bros. Bennett and Billy Allen were awarded the B.E.M.

Altogether 448 can feel justly proud of its contribution to the community in general and the Order in particular.


INTERESTING EXTRACTS FROM MINUTES

In the first few months the working of the lodge appeared to be taken up by candidates and affiliates being balloted for and W.Bro. Thomas Lilburn was kept busy conferring degrees.

At the December meeting in 1919 it was agreed to hold an installation supper on the third Monday of February, the charge being three shillings for members and five shillings for visitors.

A letter was read in February 1920 inviting the Masters and secretaries of all lodges to a meeting to consider the question of a central hall.

In February 1921 a capitation fee account was passed for payment amounting to £1. 9s. 0d. for 58 members at 6d. each. In the same year a small orchestra played for the opening and and also during the degree ceremony.

The first quarterly social evening was held in November 1923 costing 3s. 0d. for members and visitors.

A 4 course installation dinner was held in February 1924 with the lodge paying for refreshments and members being charged 4s. 0d. and visitors 6s. 0d. The mid-summer festive board was held on 6th July, the charge for which was 2s. 6d.

Discussions had been taking place during the previous two years regarding the building of a central hall, and at a meeting on 15th February, 1926 an account for architect's fees and other incidental expenses was presented which amounted to £30, one-fifth of which was to be paid by 448, which came to £6. Some members felt the amount was excessive but after a lot of discussion it was agreed to pay the account.

In April, 1928 it was agreed that the lodge cease to meet during July and August. Three dozen Master Masons aprons were purchased at a cost of 6s. 6d. each.

In view of the economic conditions prevailing in December 1931 and the lack of interest taken by members in the annual installation dinner in February in was agreed to hold a festive board after the January meeting, tea and refreshments to be served, the charge to be 1s. 6d. for members and 2s. 6d. for visitors.

The financial report for the year 1931 showed a credit balance of just over £6 which was considered very satisfactory in the 'present abnormal times'.

It was decided to revert back to 17th February for the installation dinner in 1933, when the price for a meat tea was to be 2s. 6d. per head, and in the same year Grand Lodge ruled that Masters jewels should be made of silver instead of gold.

June 1935 marked the first 'Spuds and Scallions' festive board, when 37 members and 24 visitors attended.

In September of 1936 reference was made to the tragedy of the TT Race in which eight spectators were killed and a brief silence was observed.

At an emergency meeting on 28th March 1945 dues were increased to two shillings per month and a couple of months later it was agreed that a cup of tea be provided at each meeting.


Provincial Officers

The lodge was honoured by the following brethren being elected to Provincial Office William John Wright, Joseph Lindsay, Thomas Lilburn, James Jamison, William John Moore, David Whalley, William M. Wright, John T. Harley, Hugh Morrisson, Colin Heron, Leslie Fergus and Richard Webber.

50 Year Jewels

Fifty Years Membership Jewels were awarded to W.Bros. Samuel Murphy, Robert Francis, Charles Filson, Charles Reid, Harry Coulter, Robert McKinley, Andrew M. Thompson, Norman Nevin, Hugh Morrisson and Ken Bell and to Bros. Victor Tate, John McMillan and Billy Allen.


Gifts

Apart from the gifts of the working tools and the ballot box, other brethren presented gifts to lodge as follows - W.Bro. James Cush - a masonic bible; W.Bro John Harley - a maul; W.Bro. Whyte in memory of W.Bro Foley - aprons; Bro. Chadwick - bar counter and glasses; W.Bro. Black - gavels; and in 1991 W.Bro Hunter presented pillars for the Junior and Senior Wardens.


Presentations

Long service as officers to the lodge was acknowledged by presentations to W.Bros. Wm. J. Wright as secretary for 17 years; Bertie Coyle for his dedicated work to the Down Masonic Widows Fund; Martin McCartney who held the office of secretary for 29 years; Harvey Hamilton who served 20 years as treasurer; John T. Harley for his contribution to the social side of the lodge before the the election of a social committee and Leslie Fergus who was Secretary for 10 years.


Notes

Originally, this history was  painstakingly researched and compiled by the late W.Bro. Martin McCartney in 1992, despite his failing eyesight.