The following is reproduced from the Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. Masons of Ireland Annual Report of 1988.
St. Patrick’s Lodge No.77, Newry, is one of Ireland’s oldest Lodges. Its foundation date on the original warrant (on display at the St. John’s Day meeting 1987) is 27th December 1737, just a dozen years after the formation of the Grand Lodge of Ireland itself. Under that Warrant No.77 has continued to meet in Newry until the present without a break. At the moment it is in a flourishing condition as befits the oldest Masonic Lodge in Ulster and the sixth oldest in Ireland.
To mark the 250th anniversary an interesting programme of events was drawn up which had taken over a year to fulfil. A committee of the Lodge made the arrangements and its chairman W. Bro. George McCullough, and the Brethren assisting are to be congratulated on the extensive and varied programme. It included an exemplification of the First Degree at a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Instruction in Dublin, the installation of the 1988 Officers in the Grand Lodge Room in Molesworth Street for which there was a splendid attendance of Brethren and visitors, entertaining the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down for its regular meeting, and the highlight of the celebrations – the meeting of the Lodge on Saturday, 7th May, followed by the anniversary dinner.
R.W. Bro. Major George M. Malone, the Deputy Grand Master, represented the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge of Ireland and R.W. Bro. Richard E. Gray, the Provincial Grand Master of Down, was also present.
The Worshipful Master, W. Bro. Ernie Cowan, was in the Chair with Bro. Jim Campbell acting as Senior Warden, Bro. George McCague was Junior Warden, and the Treasurer, W. Bro. Walter McVittie, and the Secretary, W. Bro. Morton Hale, occupied their respective Offices. W. Bro. Archie Cassidy and W. Bro. Bert Young efficiently shared the duties of Director of Ceremonies.
After he had accepted the Maul for a brief period, the Deputy Grand Master conveyed the congratulations of the Grand Lodge on the outstanding achievement of an unbroken run of 250 years and mentioned in particular the much valued gift from Bro. Norman Torrens of a jewel of the early nineteenth century which was greatly prized and which would occupy an honoured place in the Order’s Museum in Dublin, The Edgar Jewel.
After R.W. Bro. Gray voiced the good wishes to No.77 of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down he also referred to the gift from Bro. Torrens and presented to him a certificate from the Grand Lodge Library Committee as a token of their appreciation.
A strong tie exists between Lodge No.77 and Clontarf 249, Dublin, and a number of its members were present as guests. W. Bro. Paul Stewart made a presentation of dinnerware to the Worshipful Master of 77 to mark the celebrations and voiced the esteem which the Brethren in 249 felt for the Lodge No.77 which he described as the premier Lodge of Ulster.
A deft touch was the reading of the Minutes of exactly 100 years ago – May 1888. Bro. Harold Thompson was the reader and it is worth noting that the Worshipful Master for the 150th anniversary was that towering genius of Victorian and Edwardian Freemasonry – Bro. Francis Clements Crossle who in his day served as Worshipful Master of all the Lodges then existing in Newry. He was later to be Secretary of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down and from 1901 to 1910, the year of his death, Provincial Deputy Grand Master of Down. In addition to pursuing an extensive medical practice in Newry and district, he was also an historian of note and a collector of Masonic antiquities and historical notes, today preserved in Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin, to which they were presented by his son, V.W. Bro. Philip Crossle, who for many years was Librarian at Headquarters.
An enthusiastic welcome was reserved for the “Father” of the Lodge, R.W. Bro. William Cleland who made the long journey from Illinois in America to be with his Brethren in No.77. He was initiated in the Lodge in 1929 and shortly after that emigrated to Chicago. He has lived in Illinois ever since but ever and anon returns to his native heath and to No.77. He is a Life Member of Park Ridge Lodge, Grand Lodge of Illinois, represents the Grand Lodge of Ireland at the Grand Lodge of Illinois, a member of the 33rd Degree Northern Division USA, Scottish Rite, and of the Royal Order of Scotland.
He brought with him from his home state in USA a felicitous message from R.W. Bro. Francis G. Paul, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council 33 Degree of the Scottish Rite. After expressing congratulations on the anniversary and fraternal greetings to the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down, the message went on:
“Two hundred and fifty years seems like a long time to most of our Brethren on this side of the Atlantic, for with the exception of a very few Lodges on the eastern seaboard, none approaches the longevity of St. Patrick’s Lodge at Newry which I also understand is the oldest Lodge in Ulster.
Bro. Cleland, through his dual symbolic Lodge membership at Park Ridge, Illinois, is also a member of our Scottish Rite Bodies in the valley of Chicago, and I am told that he can trace his family membership in Lodge 77 back to the year 1812. Again there are very few of our Northern Jurisdiction members who are in a similar position with respect to their Masonic “genealogy” and we are delighted to have Bro. Cleland as a conduit to wish St. Patrick’s Lodge, the Provincial Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Ireland continued success in advancing the purposes and principles of our Fraternity in the days ahead.”
There was also a message of congratulation from the Grand Master of the State of Illinois, M.W. Bro. Willie B. Elliott.
Another given a warm welcome was W. Bro. Frederick Mears who was born in Newry but many years ago emigrated to Canada though keeping in touch with his Brethren in Newry. He, too, made the long journey to join in the celebrations and was accorded a hearty welcome. He brought greetings from his Canadian Lodge, Riversdale No.494.
A commemorative plate suitably inscribed had been struck for the celebrations. Presentations of the plate were made by the Worshipful Master to certain distinguished Brethren. These included the Deputy Grand Master for Grand Lodge, R.W. Bro. Gray for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Down, R.W. Bro. Cleland, W. Bro. Frederick Mears for Riversdale Lodge; W. Bro. George McCullough, Chairman and Organising Secretary of the Committee responsible for the arrangements for the anniversary; W. Bro. W.A. Wylie, PPGSB, Almoner, its Installing Officer and described as one of the staunchest members of the Lodge; W. Bro. Brooke Neill, Chairman of the Newry Hall House Committee; W. Bro. Alan Harrison, of Clontarf Lodge No.249.
The Deputy Grand Master assured the company that Grand Lodge would treasure this commemorative plate and it would be given an honoured place in the Dublin Museum, while R.W. Bro. Gray gave a similar assurance on behalf of Provincial Grand Lodge.
The value of the commemorative plates lies in the fact that only ten were cast and it is not intended there should be any further issues.
A feature of the proceedings was a concise history of the Lodge composed and read by W. Bro. Walter McVittie.