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The Irish Lodges in New Zealand

On 31st July, 1841, the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette printed a report on the laying of the foundation stone of St Paul's Church: “The gentlemen of Auckland who were Freemasons appeared with the decorations and insignia of their Order.” This appears to be the first published record of the presence of Masons in Auckland. How they came to be there we can only guess; whether an open invitation was made or whether they simply appeared we can only surmise. No doubt however that their meeting together fired them with a desire to “form a regular Lodge for the development of the craft.” A period of 18 months elapsed between this event and the first meeting of the lodge, yet this delay can be easily accounted for by the slowness of transport in these years causing hindrance in obtaining the necessary authority for opening any lodge.

In those days Freemasons in the New Zealand colony desirous of forming a lodge could either petition a Grand Lodge for a Warrant or apply to the nearest Craft Lodge for a Dispensation. In 1841, and for many subsequent years, communication with the Mother Country was very irregular, there were long intervals between the arrival of vessels from England. We can therefore conclude that an application to a Grand Lodge for a Warrant would not appeal to brethren keen to start a lodge. Application for authority to constitute a Lodge in Auckland was forwarded to the Social Lodge, No. 260, I.C., in Sydney, which had been in existence for 20 years. The Dispensation was dated 5th September, 1842, and was brought to Auckland by a brother from Australia but still it did not arrive until 9th February, 1843. The lodge was formed on 9th February, 1843. It was opened in the First Degree, when Bro. Moses then presented to the officers and members of the lodge a Dispensation granted by Lodge 260 in Sydney; also five jewels and a printed code of by-laws being a loan from the above mentioned lodge to their brethren in Auckland. The Dispensation was for two years or until the pleasure of the Grand Lodge was known. During the first two years 26 meetings were held at which there were twenty brethren initiated and six affiliated. For the next few years there was very little progress but, during this time, land was purchased on which the Masonic Hotel was subsequently erected.

From 1847-49 no meetings were held, but on 8th January, 1848 the Warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland was handed over to Bro. Leech who was then installed into the chair and the foundation of the Lodge was complete. Under the Warrant the lodge had no name, simply a number: 348. During the first seven years all records are headed “Minutes of a Masonic Lodge held in Auckland”. In two instances the name "Auckland Social Lodge" was used, evidently adopted from the Mother Lodge in Sydney, but no other name was used until the name “Ara” appeared. Unfortunately there is no record of the origin of the word, which began to be used in 1850 but several theories have been put forward:
1) - From the constellation ‘Ara’ consisting of twenty stars 40° from the South Pole and visible in New Zealand.
2) - From the Latin ara signifying altar or “refuge” or “sanctuary”.
3) - From the Maori “Ara”. The verb signifies “arise” or “awaken” and the noun means “road” or “pathway”.
From these names we can deduce name ‘Ara’ was intended as an emblem of light, communicated around the altar whence the candidate is awakened from darkness and guided along the pathway leading to Masonic enlightenment.

On 2nd August, 1858 Bro. Stark brought forward a motion of which he had given notice at the previous meeting and read a petition to the Most Worshipful the Grand Lodge of Ireland on the necessity of the appointment of a Provincial Grand Master for New Zealand. It was moved and seconded that W. Bro. C. P. O’Rafferty C.E., be recommended for the office of Prov. G.M. Some of the reasons given for the need of a Prov. G.M. were:
1) - That in this colony of New Zealand there are 50,000 European inhabitants and twelve towns containing from 400 to 4,000 Europeans each.
2) - That those towns are all connected by the postal service, and that there is constant communication, commercial and other, between them. That so far as we know there is only one Lodge of Freemasons under the Irish Constitution in the whole Colony.
3) - That there are many brethren desirous of forming themselves into Lodges in different parts of these Islands, but that owing to the uncertainty and delays incident to communication with Ireland, they are deterred from petitioning the Grand Lodge for Warrants.
4) - That this circumstance is very detrimental to the interests of Freemasonry in New Zealand, amounting almost to a practical prohibition of the extension of the Order.
5) - That if the brethren had the same facility for obtaining warrants here that they have at home, in Canada, or other places, the number of Lodges would immediately increase, the Craft would gain valuable accession of respectable and influential members, and the brethren, already belonging to it would enjoy those advantages of the Order which every good Mason feels it a hardship to be deprived of.
6) - That in order to remove the disabilities which Masons labour under, we pray the Most Worshipful the Grand Master will be pleased to recognise the Islands of New Zealand as a Masonic province, and appoint a Provincial Grand Master to rule over it.
7) - For diverse good reasons, we unanimously recommend to the favourable consideration of the Most Worshipful the Grand Master and Grand Lodge of Ireland our worthy and Worshipful Master, Brother Cormack Patrick O'Rafferty, C.E., and pray that he may be appointed our first Prov. Grand Master.

Grand Lodge appointed W. Bro. C. P. O’Rafferty as Prov. G.M. on 24th June, 1859, but by this time he had moved to Melbourne and W. Bro. Henry De Burgh Adams (1830-1869) was appointed Deputy Prov. G.M. in his stead. Henry De Burgh Adams was Principal Purveyor to the Army and carried the rank of Major. (In modern times he would probably be a Quartermaster-General.) Born in Canada, he took part in the Crimean War (1853-1856) and was at the Siege of Sebastopol. He joined the Victoria Lodge, No. IV, Dublin, and was registered a M.M. In 1852. On his arrival in New Zealand in 1857, he affiliated with Ara Lodge 348 I.C. He was four years in New Zealand before taking office in Ara Lodge, no doubt due to his being in different parts of the country on military duty. Eventually being stationed in Auckland enabled him to become Secretary of Ara for two and a half years, Master in 1861 and Treasurer in 1864-65. He was partly responsible for the founding of Scinde Lodge, founded, and was first Master of, Lodge Onehunga, he was founder and first Master of United Services, and is also credited with forming Lodge 480 at Hamilton, and Alpha Cambridge, No. 449. On the formation of the Prov. G.L. he was appointed Dep. Prov. G.M. and on the resignation of Patrick O’Rafferty, he officially took over the ruling of Prov. G.L. although, due to Bro. O’Rafferty’s absence, De Burgh Adams had been acting as P.G.M. since the formation. In 1868, after 11 years’ service in New Zealand he left with the troopers when the regiment was posted back to England.

On a sad note, Henry De Burgh Adams was hospitalised in London in 1869 and, following complications caused from a ruptured stomach ulcer, he died at the age of only 39, leaving a wife a six children. (In 1865 in New Plymouth, the Irish Lodge De Burgh Adams Lodge No. 446 had also been formed by military men in his honour, but the records show that he never visited it although he assisted it financially both whilst in New Zealand and after his departure to London.)

In March 1889 a circular was read on the subject of forming a United Grand Lodge of New Zealand, but the matter was deferred until May of the same year. After much debate, a motion to join the proposed union was carried by just one vote. The opposition had been very strong and attempts were made to rescind the motion. In August a motion to that end was defeated by a majority of seven. In May the following year another attempt was made to rescind the previous motion but, after a long discussion, this too was defeated, though by only two votes.

Before the date of the next meeting the Dispensation from the G.L. of N.Z. had been received. Upon the announcement being made that the lodge was now under the control of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand those brethren who were desirous of continuing their allegiance to G.L. of Ireland retired from the room and Lodge Ara No. 1 New Zealand Constitution was duly established. The brethren who remained loyal to the Irish Constitution reformed Ara Lodge No. 348 I.C. and duly installed a Master in September of that year, 1890. Following the break Ara had rather a difficult time but gradually recovered, and today it is one of the foremost Lodges in New Zealand. They have a magnificent Temple right in the heart of Auckland and this is used exclusively by themselves and Ara Chapter. As, far as can be ascertained 21 Irish Lodges were formed in New Zealand. Of these seven lapsed, ten surrendered their Charters and joined the G.L. of N.Z. leaving four remaining, which are: Ara Lodge 348; De Burgh Adams 446; Lodge of Light 454 and St. Patrick 468.

The first lodge in New Plymouth was Mt. Egmont, which was originally Irish but changed its allegiance to the English Constitution. After some years of heavy fighting during ‘The Land Wars’ in Taranaki, some of the officers of the large contingent of Imperial troops stationed in New Plymouth considered that a lodge under the Irish Constitution should be formed, and in January, 1865 a formal application was made to the Dep. Prov. G.M. R.W. Bro. Henry De Burgh Adams (see above) for a dispensation to open a lodge. On 8 February 1865 an assemblage of brethren met at the Masonic Hotel, Brougham Street whereupon the new lodge was duly constituted and consecrated. At high noon the brethren of the English lodge met the intending members of the Irish lodge. The Worshipful Master, Bro. P. M. L. R. Castray, was installed, the Wardens Bro. E. F. Hemingway (SW) and Bro. E. S. Willcocks (JW) and other officers were invested, and Lodge De Burgh Adams was declared open. Following this the brethren formed in procession, led by the Tyler with drawn sword and the D.C. with the W.M. at the rear supported by the Installing P.M.s., and marched to the porch of St. Mary's Church, where Divine Service was held, and conducted by the Lodge’s Chaplain, Rev. H. H. Brown. After the service the procession marched back to the Lodge Room. At 6.30 that evening a banquet was held in The Masonic Hotel, Brougham Street, and it is recorded that “The enjoyment of the brethren was much enhanced by the delightful performance of the Band of the 43rd Light Infantry kindly lent by the Commanding Officer and Officers”.

About the same time a third lodge was formed in New Plymouth under the Scottish Constitution (Southern Kilwinning) but it soon became apparent that there was not room for three lodges. When most of the troops departed in 1867, a meeting was held to consider amalgamating the three Lodges but no satisfactory scheme could be agreed on. A year later the regalia and furniture of Southern Kilwinning was disposed of to the best advantage and eventually the funds of that lodge were handed over to De Burgh Adams as a contribution to the building fund. From this time on there was little to report. The Taranaki District was in a depression after the native wars and the lodges struggled desperately to survive. Amalgamation was again broached but the discussion always broke down as to which lodge should surrender its Warrant. Neither would say die, and to that circumstance De Burgh Adams owes its existence. Today the lodge holds an honoured position among the lodges in Taranaki and after 150-years is a very active and progressive lodge.

1 - LODGE ARA, No. 348. Ara Lodge No 348 (IC) was one of the sixty-five lodges that in 1889 agreed to the formation of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand, but when this fact was reported back to the lodge some of the brethren disagreed and resolved to continue to hold and use the Irish charter. Thus “half” of Ara Lodge became Ara Lodge No 1 (NZC) and the other “half” remained as Ara Lodge No 348 (IC). According to Masonic Law any three persons may hold a warrant in the event of a lodge intending to divest itself of Irish heritage (Cam). Ara Lodge No. 348 (I.C.) has the distinction of being the oldest Masonic Lodge in New Zealand, its date of foundation being September, 1842 and it is still at labour.

The Thames goldfield was opened in 1867, and after a few years, the town being then firmly established, a move was started to form an Irish Masonic lodge. Those trying to form the lodge met in the Salutation Hotel, and decided to apply to the Prov. G.M. of the Irish Constitution for a Dispensation and Charter. On 27th April, 1870, the lodge was consecrated and dedicated by the Prov. G.M. who visited Thames for that purpose. The records of the lodge report; “A large number of members from other lodges in Auckland attended and the ceremonies were carried out with great strictness according to ancient usage. After the Installation the brethren marched to St. George's Church where a service was conducted by the Prov. Grand Chaplain, Rev. Dr. Kidd. The offertory was donated to the Thames Hospital. After the service the brethren marched back to the Lodge Room where three candidates were proposed.”

Sometime after the Lodge was consecrated, dissatisfaction with the Lodge Room was voiced and on 25th September, 1872, a Bro. Graham offered a section as a gift. This was accepted and Bro. Graham was made a Life Member of the lodge. To build a hall a public company was formed and shares issued to secure the necessary capital. For the use of the hall, on each Wednesday night, the Lodge of Light paid a rent of $30 per annum. The laying of the foundation stone was a most impressive ceremony and in accordance with Masonic custom. The brethren formed in procession and marched to the site. A full choral service was held and great interest was taken by the citizens of Thames who witnessed, for the first time, such a service. About a year after the hall was built the members of the lodge determined to assume the liabilities of the company, and eventually became the sole owners of the property. The lodge had been launched under favourable circumstances and progressed satisfactorily, with a large membership and a hall of its own. It continued to prosper and, in February 1970, celebrated its centenary in the presence of the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, Dublin The Rt. Hon. John M. H. Hely-Hutchinson – 7th Earl of Donoughmore of Knocklofty.

Ara Lodge and Lodge of Light, sharing close geographical proximity, have also become very friendly, holding many interchanges of visits; especially so at installation meetings. In earlier years the most convenient means of transport between Auckland and Thames was by steamer, and after enjoying each other's company in the lodge room there was a restful - sometimes not so restful (!) - journey home by sea. The arrival of the ferries was one of the events of the day and, long before they had tied up at the wharf, horse-drawn cabs would be there in force to convey to their homes anyone with unsteady legs or who found the turbulent waters too much to cope with.

The youngest, but to its enthusiastic members the most important, of the four Irish lodges in New Zealand, is Lodge St. Patrick. Irish freemasonry came into existence in Otago on 29th March, 1866, when the Shamrock Lodge, No. 448, was opened in the Masonic Hall, Princes Street, Dunedin, under Dispensation from the Prov. G.L. Prominent among those promoting Irish freemasonry in Dunedin were Bro. T. S. Graham, of Lodge St. Patrick, Cork, County Cork, Ireland and Bro. C. White, of Lodge 424; Belfast. Bro. White was installed as first Master of Shamrock Lodge, with Bro. Graham as Senior Warden. The discovery of gold in Otago round about that time caused the population of Dunedin to fluctuate wildly, and this no doubt had an influence on activities outside of business. Within five years Lodge Shamrock ceased to function and for a decade no Irish lodge net in Dunedin until, on 21st September 1881, a preliminary meeting was held for the purpose of forming a lodge under the Irish Constitution. W.Bro. Graham, who had been a founder of Shamrock, chaired this meeting. The assembled Brethren resolved that a lodge bearing the name “St. Patrick’s Lodge” be formed and also that W.Bro. Graham should be its first Master with W.Bro. Kerr as Senior Warden and Bro. Blanchard, Junior Warden. The Dispensation issued by Prov. G.L. under the hand of R.W.Bro. Pierce, Prov. G.M., shows that Bros. Graham and Kerr were members of Shamrock 448 and Bro. Blanchard, a member of the Dunedin Lodge, No. 931, English Constitution. In the first minute book there is a letter from the Prov. G. Sec. to Bro. Graham pointing out that all. Chartered Members must be registered and financial in their respective Grand Lodges. Both Graham and Kerr were members of the old Shamrock Lodge and this was in considerable arrears to Grand Lodge. There is no record to explain how this difficulty was overcome, however the problems must have been resolved satisfactorily because on 3rd November, 1881, the members assembled at 7.15pm and were introduced to a lodge in the First Degree presided over by Bro. Julius Hyman, P. Prov. G.S.W. Bro. Harvey, D.G.M. in the Scottish Constitution, consecrated the lodge by sprinkling corn and oil, Bro. Nathan, P.D.S.W. of the English Constitution, wine, Bro. Caldwell, G.S. in the Scottish Constitution, salt. The Brethren then saluted the lodge following which Bro. Graham was installed as the first Master and his Officers were invested. After being Master for three months, W. Bro. Graham resigned his position as Master to take up the appointment of District Grand Master, English Constitution, despite the fact that he had never held office in an English Constitution lodge! Originally named “St. Patrick’s Lodge”, the minutes of 1884 are headed “Lodge of St. Patrick” although the monthly circular was still headed “St. Patrick’s Lodge”. With a change of Secretary the minutes were headed minutes of “Lodge St. Patrick”. There is no record to show that the name was officially altered but just appeared to be the choice of the then Secretary, so the title- of Lodge St. Patrick has been used from 1885 until the present day. Early minutes show that the brethren endeavoured to put into practice many of the tenets of the Craft. As far back as 1885 a series of lectures on freemasonry were given. Requests for assistance from needy brethren of any Constitution were frequent, there being no Benevolent Funds, and the records show that deserving cases were always assisted either by grant from the lodge funds or by a special collection amongst the members.

Around about 1888 there was a move to form another Irish lodge in North-East Valley, but after careful study it was decided not to. It is interesting to note that the Master of St. John Kilwinning, No 662 which at that time met in North-East Valley, took part in the final discussion and was very much against the move. (In those days visiting lodges were admitted before the correspondence was read and often took part in the discussions of the lodge.)

On 8th February, 1899, a special meeting was held at which it was announced that that G.L. of New Zealand was being recognized by the G.L. of Ireland. This meant that members of Lodge St. Patrick could receive and visit lodges of the N.Z. Constitution. On that night a vote was taken whether to remain Irish or change over and it was decided unanimously to remain under the G.L. of Ireland. At the installation of 1900, for the first time all Constitutions were represented, by Prov. and Dist. Grand Masters. This custom continued up to the end of the Second World War (1945) for all installations of all Constitutions.

Over the years Lodge St. Patrick have had many keen and loyal members: men like the late W.Bro. Deane Sharp who regularly walked from Carey's Bay (some 14 miles) to attend his lodge, or W. Bro. Alex Clark who, when during the World War II Lodge St. Patrick found going hard, took office and became Master in his eighty-first year. Men, who in good times and difficult times, have remained loyal to the tenets of the Craft and all that Freemasonry stands for so that even today, Lodge St. Patrick is still a force in this district.

Originally authored in July, 1977 by W.Bro. A.M.G. Johnston P.Prov.GDC (I.C.) P.M. as a report for The Research Lodge of Otago No. 161 New Zealand Constitution.
Edited and updated for this website on 15 February 2015 by W.Bro. John Wren-Potter PM.

Bro. Johnston is now:
Rt.Wor.Bro. A. M. G. ‘Johnny’ Johnston Past Prov. A.G.M. – Lodge St. Patrick No. 468 Irish Constitution

(NOTE: In July 1977, at the time when Bro. Johnston wrote this report, Ara Lodge No. 348 I.C. in Auckland, were either half or one-third owners of another Masonic Temple and, up to 1967, were the owners of the Grand Hotel. As the new Intercontinental Hotel was built practically opposite their ‘old’ hotel, Ara’s lodge members decided to change the building over to office accommodation. They raised a six figure loan to carry out those alterations and today they now have an even better income than previously, thanks to the wisdom and far-sightedness of that Lodge’s founders away back in 1843.)

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