It was with great sadness that I joined with the remaining Brethren of Lodge No 431, Ballymena, last evening for their final full Lodge meeting, before their Warrant is returned to Rt Wor Bro George Graham Provincial Assistant Grand Master of Antrim, on the evening of Monday the 12th of December 2022. This was a Lodge that came into existence as a result of a petition submitted to The Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes on the 3rd of March 1846 by Bros Stephen Wilson MacNeale, Captain John McKillop R.N. and Andrew Todd Dickie, three well known gentlemen from the Ballymena District. Their application was approved and Grand Lodge issued them Warrant No 431 to hold a Lodge in the town of Ballymena. And, as we all know, some two years later they petitioned Supreme Grand Chapter and were granted a Royal Arch Warrant, to be held under the auspices of Craft Lodge No 431.
From day one, no expense was spared and they commissioned a very fine master’s Throne, suitably decorated to reflect the grandeur of their new Lodge. Unusually, they prepared a large manuscript set of Byelaws, which was signed by all their new members, then it was framed, and for many years took pride of place in their Lodge-room.
In the year 1858 Prince Frederick William of Prussia married the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, who was also called Victoria. The Masonic powers that be in Ballymena made written application to Prussia and were given permission to call their Lodge / Chapter after Prince Frederick William of Prussia. In many ways a strange choice, as the Prince, and most of his immediate family at that time held strong anti-masonic opinions on the benefits of European Freemasonry.
However, this was not the case in Ballymena, where their Foundation Master became the Provincial Grand Master of North Antrim Northern, the successor body to The Provincial Grand Lodge of Cary & Dunluce. Lodge 431 quickly became known as The Gentleman’s Lodge in the town and attracted a good cross section of Businessmen and Professional people. Amongst these numbers were Bro Frederick A. Matthews who served as Deputy P.G.M. of North Antrim Northern, Dr David McKillop RA, HKT, PM 431, Bro John Ross PM 431 and many others, who served both in Lodge and at Provincial level.
In the Great War, four of the Lodge members volunteered for military service. Two of the Brethren Captain Robert C. Orr of the Somerset Light Infantry and Private John H. Curell of the K.R.R.C. both paid the supreme price in their service to King and Country. The other two volunteers captain Norman Patrick of the R.A.M.C. and Lieu Malcolm Patrick of the Royal Engineers both survived the war and joined their Brethren back in Lodge in the 1920’s. And so life returned to normal in the Lodge, which continued through the Second World War, the growth in the 60’s and the Troubles over the next 30 years. Over this period membership began to drop, slowly at first and then as we went in to the 21st century, matters continued to decline. The decision to return the Warrant, after some 176 years of service to Irish Freemasonry, was taken at their October 2022 Lodge meeting, sadly bringing to a close the story of this great old Ballymena Lodge.
The Brethren of the Lodge are keen to retain the Lodge Warrant, Minute Books and other artefacts and want to place them in the small Ballymena Masonic museum, where they will be preserved for the interest and information of future Brethren with an interest in the local Masonic history in the district. They are making an application to Provincial Grand Lodge seeking permission to retain these historical items within the Ballymena Hall.
Are your glasses charged in the West and the South
The Worshipful Master cries.
They are charged in the West They are charged in the South
Are the Warden’s prompt replies.
Then to our parting toast tonight
Your glasses fairly drain.
Happy to meet, Sorry to Part,
Happy to meet again.