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North Munster Masonic Centre,
Castle Street,
King's Island,

Knappogue Castle - Co. Clare

Photograph of Knappogue CastleKnappogue Castle in County Clare has a long association with Freemasonry. Lord Dunboyne was originally a member of Triune Lodge 333 in Limerick and served as the Grand Treasurer of Grand Lodge of Ireland.  In 1864, Lord Dunboyne joined the Ennis Master Masons' Lodge 60. It was common practice in those days that meetings were held in homes rather than dedicated buildings. Knappogue Castle was the venue for many of these Masonic meetings.  Two years later the Lodge changed its name to 'Dunboyne Lodge No. 60'.

In the summer of 1873, a social function that was held in Knappogue Castle received widespread coverage in local and national newspapers. Although transportation of the day was very limited, members came from all parts of the country. Most of the visitors arrived via the local railway station (Ballycar) and were subsequently ferried to the castle by a fleet of jaunting cars. Because it was primarily a social occasion most of the members were accompanied by their wives and family. The total number of visitors swelled to many hundreds.

While the members held their meeting in the castle, the ladies and other invited guests perambulated the magnificent gardens which were planted with many rare and exotic species that had been imported from the colonies.

One of the star novelties of the day was the taking of photographs which was still very new to Ireland. A photographer from Limerick was at his wits end to cater for all the requests from individuals, groups and even entire lodges who wanted their photographs taken in their regalia. This attraction was further complicated by the inclement weather. With each shower of rain the queues for those 'indoor activities' lengthened.

Eventually all plans for outdoor sports had to be abandoned. The evening concluded with a ball in the marquee at Knappogue Castle, where guests danced quadrilles and waltzes to the music of the Clare Militia Band.

The event was reported in the Limerick Chronicle on the 10th  July 1873 as follows:

Yesterday will be long regarded as a rubrical day in the memory of the Masonic fraternity, their wives and families, in the district of North Munster.

The castle consists of an eleventh-century fortalice with modern additions, and the name it bears is confirmatory of a now established fact that the Celtic races gave to natural objects the most descriptive nomenclature. Knappogue (if our Irish interpreter was not tripping) means a collection of hillocks closely clustering together as almost to kiss each other, hence Knappogue, and no appellation could be more close to nature.

The grounds are thickly but judiciously planted with trees and ornamental shrubs, among which we noticed some fine specimens of variegated holly, cedars of Lebanon, beech, mountain ash, oak, but principally larch, which always makes a habitat where its brethren of the field or glade would require a more luxuriant soil.

On entering the grounds about one o'clock, there were evidence on all sides of approaching festivity. A large marquee was erected on the lawn, and servants were to be observed busy in applying the culinary art. The Royal Standard unfurled its folds to a gentle breeze at a convenient distance - the Jack (red-crossed) - held a coigne of vantage on the `Clock Tower', and over the main entrance, the banner of the ancient house of Butler or Fitzwalter, with its lions rampant and scallop shells - remembrances of Holy Land pilgrimages - was displayed. The croquet lawn was in readiness, and the band of the Clare Militia discoursed marches, quadrilles, mazurkas and waltzes on the greensward.

When the entire party had assembled, warning was given to Brethren, by the sounding of a Chinese gong, that the Provincial Grand Lodge was about to transact business. Lord Dunboyne's library, which is filled with many curious works of art, was fitted up as Lodge Room. His lordship took his seat on the Throne with the usual Masonic honours. Those present included Brother Wilson acting as Provincial Grand Secretary; John Hill, SW; Alexander Rowland, JW; Henry Sikes, SD; Rev Dr Mangan, JD; Rev J. McMahon, Chaplain; Isaac Banks, IG; Rev W F Seymour Tyler. The nine Lodges represented were 13, *50, 73, 135, 250, 268, 201, 202 and 333.

While the Provincial Grand Lodge were in sederunt, the ladies availed themselves of the privilege kindly accorded by Lord Dunboyne of viewing the interior of the castle, the most curious feature of which is perhaps the spiral staircase which ascends the old `Keep' from basement to turret, where warders in less happy times than ours kept `watch and ward' while the mailed Barons held feudal state below.

The shields of the successive descendants of the Butlers hang in the hall and were inspected with keen curiosity by the guests of the noble owner. Ourselves delighted chiefly to linger in the portrait and miniature rooms, where, if we remember rightly, we saw portraits of `Bold Butlers' clothed in steel of the ante-gunpowder epoch, interspersed with maternal Baronesses robed and enamelled with pearls.

Among modern efforts, the portraits of Lord and Lady Dunboyne are very fine specimens. Nothing could exceed the courtesy of Lord Dunboyne, his daughter, the Hon. Miss Butler, and his son, the Hon. Theobald Butler, in their assiduity and attention to their guests, proving that they thoroughly appreciated the sentiment that in honouring others we honour ourselves. Lady Dunboyne was evidently an interested spectator of the gay scene from her window.


 Note: *This was a typographical error that appeared in the Limerick Chronicle - this entry should have read lodge 60 and not lodge 50.


News from 2013

To mark the installation of one of the founding members of Harp and Crown Lodge Number 60 in the Chair for 2013, the Lodge travelled from its home in Ballymena, Co Antrim, to Limerick for its annual installation of officers in April 2013.

A visit was made to Knappogue Castle to mark the occasion.  The party, which numbered about 60, included the Provincial Grand Masters of Antrim and North Munster together with a number of the members' wives.

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