Fernhill Masonic Lodge No. 587
Some historical notes on Fernhill Masonic Lodge No. 154. Originally compiled by W.Bro. Ronnie Barnes, Updated and edited by
W.Bro. Colin Barnes with information supplied by W.Bro. Don McMeekin, V.W.Bro. Mervyn Robinson, W.Bro. Thomas Ross and others.
Fernhill Masonic Lodge, its crest and motto.
Fernhill Masonic Lodge No. 587 was constituted on 10th September 1924.
The first Worshipful Master was The Right Honourable Samuel Cunningham. He resided in the Glencairn area of Belfast in a
house called “Fernhill”. The name of his house was taken as the name of the Lodge. As well as the
name, the Cunningham family crest was adopted as the Lodge crest.
There is an interesting history to the crest and motto. The crest depicts the arms of the Lenox-Conyngham family and may
still be seen on the furniture in the National Trust property at “Springhill” in Co. Londonderry. Springhill was the family seat of the
Cunningham family. The coat of arms is formed from the arms of both the Lenox and Conyngham families. The hay fork comes from the Conyngham
crest and the red rose of Lancaster from the Lenox crest. In heraldry a small crescent, as depicted at the top of the crest, apparently
indicates that the crest is a combination of two other crests. This seems logical, however at the time of writing the author has not been
able to confirm this.
The heraldic description of the coat of arms along with a translation into plain English follows:
1st and 4th. Argent, a fesse chequy azure and gules, over all a shake fork sable, and in chief a lion rampant of the third
(gules). 2nd and 3rd. Argent, a saltire indented vert, between four roses gules.
- 1. A unicorn’s head argent, armed sable.
- 2. A demi-lion rampant purpure, armed and langued argent.
1st & 4th Quadrants:- A silver background with a broad sky-blue and red chequered band across the middle third, superimposed by
a black hay fork and surmounted by, in the top third, a red rearing lion with right forepaw above the left forepaw. 2nd & 3rd quadrants:- A
silver background with a green diagonal serrated edged cross between four red roses.
- 1. A silver unicorn’s head with a black horn.
- 2. A purple half rearing lion with right forepaw above left forepaw and claws extended, all lined in silver.
The motto itself is taken from legend. The following explanation is given in Mina Lenox-Conyngham’s book, “An Old
Ulster House”. This book is published by Dungannon Press and a copy is available in the Linenhall Library, Belfast.
Its origin is told in a legend which relates that when King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland was being pursued by his enemy Macbeth,
he took refuge in Conyngham’s hay field. Conyngham saved his life by hiding him in the hay, calling to his men, “Over, fork
The warrant has a history dating back to the 1st of March 1781 when it was issued to Rodney Lodge. The officers of Rodney Lodge
|Senior Warden||John Hernderson|
|Junior Warden||James McConnell|
Around 1788 Rodney Lodge changed its name to St. Patrick’s Lodge and continued working until 1814 when Grand Lodge cancelled
The warrant lay dormant until it was issued to Fernhill. It was constituted on the 10th of December 1924 in Brookvale Masonic Hall, Antrim
References to 587 can be found in S. Leighton’s book, “Freemasonry in Northern Ireland” pages 45-47. It is interesting to note
that in his book S. Leighton refers to an old Bible which was used by St. Patrick’s Lodge No. 587. On the back of this Bible, stamped under
the words “Holy Bible” is the number 5785. A coincidence is that the last three figures of the year of Masonry, when reversed
gives us the Lodge number “587”.
Members, Past & present
A list of the names of all brethren of the Fernhill Masonic
lodge can be found on a separate page.
Here are some notes on some individual brethren who have contributed to the lodge, either by long service, distinguished conduct or by
assisting the Lodge in degree work, charities etc.
The Right Honourable Samuel Cunningham
He was born on the 14th of October 1862 at Fernhill. His father was Josias Cunningham, a well known stock broker in Belfast,
and his mother was Jane Agnes Cunningham.
Educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh and Queens College, he entered his fathers
stock-broking firm eventually becoming a partner.
He was an ardent Mason and was the first Worshipful Master of Fernhill in 1924. Prominent in Ulster politics and Belfast commercial life,
the following obituary which appeared in the Newsletter on 24th August 1946 indicates the extent of his involvement.
OBITUARY - RT. HON. SAMUEL CUNNINGHAM
Former member of Ulster Senate
We regret to announce the death of the Rt. Hon Samuel Cunningham, which occurred yesterday at his residence, Fernhill, Glencairn Road,
Mr Cunningham, who was aged 81, was associated with the Unionist cause all his life. He was an original member of the Ulster Senate,
from which he retired in April 1945. In 1920 he was appointed a Privy Councillor.
Educated at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Belfast Royal Academy, Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh and Queens College, Mr
Cunningham as a young man entered the office of his father, who had founded a stock-broking business in 1843, and eventually he became
a partner. He was chairman of the Northern Whig, Ltd., and of Murray, Sons & Co., a member of the local board of the Scottish Amicable
Life Assurance Society since 1903, and a member of the committee of the Northern Bank from 1906 until 1922. He was connected with the
General Board of Trustees and Managers of the Belfast Savings Bank for more than 52 years, and became a trustee in 1913. Since 1934 he
had been a member of the Committee of Management.
Mr. Cunningham had a distinguished record of public and philanthropic service. He was a life governor of the Royal Victoria Hospital
and was a generous supporter of various benevolent institutions and wartime charities. He rendered national service as representative
for Ireland on the Treasury Committee on Housing Finance which sat in 1919. A devoted member of the Presbyterian Church, he had been
convener of the General Assembly’s Board of Finance. In addition he was an ardent member of the Masonic Order.
Mr. Cunningham is survived by his four sons, Mr Josias Cunningham, head of the stock-broking firm of Josias Cunningham & Co.; Mr
Dunlop Cunningham, managing director of Murray Sons & Co. Ltd.’ Lieut-Colonel J. G. Cunningham, managing director of the Northern Whig
Ltd. and Mr Knox Cunningham, barrister-at-law who has twice contested West Belfast.
John H. Keers
John Keers, or as he was affectionately known to his brethren, Jack, was principal of Everton Primary School at Ardoyne.
A supporter of Woodvale Cricket Club and a Ballygomartin man. He was responsible for introducing many of the brethren to the Masonic Light.
He was Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1943, a prince mason and among his masonic honours he was the representative of the Grand Lodge
of New Zealand to the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Jack served the Lodge faithfully for 54 years, 27 of which as the Lodge's representative to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim Committee
of Inspection, he also took a very active part in degree work, building around him a very able team of younger brethren and thereby
assuring the Lodge that the high standard of degree work and ritual, which he set, would be continued.
He was always ready and willing to assist his brother of the Lodge with “good and wholesome masonic advice and instruction.”
A past Senior Grand Warden of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim, jack's masonic service was given its just recognition when the John
Keers Memorial Lodge was constituted in Portaferry.
The Past Master's jewel with which he was presented by the Lodge, was, on his death in 1979, as he had requested, given to Bro. Ronald
Barnes who after passing through the chair in 1980, had a bar added to it rather than have it re-engraved. The jewel is now worn by
W. Bro. Ronald Barnes at each communication of the Lodge with pride and affection for the memory of a Brother who embodied all the
qualities of a true mason.
Family connections within Fernhill
Fernhill has over the years, had quite a few family connections by way of Fathers and Sons or Brothers.
Fathers & Sons
|1||J. Petrie (John)||J. Petrie (Jack)|
|2||R. English (Bob)||R. English (Robin)|
|3||W. S. McMeekin (Billy)||D. W. McMeekin (Don)|
|4||J. F. McM. Rowan OBE (Frank)||N. Rowan (Nigel)|
|5||B. A. Barnes (Ben)||R. S. Barnes (Ron)|
|B. A. Barnes (Brian)|
|6||J. Ashcroft (Jack)||J. M. M. Ashcroft (Morton)|
|7||J. I Davey (Jimmy)||W. McI. Davey (Will)|
|8||R. S. Barnes (Ron)||C. S. Barnes (Colin)|
|9||W. H. H. Miskimmin (Billy)||P. J. Miskimmin (Patrick)|
|1||Robert Sprott||John Sprott|
|2||Thomas Morton||Francis Morton|
|3||Robert Keers||John Keers|
|4||Robert Pinkerton||John Pinkerton|
|5||James Little||William Little|
|6||Ronald Barnes||Brian Barnes|
|7||Jack Shanks||James Shanks|
|8||David Roberts||Lawrence Roberts|
Closing of Fernhill Masonic Lodge
In the mid 2000's membership of Fernhill, like a number of other Lodges, declined. The brethren took the bold decision that
it would be better to close Fernhill and amalgamate with another Lodge for the benefit of both lodges.
Fernhill had had a good relationship with Prince of Wales Own Masonic Lodge over a number of years and members of both lodges were regular
visitors at installation dinners etc. of the other. Most of the remaining members of Fernhill decided to affiliate to Prince of Wales Own Lodge
upon the closing of Fernhill. Some of the members who resided outside Belfast affiliated to other lodges within their local area and a few
decided to resign completely.
During its final year, Fernhill was presided over by W.Bro. W. T. McAuley. In January of that year he wrote to the brethren of Fernhill thanking
them and wishing them best wishes for the future. A transcript of this letter can be found on the page entitled
“Letter from W.Bro. W. T. McAuley regarding the closing of Fernhill Masonic Lodge No.
On the 1st of December 2008, Fernhill Masonic Lodge surrendered Warrant No. 587 back to Grand Lodge. The warrant was received on behalf of
The Grand Lodge of Ireland by Rt. W. Bro. Denis R. Millen, Provincial Deputy Grand Master of the
Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim.
The closing stated communication was followed by a festive board held in Freemasons Hall, Arthur Square, Belfast. A copy of the
Menu for the Closing Festive board of
Fernhill can be downloaded in pdf format.
Officers during the closing year.
In the final year of Fernhill Masonic Lodge, the officers were:
|Worshipful Master||W.Bro. W. Thomas (Tom) McAuley|
|Senior Warden||W.Bro. Ronald (Ronnie) S. Barnes|
|Junior Warden||W.Bro. Robin G. English|
|Treasurer||W.Bro. William (Billy) H.H. Miskimmin|
|Secretary||W.Bro. Colin S. Barnes|
|Steward of Charities||W.Bro. Robin G. English|
|Almoner||W.Bro. Donald (Don) W. McMeekin|
|Senior Deacon||W.Bro. Simon J. Bellamy|
|Junior Deacon||W.Bro. Donald (Don) W. McMeekin|
|Inner Guard||Bro. Philip (Phil) R. Harkley|
|Chaplain||W.Bro. Patrick J. Miskimmin|
|Director of Ceremonies||W.Bro. G. Victor Stephens|
|Rep. to Provincial Grand Lodge of Antrim|
| Committee of Inspection||W.Bro. G. Victor Stephens|
| Board of Purposes||W.Bro. G. Victor Stephens|