Fallen freemasons remembered in ‘all encompassing’ stone memorial

A memorial has been unveiled in Belfast to all of the freemasons who died in wars and conflicts at home and around the world.

Sunday, 2nd February 2020, 4:18 pm
Arthur Square Freemasons’ Hall trustees David Hetherington, Alan Patterson and Ronnie Wilson with artist and sculptor Charlotte Howarth

Ronnie Wilson, who was trustee of the Freemasons’ Hall at Arthur Square from 1999 to 2009, explained that the hall’s new stone plaque was not a war memorial, rather an inclusive memorial stone to all those masons who died regardless of the cause they were fighting for.

The inscription reads: “In grateful remembrance to all Freemasons who gallantly fell and honouring brethren who served in war and conflict at home or throughout the world for their cause.”

Ronnie said: “When we were refurbishing this building 15 years ago it came to us that there were no war memorials in this Victorian building which had been functioning during both the First and Second World War. Maybe that masonic pretext of not promoting public gratitude also extended to memorials.”

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The guidelines for the new memorial included the stipulations that the text is designed not to become dated as wars and conflicts continue, and the text is to take account of non-military personnel.

Ronnie said: “It’s not specific to a single war, it relates to anyone who served in conflict, including the Boer war and Crimean War.

“Particularly with masonry you may have had a freemason fighting in a conflict against another freemason, each fought for their cause. Just as the British were fighting for their cause, the Germans were fighting for their cause. At home you have Henry Joy McCracken, a mason and a United Irishman, who was subsequently hung.

“We believe the memorial stone is all encompassing.”

He said the memorial also incorporated several old masonic symbols that have been uncovered during the refurbishing of the hall at Arthur Square.

The stone was unveiled on Saturday to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the hall being declared ready for occupation by Charles Lanyon on February 1, 1870.

Norfolk-based lettering artist and sculpture Charlotte Howarth, who carved the letters and symbols onto the stone, said: “Ronnie gave me a brief which outlined the type of thing they were looking for with the shape and the wording, and the inclusion of old symbols.”

Charlotte, who also made the baby memorial in Belfast City Cemetery, said: “I mostly work with stone but I’m not confined to working with stone.

“It’s drawn on with a pencil and then carved. It’s all done by hand. There’s very little room for error.

“What I like about handcarving is the different texture you get to machine carving. The v-cut really catches the light.”