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Celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day: Famous Irish Freemasons

As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and honor the Patron Saint Patrick, we decided to look back on some of our most notable brethren from across the pond. William Joseph ‘Joey’ Dunlop and Thomas Barnado are famous Irish Freemasons who have made their mark on history. From racing motorcycles to opening a school, these men exemplify Masonic values despite their different life paths. The Grand Lodge of Ireland has an exciting and notable history as well, standing as the second oldest sovereign grand lodge in the world. Read our entire blog below to learn more about the influence and importance of Irish Freemasonry.

An image of the interior of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
Inside the Grand Lodge of Ireland in Dublin.

Grand Lodge of Ireland

Standing in Dublin, Ireland the Grand Lodge of Ireland is the second oldest Grand Lodge of Freemasons in the world. The Grand Lodge of Ireland has consistently held Masonic jurisdiction over 13 provincial Grand Lodges within Ireland and an additional 11 jurisdictions internationally. Their international and domestic reach has garnered around 27,000 members worldwide. Founded between the 16th and 17th century, the Grand Lodge of Ireland became extremely popular in the early 19th century with many Irish socialites joining the fraternity. Daniel O’Connell, known as, “The Liberator,” led Ireland’s Roman Catholic population for much of the 18th century and joined Irish Freemasonry alongside many members of the FitzGerald dynasty. The FitzGerald dynasty is one of Ireland’s greatest dynasties and holds notable positions in Ireland’s medieval and political history. The Grand Lodge of Ireland’s headquarters stands in Freemason hall on Dublin’s famous Molesworth Street and has stood there for over 150 years living with the values of integrity, respect, and charity. 

Irish Freemason and teacher Thomas Barnado
Irish Freemason Thomas Barnado 

Thomas Barnado 

Thomas Barnado was born on July 4th, 1845 in Dublin, Ireland, and was the second-youngest of five children. Though there is little detail of his early life, it is known that he lived an unhappy childhood and had many troubles at school. His reports from St. Patrick’s Cathedral Grammar School in Dublin show that he was rebellious, argumentative, and did not perform well on exams. 

After deciding a formal education was not for him, he dropped out of school at the age of 16 and became an apprentice to a wine merchant. A year later, he grew his faith and became an Evangelical Christian, specifically developing a passion for spreading the word of Christianity with the hope of converting others. He spent much of his time teaching Bible classes in Dublin. 

Despite his negative experience with school growing up, Barnado actually became a medical student. Inspired by his time at medical school he opened his own school in 1867, The East End Juvenile Mission. This school allowed him to commit his life to helping thousands of children in need through education, helping them find comfort in the classroom he could never find himself. In 1889, when he was 44, Brother Barnardo was initiated into Freemasonry in London at the Shadwell Clerke Lodge No. 1910. He progressed through Freemasonry in the old fashioned way – one degree a year. Though he never took a leadership position as a Freemason, his philanthropic work embodied many of the values of Freemasonry.

Irish Freemason and motorcyclist William Joseph Dunlap
Irish Freemason William Joseph Dunlap

William Joseph ‘Joey’ Dunlop
William Joseph Dunlop was born on February 25th, 1952 in the countryside of Unshinagh, Ireland. He was the second oldest of six children and his father was a motor mechanic. While he had every intention of joining the military, as most men his age did, he did something unordinary. Inspired by his fathers work as a motor mechanic, Dunlap bought his first motorcycle at the age of 16. He quickly developed a passion for riding and his first ever competition race was on a short circuit organized by the MotorCycle Road Racing Club of Ireland in 1969. Always the daredevil, he preferred the thrill of road racing on public roads to an organized circuit race. 

Over the course of his career Dunlap won a total of 26 races, whereas the next-most consistent winner has won only 16. While his racing career alone is impressive, Dunlap pursued many philanthropic endeavors, showcasing his close ties to charitable work and laying the groundwork for his time as a Freemason. He embarked on a variety of humanitarian trips around the world, visiting the Balkans, Albania and Bosnia-Hercegovina. Many of these trips put Dunlap in danger, but through his courage and bravery he risked his life to help those in need. 

Attracted to Freemasonry by its charitable pillar, Brother Dunlap was initiated into the Vow Ferry Masonic Lodge No. 17 in 1989 an Entered Apprentice. Only a month later, he was raised to Fellow Craft and on November 17th, 1989, Dunlap was raised to Master Mason. Always searching for more, Brother Dunlop became a Royal Arch Companion, and joined Vow Ferry Royal Arch Chapter No. 17, in 2000. Following his death in July of 2000, a group of Brothers in the Mark Province of Leicestershire & Rutland constituted a Mark Master Masons Lodge dedicated to the memory of Joey Dunlop. The ‘Joey Dunlop Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 1881’ was consecrated on June 7th, 2007.

Interested to learn more about other famous Masons? Read our blogs on Mark Twain, U.S. Presidents, and Lewis and Clark!