Summer SING! Cork 2016 – July 18th to 22nd


Born of a new partnership between ARTlife CULTURE and Music Generation Cork City, summer SING! allows us to bring some of the flair and freedom of our international programmes home. With fresh eyes we have looked at our city and shaped a programme for our children which captures our love for singing and our strong pride of place.

summer SING! is a week-long children’s singing festival which encourages children from Ireland and around the world to experience SINGING! in Cork City. 360 children, aged from 6 to 14 years, gather in City Hall Cork where they are welcomed by the summer SING! Festival Team of some 120+ specialist professional and volunteer staff from Ireland, England, Spain, the USA, Malaysia and Singapore.

Our young summer SINGERS! experience the rich history and culture of Cork City while nurturing their natural singing ability. summer SING! successfully encourages self expression, confidence and positive self esteem through excellent artistic engagement, empowered public performance and shared civic pride. Singing together, and moving in smaller groups through Cork City, our young SINGING! citizens experience public spaces as never before as they engage in open-air warm-ups, impromptu public performances and smaller rehearsals in more than twenty of Cork City’s historic, cultural and civic spaces.

Each day parents and friends will be welcomed to witness the children’s accumulation of learning in a series of informal, open-rehearsal-style performances. On Finale Friday, staff and child participants combine and all 500+ summer SINGERS! promenade Cork City SINGING! This unique festival week culminates in a concert performance at City Hall Cork on Friday, 22 July 2016 at 2.00pm. All summer SING! performances are free and open to the public.

summer SING! 2016 will take place in City Hall Cork from Monday, 18 July to Friday, 22 July inclusive and from 9.00am to 3pm each day. All interested can sign-up with all places being offered on a first-come, first-served basis. You can register online here or call us on 087 709 6811

summer SING! is produced by ARTlife CULTURE in partnership with Music Generation Cork City and is further supported by Cork City Council Social Inclusion Unit, Cork City Council Arts Office, University College Cork International Office and the Association of Irish Choirs. summer SING! is realised through extensive collaboration with participating DEIS primary schools, targeted children’s communities, charitable institutions specifically Cork Penny Dinners, and Cork City’s cultural venues. summer SING! 2016 welcomes international volunteer staff from the Metropolitan Opera New York City as part of our continued international staffing collaborations.

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From Fermoy to Cork – Fermoy Freemasons – Sixty Years On

Picture of the group taken outside The Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, home to the recently refurbished stained glass window.

Picture of the group taken outside The Village Arts Centre, Kilworth, home to the recently refurbished stained glass window.

Harmony Masonic Lodge 555 marked the completion of its diamond jubilee year of meeting at The Masonic Hall, Cork City by holding its annual excursion to Fermoy and Kilworth in north Cork.

On December 7th last, Harmony Masonic Lodge 555 marked the completion of its diamond jubilee year of meeting at The Masonic Hall, Cork City by holding its annual excursion to Fermoy and Kilworth in north Cork. The lodge had previously met in Fermoy for over 150 years, from 1801 until 1953.

The afternoon commenced with a festive lunch at The Grand Hotel for 30 brethren and guests of the lodge. This was followed by a walkabout in old Fermoy, viewing the former lodge room behind ‘Batavia’ on the Rathealy Road, courtesy of Mr Michael Glavin. This room, formerly Fermoy Assembly Rooms, was where the lodge met from the 1860s until the 1950s. The next stop was at Christ Church Fermoy, where Mrs Hazel Baylor arranged access to view the Lodge 555 Masonic brass plaque and the communion rails, dated 1885 in memory of The Revd Canon Hill, rector of Fermoy and for many years secretary to the lodge.

The brethren and their guests then drove to the former Kilworth Church (now The Village Arts Centre), where Desmond Corban-Lucas gave a talk on the churchyard and its history. The grounds, kept impeccably by Mr Jim Nash, were much admired and appreciated by all. Following the talk, this year’s Worshipful Master chairperson] of Lodge 555, Drew Ruttle, laid a wreath at the headstone of John Bible, who served an incredible fourteen years as Worshipful Master of Lodge 555, between the years 1808 and 1834 – to his memory and to that of all the brethren of Fermoy who served Lodge 555 so faithfully during the years the lodge met in the town.

The Masonic stained glass window in the church porch was then unveiled by Dr David J Butler, chairperson of Lodge 555 during 2012, when the lodge conceived the idea of its restoration, holding a series of events that ranged from a musical evening at The Masonic Hall Cork, to book sales and excursions and raising the €3,000 required. Once inside, local historian and author, Mr Bill Power, gave a presentation on Fermoy district, its military and Masonic heritage, which concluded the afternoon’s proceedings.

The Avondhu

Freemasonry helps to make good men better

1001524_403555076420508_1338864308_aViewed by some as a mysterious, men-only organisation, MARIA ROLSTON talks to Cork historian Dr David Butler about what it means to be a Freemason in today’s society. 

It’s one of the oldest fraternities in the world and despite being shrouded in mystery for centuries due to its use of secret signs and symbols, the Freemasons is open to “all good men”, according to Dr David Butler.

Dr Butler, a UCC historian and the Provincial Grand Librarian and Archivist for the Munster Freemasons, is a member of one of the eight city lodges that meet in the Masonic Hall on Tuckey Street.

He says the basis of Freemasonry is ‘the lodge’ which, by definition, is a group of men meeting together. Membership is open to any man over the age of 21 who doesn’t have a criminal conviction.

Reasons for Freemason membership are usually threefold — social, historical and charitable — and despite its reputation for elitism, Dr Butler says it is essentially a social organisation concerned with moral values.

“With the advent of the internet, membership became more open and transparent but potential members still have to ask to join the Freemasons and go through an application process.

“Membership of the Freemasons has never been closed — it was, and still can be, cautious. 

“Historically, Irish people have always kept their cards close to their chest because Ireland has always been such a revolutionary society but there are certain traditional signs and symbols that we still use within Freemasonry that probably add to the mystique of the society,” he said.

Freemasons evolved from the medieval guild of stonemasons and have been in existence in Scotland since the early 1500s, applying the traditions, practices and high standards of stonemasons to personal morals. 

The earliest records of Freemasons in Cork go back to 1725 and the eight city lodges have been meeting in the Masonic Hall on Tuckey Street — built in the late 1760s as the Cork City Assembly Room — since 1926.

To become a Freemason, potential members have to go through a rigorous process, first being proposed and then seconded by an existing member. Names of potential members are then circulated to all lodges in the province to ensure applicants haven’t already attempted to join another lodge and failed, and to make sure there is nothing untoward known about the applicant’s character.

On approval, members have to agree to uphold the regulations of the State and to always put their family and business before membership of the Freemasons.

Each lodge meets once a month and the eight city lodges and six lodges of Cork county are governed under the umbrella body of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster.

Dr Butler says it is simply a traditional, non-religious, men’s society that has retained its moral ethos and ceremonial procedures over the eras.

“Most people join the Freemasons for social reasons because you get to meet people outside your own age group, your own geographical location and your own economic and professional background.

“Some people join because of the charitable good work the lodges do; some join because it’s the world’s oldest fraternity and they like the history of it. Some people join because of the mystique and the mystery — if there is any left — and some people join because they want a combination of all of the above.

“Freemasonry is a secular organisation and is open to all religions. Anyone who believes a Supreme Being made the world can join the Freemasons, so long as they meet the other criteria.

“In this province, we do have some Muslim and Hindu members, we have a Baha’i member, we used to have Jewish members and the rest are from Christian traditions.

“Historically, the lodges evolved from being stonemasons to people using the traditions and practices of stonemasonry and brotherly love on their morals, education and family, for the good of society, between the 1300s and 1400s.

“The stonemasons had their own language, signs, symbols and tokens. We don’t have our own language but some of the signs have been kept for tradition.

“All the meetings are run like business meetings with minutes, correspondence, matters arising and reports but there are also lectures and information events, concerts and charitable events held throughout the year.

“Since 2006, we’ve been opening the Masonic Hall to the public on Heritage Day and on Culture Night every year since 2008. The building is open for use by the public, mainly by historical groups who are interested in the furniture and furnishings, who do tours of the building. Every year, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Munster — which has about 400 members, divided between the 14 lodges — raises about 25,000 to 50,000 in charitable donations.

“These combined activities contributed toward our Provincial Grand Master, Leslie Deane, being awarded the Lord Mayor’s Community and Voluntary Civic Award this year.

“Freemasonry is about making good men better. There is a women-only Freemason’s Society that’s been in existence in the UK and America for the last 100 years. When the Freemasons were founded, all organisations were gender-explicit so Freemasonry was no different.

“We use a lot of symbolism — the skull and crossbones are emblems of mortality — to remind us that we are but dust and that we will become dust again.

“We have a couple of sayings that sum up Freemasonry and this is one that I think is succinct: ‘I shall pass this way but once and if any good I can therefore do for my fellow humans, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again’.

“There’s an emphasis within Freemasonry on doing things properly, from the way you carry yourself to the way you treat others to how you treat education and charity.

“Within the chaos of society, the Freemasons hasn’t changed for the sake of change. We still have the same old-world traditions and sayings and that’s something that interests me,” he said.

The Evening Echo

Masters Of Ceremony – The Cork News

   Hidden away in one of the oldest parts of the city, the Masonic Hall on Tuckey Street is home to the Cork city lodges and headquarters of Munster Freemasons. For many, the term ‘freemasonry’ dredges up connotations of a closed society that refuses to share its secrets with the world, one the Catholic church has perhaps been somewhat suspicious of. However, ever since the decision to open up the premises for events like Culture Night and Heritage Day, a new sense of transparency has cleared around a subject that once bordered on taboo.

BSR-freemasons_9_0uilt around 1770 as the Assembly Rooms for Cork City, the Masonic Hall was first a meeting point for all of Cork city’s clubs and societies until the First Lodge of Ireland purchased it for its own use in 1844. Since 1926, all of the city’s lodges and additional orders have gathered in the building for their monthly meetings.

“Members themselves propose and second prospective new members,” Dr. David J. Butler, Provincial Grand Librarian and Archivist for Munster Freemasons, explained to the Cork News. “Two other members of the lodge, called scrutineers, will then meet that individual over a pint or a coffee and assess his character and personality.

“New members have to sign a declaration about their details and attest to the fact that they haven’t been in trouble with the law – or if they have, why – and the scrutineers will then give a report at the next monthly meeting. Each member of the lodge then votes. If the new member is accepted, he will be initiated at the next lodge meeting.

“It takes three months to get the first degree of membership – the Entered Apprentice degree – and it will be at least three months again before you get the second, which is the Fellow Craft degree. The third degree – the Master Mason degree – is at least three months later again, so it takes about a year to become a full member. Everything else is optional after that.”

Anyone interested in joining can attend a coffee morning – which is held every Friday between 10.15am and 11.45am – where several key considerations of the Freemasons can be seen in action. Members talk about friendships, gaining new acquaintances, personal development and charitable efforts. All believe such a group is even more relevant in today’s society.

“For me, it’s about the comradery and meeting people my own age and older in Cork city and county”, Dr. Butler added. “I’m an academic so I get to travel to conferences in America on an annual basis. I always make a habit of visiting a local lodge and I’ve been warmly received in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Washington DC. I like the history and I like the rituals too.

“Freemasonry is all about making good men better, as our American colleagues put it so well. The idea is that you translate the skills of the stonemasons into your own life. You are not actually working with stone – you are working on your character and morals. You’re going back to an era when the educator and the person being educated couldn’t read or write – back to the Middle Ages – and that’s why grips, rather than handshakes, tokens and words are so important.

SR-freemasons_15_0“Centuries ago, if a stonemason from Youghal went to Galway to build a church, he would have to say whether he was an Entered Apprentice or Master Mason and be tested orally to prove it before they would allow him work on a wall that might later fall down. In today’s world, it means improving yourself in everything you do – from your conduct in business to your deportment. This is a life skill and not something that is acquired over one year. Freemasonry is a life path, even a calling.”

The Masonic Hall has four levels. The ground floor was formerly split into three shops, the proceeds of which helped supplement the rent.

Nowadays, it is home to the building’s catering area and museum, the latter of which also doubles up as a dining area for the coffee mornings and annual lodge suppers.

The wooden level that laid the foundation stone for St Patrick’s Bridge and St Fin Barre’s cathedral is among the artefacts on display.

Jewels (medals) of past members and lodges are contained within glass cabinets while the freemasons’ charity work is acknowledged by two pictures – one of two Red Cross ambulances, donated during World War I, and the second of the Grand Masonic bazaar of 1882, held in the R.D.S., which raised just under £23,000 over four days for various causes (equal to €1.25 million today).

The main meeting room is located on the second floor and is by far the most impressive room in the building. A 20-foot high ceiling caps a room surrounded by choir stalls and the bishop’s throne canopy from the previous St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, which was demolished in 1865.

The stalls could be older again as the medieval cathedral was refurbished in the 1690s after the siege of Cork.

Coats of arms hanging from the walls represent members of the Prince Masons past and present and swords of the Knights Templar and stall plates, which are carbon copies of the banners overhead, can be seen at the back of each individual stall. Members can sit where they like in meetings, except for quarterly Prince Mason gatherings, at which each of the members has a particular seat. The room is always set up for a business meeting and its agenda will be familiar to anyone who has ever been involved in a committee.

SR-freemasons_21“The Worshipful Master, or the chairperson, will always be seated three steps up under the canopy. Generally, next year’s chairperson or the Senior Warden sits opposite him with the Junior Warden and Treasurer halfway down each side of the room. The secretary conducts the business of the meeting in liaison with the chairperson.

“The meeting opens when it is called to order with the gavel. There is a formal ceremony to open and close each meeting and each lodge’s wording and content is slightly different from all the other lodges in Munster. The Chaplain is usually conducted to the centre of the room by the two deacons, who carry wands with a silver dove of peace on top, and he will read a prayer after which the members will sing an ode. The ceremony lends a sense of gravitas, history and ritual to the whole occasion.”

“The minutes of the last meeting are reviewed and any matters arising are discussed. Correspondence is dealt with followed by the Treasurer’s report, the Steward of Charity’s and Almoner’s report and any fundraising effort that might be ongoing. A new member might be proposed and seconded or initiated, all while an inner guard sits by the door with his sword drawn, though it’s purely for ceremonial purposes. He can challenge anyone for the entrance phrase.”

“If members are interested and they attend the majority of meetings, they can progress into additional orders. Once you become a full member, or Master Mason, you can apply to join the Royal Arch Chapter, which meets quarterly on the top floor of the building. A third branch of the order is called the Knight Masons. After that it’s invitation only.”

“Generally speaking, you are at least ten years a member before you are invited to be a Knight Templar or Prince Mason. Members are at least in their middle 30s at that stage and have usually been a senior officer, though not necessarily a past chairman, of their own lodge and chapter. All lodge offices are rotated in strict rotation. All this in itself cultivates patience in members.”

“The number of the Knights Templar isn’t limited but there are only about 50 members. The Prince Masons only have 33 and are generally older members. There are further echelons in Grand Lodge in Dublin, the so-called 28th, 30th, 31st, 32nd and 33rd degrees, but their numbers are very limited. There are only nine holders of the 33rd degree on the whole island for example and a further 16 who have the 32nd degree. There are about 33,000 Freemasons in total on the entire island.”

SR-freemasons_28The Freemasons have several different charitable funds, all of which are boosted by members’ subs and fundraising efforts. Support is available for widows, for the education of the daughters and sons of deceased members as well as down and out members. Freemasons also donate regularly to charities in their own local areas.

Subs range from €175 to €200 annually in the eight city lodges and from €50 to €100 in the five main county lodges (three in west Cork:

Skibbereen, Kinsale and Bandon; two in east Cork: Cobh and Youghal). A portion of this income is now put aside to continue with the refurbishment of the Masonic Hall on Tuckey Street – over €110,000 was spent revamping the building’s top floor in 2010 and “not a cent” went to any Masonic-owned company, according to Dr Butler.

“Historically there has always been a feeling that Masons look out for each other but that was never the case. None of the members, apart from soliciting quotes, were involved in the work done here last year, though we did get a couple of new members out of the process. Once people came in here to work, they got to like the place and the history.”

“On the other conspiracy theories, they just couldn’t all be true. The Catholic church would have been wary of any organisation it couldn’t control or head up. Freemasonry is secular and Republican – in the traditional sense of the word – and George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and others involved in the American and French revolutions would all have been freemasons.”

So are Freemasons still relevant today? “Well,” says Dr. Butler, “we’re still attracting people to join us. It’s not for everyone, but the Masons do have a subtle sense of timelessness and nobody is pushed into being part of something they don’t want to be. You can get your three degrees, stay a paid-up member and seldom come to a meeting if you want to. We would prefer people get involved though, and a new interest in the Freemasons had already started before we got involved in events like Culture Night and Heritage Day. Those occasions have just added to the numbers.”

Several hundred years of Freemasonry records and manuscripts are now lodged at the City and County archive in Blackpool. The full history of freemasonry in Cork is detailed online at

Originally published by the Cork News