Three townspeople of Stradbally, a small village situated about sixty miles from Dublin, Ireland, petitioned the Grand Lodge of Ireland for a Warrant to hold Masonic meetings there. The Grand Lodge issued the Warrant, numbered 712, to the petitioners on 1 April, 1790. The Warrant was later cancelled on 7 October 1813.

Prior to the Pacific War, the only Irish Lodge operating in the Far East was Lodge Erin No, 463 IC in Shanghai. On conclusion of the Pacific War, a number of Hong Kong brethren petitioned the Grand Lodge to erect an Irish Lodge in Hong Kong. The Warrant was duly issued by the Grand Lodge dated 9 December 1946. The number 712 was reissued and the Lodge named Shamrock Lodge. The Lodge was constituted on 8 February 1947 at 11 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong. The Lodge’s Jubilee re-dedication ceremony was held on 12 March 1997 at Zetland Hall.


The Warrant in Ireland has played a part in the esoteric ceremonies of one of the Craft Degrees and the document has always been held in extreme reverence. From early times it has become a canon of regularity and in open lodge the Warrant or Charter must always be displayed and without it the lodge cannot transact any Masonic business.

The first numbered Warrant, No. 1, was issued by the Grand Lodge of Ireland to Mitchelstown on 1 February 1732, but this became dormant in the 18th century. Lodge No. 1, the First Lodge of Ireland which now meets in Cork, commenced work under this Warrant in 1776. This lodge, however, is thought to have been meeting since 1726, making it one of the oldest Lodges still in existence.

According to Philip Crossle’s Irish Masonic Records (Grand Lodge of Ireland 1973), there were un-numbered warrants issued even earlier. The oldest surviving Masonic Warrant in Ireland was issued on 24 October 1732. This is Lodge No. 2 which meets in Dublin.

The earliest Irish Warrants were careful to indicate the town for which each document was granted although there were instances of Warrants being transferred to varying localities and some early Warrants were actually sold for their seniority. Issuing a lapsed number was forbidden by a Grand Lodge Law of 5 December 1776 and this was nominally in force until 1816. An exception were the Army regiments who held military lodges and were permitted to hold their meetings wherever stationed.

In 1817, and arrangement was devised to enable lodges which found themselves reduced in membership or were affected by financial circumstances to return their Warrants to the Grand Secretary for safekeeping in order to prevent them from being suspended or cancelled. The advantages to the lodges involved were that they would not be liable for Grand Lodge fees while the Warrants were lying suspended nor would they lose precedence.

If at any time in the future a lodge was able to regain its strength, it was possible for the members to request the Grand Lodge to revive the Warrant so that they might carry on their old traditions under the same number.

Our Roots

Stradbally is a small town in a scenic valley on the banks of the River Bauteogue about 60 miles from Dublin. Its history dates back to the 7th century when St. Colman (Mac Ua Laoighse) established a monastery in Ougheval nearby. A Franciscan Abbey was also founded by the King of the O’Moores in 1447, a descendant of the founder of the Kingdom of Laois. In the vicinity there are a number of antiquities such as castles, cist burials and Druid remains.

The river attracted cotton manufacturing which once prevailed but then disappeared leaving two flour mills making malt, half of which was delivered to Guinness. There was a good supply of limestone and the stone cutting industry is still alive today. The stone cutting was in great demand at the turn of the 20th century and a hundred operative masons worked in the nearby quarry including sculptors, stonecutters and labourers.

The main street of Stradbally was wide and the river can be crossed by three arched bridges. In 1831 there were 306 houses together with some fine residences in the parish. The population was about 2,000.
At the turn of the 18th century, military associations of volunteers were formed and this movement flourished in Stradbally from 1779 until 1782. A second corps called the Stradbally Horse was formed in 1784.

The principles of the French Revolution found a powerful expression of sympathy in Ireland. Inspired by the Revolution, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in 1791. Due to the radicalism permeating the volunteer corps, they were suppressed by government proclamation in 1793.

The start of the 1800’s were tumultuous times and Freemasonry was far from being a flourishing epoch in Ireland, but abroad the influence of the Grand Lodge was to make itself felt. The number of lodges in Ireland declined, but the Irish Craft was introduced into Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Gibraltar, Malta, India, China, Portugal and Peru.

Stradbally’s Warrant

It was tumultuous times and yet some Stradbally townspeople petitioned the Grand Lodge of Ireland for a Warrant to hold Masonic meetings there.

The founders were Nicholas Fay, John Dunn and Robert Pringle. The Warrant numbered 712 was issued to them by the Grand Lodge on 1 April 1790. Between that date and 1796 there were only five other members registered in Grand Lodge records. No other members were registered after that year.

The Warrant was then cancelled on 7 October 1813. On that day, Grand Lodge cancelled a considerable number of Warrants of lodges from which nothing had been heard for some years.

In J. F. Lewis’ article, Freemasonry in the Midland Counties Province, in the Lodge of Research No. 200 Transactions for 1923, mention is made that there is no more information is known of the Lodge. The original Lodge Warrant is no longer in the archives of Grand Lodge, so this may never have been returned once cancelled.

Unfortunately there are few records of this Lodge or where the brethren met.

In the Far East

It was through a military regiment in 1863 with an ambulatory Warrant that the Irish Craft was first implemented on Hong Kong shores. This regiment, the 2nd Battalion of the 20th Regiment, Lancashire Fusiliers, held a Warrant for Sphinx Lodge No. 263 (issued on 6 October 1860).

The first Masonic meeting was held on 30 December 1863 at Kowloon Camp. The Fusiliers left Hong Kong for Yokohama, Japan in July 1864. Members of Sphinx Lodge were petitioners of the first lodge to be warranted in Japan on 30 January 1866. This lodge was Yokohama No. 1092 EC, and its banner is still displayed in Zetland Hall in Hong Kong today.

Sphinx Lodge returned to Hong Kong on 28 July 1866 where it continued to meet until 2 March 1867. The Regiment then went to Mauritius before returning to Ireland on 16 December 1873. At Galipoli during the Great War, the Regiment earned six Victoria Crosses before breakfast in one particular morning. In 1968 it was amalgamated into the The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers along with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, The Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers and the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment).

The English constitution was first active in mainland China as early as 1767 with Amity Lodge 407 working in Canton. This was followed by the Swedish in 1786, the Scottish with Cosmopolitan 428 in 1864 and Ancient Landmark, Massachusetts Constitution was also active in Shanghai.

The Irish replied with Lodge Erin 463 in Shanghai and this lodge was warranted on 8 October 1919. Erin now meets in Hong Kong. There was an Irish Lodge warranted in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1900. This was Menam Lodge, but it was never consecrated.

Dark years

At 0445 on 8 December 1941, a broadcast from Tokyo was intercepted instructing Japanese nationals abroad that war was imminent. At 0700, Tokyo Radio announced to the world that Japan was at war with Great Britain and America.

At 0800 the same morning, twelve bombers escorted by about twenty-four fighters attacked the Colony of Hong Kong, bombing the Kai Tak airport. At the same time, Japanese soldiers crossed into Hong Kong from the border with China. Following military engagements throughout the Colony, the British Forces formally surrendered on Christmas Day 1941.

The Lodges in the Far East closed their doors for the duration.

On 15 August 1945, following losses in the Pacific and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese accepted the Potsdam Declaration and the Emperor announced that hostilities had come to an end.
On 18 August, Hong Kong prisoners of war were freed, and the Colony was officially liberated on 30 August by the British Navy under the command of Admiral Harcourt. The formal Japanese surrender was signed on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

There were a number of Freemasons interned in the prisoner of war camps at Shamshuipo and Stanley Camps in Hong Kong while others became Masons shortly after the occupation. These brethren carried on with their Masonic traditions and we are proud and happy to know that some of these distinguished Masons are still active among us.

Testimony to the courage of the Hong Kong brethren who made the supreme sacrifice for others remains on the plaque in the entrance hall of Zetland Hall.

Return to business

From the ashes of Hong Kong, Masonic life soon returned. On 15 January 1946, Zetland Lodge No. 525 held a ‘meeting of members’ in the Board Room of the Hong Kong Electric Company in the P&O Building. Zetland Hall itself had been destroyed during the war, but plans for a new building were drawn up by the Masonic internees whilst at Stanley.

The site of the old hall at Zetland Street was sold to the Hong Kong Electric Company for HKD900,000. The current site at 1 Kennedy Road, previously the St George Hotel, was then purchased and the foundation stone of the new Zetland Hall was laid on 2 April 1949.

However, for many years, the only Irish Lodge in the Far East was Lodge Erin No. 463 in Shanghai, China. Erin was well established there and at that time there was no thought or necessity to move from Shanghai. Therefore, a number of brethren in Hong Kong petitioned the Grand Lodge of Ireland for an Irish Warrant to be issued in Hong Kong.

The Warrant was issued on 9 December 1946. The number given was 712, and the name, Shamrock Lodge. This Warrant number 712 was, of course, the one originally issued on 1 April 1790 to the lodge that met in Stradbally, Ireland.

A new Lodge

The Grand Lodge of Ireland had issued a new Warrant, number 712, for an Irish Lodge to meet in Hong Kong on 9 December 1946.

On Saturday, 8 February 1947, eighteen founders and one hundred and thirty-five guests assembled at 11 Queen’s Road for the purposes of constituting the new Lodge. The first Worshipful Master was installed by the Grand Inspector for Hong Kong and China. As five of the founders were not of the Irish Constitution already, they took the required obligation to observe the Laws, Regulations and Usage’s of the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

Shamrock Lodge then moved at a cracking pace. Between the Consecration and the second Installation on 25 February 1948, the Lodge held twenty meetings. During this period, sixteen candidates were initiated, fourteen Fellow Crafts were passed, and nine were raised to the degree of Master Mason. In addition, seven brethren affiliated to the Lodge from other Constitutions.
During this time, the dress code was ‘easy dress’ and this seems to be a carry-over from the Erin meetings in Shanghai.

Shamrock today

Hong Kong has faced agony, sacrifice and prosperity since the war. But today, the Warrant number 712 under the banner of Shamrock Lodge is as hail-and-hearty as when it first took root in Hong Kong over fifty years ago.

From the first Irish Lodge in Hong Kong in 1947, there are now six Irish Lodges! This helps show, we believe, that the principles of Freemasonry hold just as well today as in the past. These principles are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

On 12 March 1997, Shamrock Lodge held a Rededication Ceremony to celebrate its 50 years in Hong Kong, 207 years after first being issued. Later that year, on 1 July, Hong Kong was returned by Great Britain to the People’s Republic of China. Since then, Hong Kong and Freemasonry in the Far East, have continued to grow and prosper.

On 14 March 2007, Shamrock Lodge turned 60. This was celebrated in great style at the Irish Masonic Ball held in Hong Kong on St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2007.

Zetland Hall

Shamrock Lodge No. 712 meets at Zetland Hall which is also home to other Masonic Lodges and Orders which are warranted to meet in Hong Kong. This is the second Zetland Hall as the first was destroyed by bomb damage during the Pacific War. The foundation stone of the new hall was laid in 1947, and the building was dedicated in 1950. The Hall was re-dedicated on 30 January 2000.
The Lodges that meet here belong to one of three governing bodies:

* English Constitution
* Irish Constitution
* Scottish Constitution

The Hall is located at 1 Kennedy Road, Mid Level, Hong Kong.
For overseas visitors: it is an easy walk from Central, up the hill beyond the lower Peak Tram terminus. However, it is often simpler (especially in our hot and humid weather) to take a taxi. Just tell the taxi driver to take you to:

* English: “1 Kennedy Road”
* Cantonese: “gin nei dei do yat ho”
* Putonghua: “jian ni di dao yi hao”

Zetland Hall is managed by a board of trustees, consisting of one representative from each of eighteen craft lodges resident in Hong Kong. Each trustee holds his appointment entirely at the pleasure of his Lodge.

The Hall is professionally operated by a General Manager and a full-time staff:

* telephone: +852 2522 4404
* fax: +852 2526 5041