Abbey RAC 180
History RAC 180
The Number 180 is synonymous with Free Masonry in Whiteabbey as Abbey Masonic Lodge 180 was first to bring Masonry to Whiteabbey in 1869 and Abbey Royal Arch Chapter No 180 was first to bring Royal Arch Masonry to Whiteabbey in 1906.
That is why 180 “Blue” and 180 “Red” believe they are special and why they celebrated and gave thanks for their Royal Arch Centenary.
It started with a meeting of Royal Arch Masons, consisting of Companions McWade, Cunningham, Bradshaw, Ramsey, Sheppard, McCalmont, K Patterson, Adair, Patterson, Allan, McClure, Milligan, and Harrison. They first met on the 20th June 1906 in Whiteabbey Masonic Hall to discuss the advisability of opening a new Royal Arch Chapter in Whiteabbey.
From this initial meeting, Royal Arch Masonry was brought to Whiteabbey on the 14th December 1906, when Abbey Royal Arch Chapter No 180 was dedicated and installed by Most Excellent Companions Arthur Williamson, Deputy Grand Superintendent who directed the ceremony in the Whiteabbey Masonic Hall. The majority of the founding membership was drawn from the Abbey Masonic Lodge No 180 and from there the Chapter flourished.
How wise our Masonic Forefathers were in Whiteabbey, they were able to locate their new Masonic Hall, at the start of the last century beside the train station. They were able to make the most of the only reliable transport system back then.
In 1906, it must be remembered that after the train, the horse was the next best thing from getting from A to B. Motor vehicles were a very rare sight and then only the preserve of the very wealthy.
The successes in membership grown in the early years was undoubtedly due to the fact that the Whiteabbey train station was virtually on the Masonic Halls door step and less than a minutes’ walk from the Masonic Hall to the train. Circulars for the meetings up until the 1960’s stated the last train departures to get the brethren to the meeting on time.
The addresses of Companions from the early records confirm membership was drawn from areas in close proximity to train stations. Many members were from North Belfast, close to York Road train station, others from areas along the railway line, Whitehouse, Jordanstown, Carrickfergus, and of course Whiteabbey itself.
Occupations of Companions in 1906, were many and varied, for example; Foreman Mechanic, Spinning Master, Bricklayer, Stone Mason, Publican, Cabinet Maker, Stone Cutter, Plumber, Tobacconist, Marine Engineer, Master Mariner, Flax Overseer, Taylor, to name a few. The occupations reflect the diversity of the membership in Abbey Royal Arch Chapter in 1906, just as the membership is as diverse as it is today.
By 1987, Masonic membership had outgrown the size of the Whiteabbey Hall on the Station Road. The private motor car had become the preferred means of transport for the majority. The brave step was taken to relocate from the Masonic Hall at Station Road and build a new a new Masonic Centre in Monkstown Avenue. The new Centre would have its own private car park with the interior of the Masonic Centre itself capable of accommodating and meeting the modern needs of all lodges, Chapters, Councils and Preceptories in the Newtownabbey area.
Abbey Royal Arch Chapter No 180 has flourished thanks to the dedication of Companions through the decades since 1906. Today’s membership numbers a healthy 46 with new candidates coming forward every year, and so 180 “Red” continues its success.
There are no direct descendants or relatives of the founding Charter Companions currently on the roll book in Abbey Royal Arch Chapter today. However, we know that Brother Thomas Porter was a member of Abbey Craft Lodge in 1906, and that Thomas Porter was granted exaltation to Abbey Royal Arch Chapter in 1909 and was installed Excellent King in 1924.
His nephew Very Excellent Companion, James McKeag Porter PDGJ was Excellent King in in 1972 and Register from 1976 to 1993. His son, James Porter was Excellent King on their 100th year and was very proud and honoured to be in Office for their Centenary.
Written by V.E Companion James Porter, Past District Grand Royal Arch Captain. (2011-2013)