A Brief History by Rt Wor Bro Norman Humes

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In the 1860s, almost 4 years of consideration, debate and reports were required to create the jurisdiction of today's 13 Provincial Grand Lodge Provinces in Ireland. Even then, only thanks to an amendment to the original proposal [carried by a slender majority] the arrangements for Tyrone and Fermanagh might have meant a different alignment.

Key factors made this extended experiment in devolution viable: an expanding railway system, postal services and established banking facilities. Such innovations helped to eradicate the feeling of remoteness felt by this area from the centre of control in Dublin.

Undaunted by the implications of the regulatory authority of this powerful new body, the 13 stalwart lodges [7 in Tyrone, 6 in Fermanagh] gave unanimous support for its impending tier of management.

Sir John Marcus Stewart Bart, a popular choice, was installed on 27th January 1869 with as much style and dignity as possible for an original local ceremony, in the impressively-sounding Grand Jury Rooms of Omagh's most distinctive building, the Courthouse. The 39 year old Sir John, already an eminent figure in the Tyrone community, was a former officer with the Inniskilling Dragoons in the Crimea campaign. In an apposite stroke of diplomacy, he announced that his Provincial Deputy Grand Master would be Major J G Irvine. [Fermanagh]

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During his 36 years at the helm, Sir John exercised his delegated responsibilities with enthusiasm, vigour and decisive firmness, laying the foundations of systems which his 9 successors would endorse, refine or enhance according to the needs of changing circumstances.

Each of those succeeding Provincial Grand Masters has left his imprimatur on the Province's sound development:

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The formation of the new Province was a watershed for the 13 surviving lodges in a century when Tyrone had once 92 warranted lodges and Fermanagh as many as 45 lodges. Since that important milestone in 1869 and additional 28 lodges have been constituted and no warrants have been surrendered, despite such vicissitudes as economic fluctuations, civil unrest, social life-styles or alternative priorities.

Today the Province can be justly proud of its record of service, strong emphasis on charity, high standards of ritual, focus on arrangements designed to promote fairness and transparency and a flexibility top tackle the fresh challenges of the future.

Succeeding generations of Tyrone and Fermanagh Freemasons have responded, in ample justification, to the wisdom of that original Grand Lodge Amendment of 1865!