Excellent Chief's Message
Sir Knights and Cousins —
As our history is one of the most important pieces of information about Knight Masonry, I would like to share with you the following history that was written by our late and distinguished Sir Knight and Cousin Harold Voorhis
HISTORICAL - KNIGHT MASONS (OF IRELAND)
It has been established (by Philip Crossle) that in 1744 the ceremony connected with the Royal Arch belonged to the "Part of Master." the then Master Mason. However, a duplicate set of officers was required to explain it because both the "J" or Joshua and "Z" or Zerubbabel legends were included in the ceremony.
There are a number of old seals and certificates extant (see 1923 Transactions of Ireland"s Lodge of Research, No. 200) which show that both the "I" and "Z" legends were worked in different parts of Ireland-North and South. The "J" legend dealt with "Red Masonry" and the "Z" legend with "Green Masonry." In the minute book of Lodge No. 557, Benburb County Tyrone there is a record of a "Green" certificate issued in 1784 and there is an apron extant (owned by James D. Mitchell of Bin") known to be over 170 years old, having on one side red with the emblems of the Royal Arch, and the reverse side green with the emblems of Knight Masonry.
About 1790 (possibly earlier), "Green Masonry" became separated from the Royal Arch and was known as "Red Cross Masonry." but by 1810 in some manner not very clear now, the name was changed to "Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East and Knight of the East and West" Also, as time went on, the conferring of these three degrees became the exclusive privilege of the Order of Knights Templar, some of the oldest Warrants of the Preceptories (known as Commanderies in the U.S.A.) covered the conferring of these degrees. They were not very generally conferred because they had nothing in common with the Templar Orders.
It was the gradual dying of the Brethren who were sufficiently versed in Knight Masonry to confer the degrees that first caused alarm early in this century. Candidates for them had to travel far afield to procure them. It was visualized that they would eventually die out unless a means to prevent it was taken. The first move was to contact those Preceptories whose warrants included these degrees. Some of them were loath to part with their rights. Eventually the subject was taken up with the Great Priory of Ireland. After some time that Body obtained consent of its Preceptories to hand over the conferring of the degrees to the suggested new Body. which we now know as the Grand Council of Knight Masons.
The Modus Operandi of this relinquishing of rights from one Grand Body to another eventual Grand Body. is unique and pertinent to our existence. In 1922, at a joint meeting of The Great Priory and the Knights Templar members who desired to form the new Body was held. A motion by Gerald Black, G.C.T., was passed "that pursuant to report of Committee, all rights and privileges touching the Red Cross Degrees, which are at present vested in the Great Priory be transferred to a Grand Council for these degrees." The new Grand Council met for its first meeting on June 18, 1923 when it notified the Great Priory that it was then in a position to take over and exercise the rights and privileges with which it was invested.
The first President of the Grand Council was Gerald Black, who received the Degrees on January 9. 1901 in Commercial Priory, No. 245, possibly by Gerald Byrne who probably was the last person to confer these degrees in Dublin; It is known that but three Preceptories — Commercial (Dublin), Sharavogue, (Birr) and Shaflesbury (Belfast) were conferring the "Red Cross Degrees" at the turn of the century. Thus we have a Grand Council of Knight Masons, for all intents and purposes. appointed by the Great Priory of Ireland.