In May 1876 a joint initiative was unveiled between the Belfast Masonic Charity Fund and the Belfast Masonic Widows Fund with the purchase of three graves in Belfast City Cemetery to provide a dignified resting place for Brethren and avoid those deserving from being interned in a pauper’s grave.
In 1879 a very impressive memorial obelisk of ‘Goragh Wood’ granite complete with Granite Kerbs and carved Masonic symbols was erected on the combined plot. With the passing of time that section of the cemetery had been left to the whims of nature and was very much overgrown with the spreading of deep routed shrubbery winding and clinging its ways as if auditioning for a horror movie. The scene was only to be experienced by the bravest in day time only.
In 2013 a fearless team of B.M.C.F. volunteers equipped with machetes and dirt-busters completed an inverted frontal assault on nature not knowing what unknowns we might encounter. The imposing monument had been badly discoloured by staining with the kerbs and corner postings having suffered from what looked like wilful ground decay.
With a little bit of patience and TLC (tender loving care) the stone was slowly restored to a degree of modest respectability as not to attract obvious attention from any visiting or inquisitive dissenters who socially frequent the area at weekends.
During our ‘reformation’ exercise we stumbled upon a number of Masonic graves throughout the cemetery which were in similar conditions and appropriately marked with equally impressive tombstones complete with Masonic symbols. With an enthused degree for tidiness our team performed sufficient housekeeping (to our additional finds) as not to invite unwelcome interest to these fine landmarks.
The grave of Sir Charles Lanyon (First Chairman of the Belfast Masonic Widows' Fund & member of Masonic Lodge No.7) is in the graveyard of Knockbreda Parish Church. It had fallen into a state of disrepair, but the Trustees of Freemasons' Hall, Arthur Square, Belfast recently organised a refurbishment through the Follies Trust.