The Second Grand Lodge – Book Review


It might appear when discussing the Union of the Antients and the Moderns that somehow, we get an impression that the Antients might have been the “bad guys” and that the Moderns might be vindicated by the joining together of the two Grand Lodges.

 Ric Berman’s new book The Second Grand Lodge provides an amazing overview of the establishment of the Antients Grand Lodge and the early  skirmishes with Premier Grand Lodge back in the mid-18th Century and its subsequent fortunes. More than that it provides a background to the history of the Irish in London at that time and how they became a backbone to the formation of the new Grand Lodge.

Berman describes what he calls the Aspirational London Irish and their status in London society which included aristocrats and gentry as well as those of lower rank who worked in London’s patchwork of service and manufacturing industry and the working poor. He explains how the Antients’ Grand Secretary, Laurence Dermott (1720-1791), an Irishman, “single handedly and virtually from the inception shaped Antients freemasonry“. He was the lynchpin in the new organisation and was responsible for the pejorative description of the rival Grand Lodge of England as the “Moderns”. The Antients Grand Lodge was apparently better organised than the Moderns and was the forerunner of many administrative functions which included Grand Lodge Certificates and Lodge warrants. Dermott has his place in the annals of masonic history and is worth serious study even in his own right.

This book contains a wealth of information and might possibly require a second reading to make sure that nothing is missed. No doubt the Antients Grand Lodge was highly successful and more egalitarian in outlook with its membership consisting of aspirational middle and lower ranks. The author tells us that this rival Grand Lodge provided prestige, patronage and authority which would be a counterweight to the Grand Lodge of England. Also, the Antients Grand Lodge, he says, “became a focal point for those seeking a more inclusive form of masonic association alongside greater mutuality and spirituality.”

Of course, from the Antients we get the so called “Atholl Legacy” and many will be familiar with Atholl Lodges in UGLE which had their origins in the Antients Grand Lodge. The 3rd Duke of Atholl had been Grand Master of both the Grand Lodge of Scotland and also of the Antients Grand Lodge and his son the 4th Duke was also an Antients Grand Master. There is an interesting booklet written by Clive Moore which goes some way to explain the Atholl Legacy and also lists those Lodges which have an Antients heritage. Royal Jubilee Lodge No 72 in the Province of Middlesex is given as having this Atholl connection.

Reading this book will certainly advance your masonic knowledge and comes highly recommended.

Ric Berman is the 2024 Prestonian Lecturer and a former member of the Temple of Athene Lodge No 9541 in the Province of Middlesex

Further reading:

Clive Moore – The Atholl Legacy – A Masonic Talk by Clive Moore (published privately).

This book is available from the following online sellers:

Lewis Masonic

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