Kenneth L. Mitchell explores the ancient and continuing link between the engineering profession and the fraternity of freemasonry in Ireland
In November 1830, in the city of Limerick, an architectural engineer by the name of James Pain made a fascinating discovery. He had been contracted for the sum of £3,000 by the New Limerick Navigation Company to replace the ancient Baal’s Bridge (1340) that linked the Englishtown on King’s Island to the Irishtown area on the mainland.
[caption id="attachment_19378" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Map of Limerick circa 1587 with Baal’s Bridge linking the English and Irish towns[/caption]
During the excavation work on the original four-arch bridge; his workmen discovered in the northeast corner, under the foundation stone, an old brass plate much eaten away. This plate was in the shape of a stone mason's square and engraved on the two sides were the words:
‘I will strive to live with love and care,
Upon the level, by the square.
An ordinary person would have possibly treated this item as a curiosity, a souvenir of a job well done, but James Pain recognised it as something more. In fact, he recognised those very words.Those words had become an integral part of his life, a personal code to live by, for Pain was a freemason and the implement he was looking at was not a stonemason’s square, but a Freemason’s square.
Pain had just discovered one of the oldest Masonic relics in the world, physical evidence that freemasonry existed in Ireland as far back as the Middle Ages. He was just one in a long line of engineer freemasons that stretches from ancient times to the present day.