Sometimes a story, hit on by chance, just demands to be told. Most off us assume the Freemasons were, historically, an all-male fraternity. But, looking for information on the St Leger family I came across evidence that this was not quite true. It is this type of quirky information that makes family history research so interesting – and sheds light on areas rarely seen,
The Hon. Elizabeth St Leger was born in 1693 to a notable County Cork family. Around 1710 a Lodge Meeting was held in the family home, Doneraille Court; it was presided over by her father Lord Doneraille and her brother, along with a Mr Aldsworth, who would become her husband 1713. The young Elizabeth witnessed at least part of the ceremony from a nearby room; when she attempted to leave her prescence was noticed. To ensure her silence the Lodge decided to initiate her and she eventually became a notable member of the Craft.
In a memoir published after her death the incident is noted in some detail
“Part of the wall dividing the Lodge Room from the library was being removed for the purpose of making an arch and thus connecting the two room; some of the bricks in the dividing wall had been removed and only loosely replaced. While the alterations were in progress, Viscount Doneraile and others met in the Lodge Room for Masonic purposes and to confer degrees. On this particular afternoon, Miss st. Leger had been reading at the library window and, the light of the winter afternoon having failed, fell asleep. The sound of voices in the next room restored her to consciousness and from her position behind the loosely placed bricks of the dividing wall she easily realised that something unusual was taking place in the next room. The light shining through the unfilled spaces in the temporary wall attracted her attention and, prompted by a not un-natural curiosity, Miss St. Leger appears to have removed one or more of the loose bricks, and thus was easily enabled to watch the proceedings of the Lodge.”