RBP No. 1147 – Bloomhill Olive Branch of Peace

On Wednesday 25th June 1924, a number of Sir Knights from Mullnagore, Sherrygroom, Aughalargue and Dungannon got together to form Bloomhill RBP 1147. The first WM was Sir Knight Thomas John Robinson who was grandfather of our Past Master, Wor Sir Knt. Drew Robinson, and great grandfather of our current WM, Wor Sir Knt. Paul Robinson, our Lecturer, Sir Knt Edward Robinson and also Sir Knts Andrew and John Robinson.  Initially, there were 15 members on the roll book and other principal Officers at the time included: DM, John McKnight, Registrar, George Ferry, Treasurer, Wm McFarland, Chaplain, Wm Stewart, Censors, Sam Wilson and Dan McFarland and Lecturer Sam Hegarty.  90 years on, the names of Robinson, Ferry, Wilson and Stewart are still very prevalent in the preceptory. The first banner was unfurled on 12th August 1924 by Miss Pat Kinley of Bloomhill House, two pipers from Belfast leading the parade.  By February 1925, ten new members had been enrolled, including what are referred to as the Belfast members with Sir Knight Charles Burton becoming WM until 1930.  During these years, the preceptory met in various venues including Augharan Hall and were led by two pipers (at a cost of £1 each) or by bands such as Augharan Pipe Band, Henderson Memorial Pipe Band, Killyman Conservative Flute Band, Newmills Brass Band and Donaghmore Flute Band. In 1930, Sir Knight Joseph Brodison Senior became WM and that year, the Henderson Memorial Pipe Band led the preceptory to the demonstration in Cookstown and afterwards to Bloomhill House for a dinner hosted by Miss Kinley and then they all headed to Stughan Hall for a dance – they certainly made a day out of it!!  The WM steered the preceptory through a very bad patch in the early thirties when it nearly folded and then during the war years, with twenty members going off to fight but he had built the preceptory up to over sixty members by the time his son Sir Knight Joseph Brodison became WM in 1954.

In 1951, the preceptory was really thriving and it took three buses to take the Bloomhill Sir Knts and Newmills Silver Band to the Armagh demonstration.   In 1952, Bloomhill Accordion Band first led the preceptory and at a cost of only £6.  That same year, a new banner was unfurled by Bro Joseph Allen Cookstown and, as the WM was unwell, the preceptory carried the new banner to his home at Moneyveigh so that Sir Knight Joseph Brodison Senior could see it. In 1954 Sir Knight Joseph Brodison took over as WM from his father and Sir Knight James Irwin became DM.  A dance was organized that year in Newmills Orange Hall and this raised £6 – 18 shillings and 7 pence.  Annual dinners were so well attended that it took 4 turkeys to feed everyone and the ‘Snowdrifters Showband’ are recorded as being the entertainment on at least one occasion.

Our current Chaplain, Sir Knt Kenneth Wilson, read his first portion of scripture in this preceptory on 2nd May 1962.  His long and faithful service was duly recognized at our 80th anniversary when he was presented with a copy of the Holy Bible. In keeping with the community and caring or charitable role of the Black Institution, it is recorded that, in 1963, our preceptory set up a benefit fund to help any person in the area who needed help.  The late Sir Knt Herbie Archer also persuaded the preceptory to set up a voluntary fund to help locals at Christmas time and the minutes indicate that one local lady received 5 cwt of coal.

In 1973, LOL 218 carried out hall renovations and the preceptory dues were doubled that year from 5p per month to 10p per month.  In the light of the latest extensive renovations to the hall, we are fortunate that we did not have to raise the dues, although I think we probably could have stretched to an extra 5p per month!     Throughout the seventies, there was hardly a meeting went past without a vote of sympathy to those friends and members of the preceptory who had been bereaved as a result of the troubles.  This trend continued with the murder of Sir Knight Stanley Hazelton in December 1979.
In February 1981, our WM, Sir Knt Joseph Brodison, was presented with a 50 year jewel and it is recorded that he was Chaplain from 1951 – 1954 and WM from 1954 to that time and the roll book showed a membership of 100 Sir Knts in Bloomhill preceptory.  This achievement showed the character and enthusiasm of the man and that is why his portrait features on our current banner.

As in other areas, membership began to decline due to people feeling increasingly disillusioned and apathy becoming prevalent amongst protestants.  From that time, although partly also due to an increased use of cars, a single-decker bus was all that was required to take the preceptory to demonstrations.  However, in 1983, there was a revival of interest and it is recorded that the preceptory lecturers, Sir Knts Bertie Wade and Walter Millar carried out a marathon lecture of eight degrees in one meeting and then nine degrees in the next meeting.  65 Sir Knts attended the district church parade and 65 Sir Knts also attended the demonstration that year.

In 1984, Sir Knt Joseph Brodison presented a Woshipful Master’s chair to the preceptory in memory of many happy nights with RBP 1147 since his own father had occupied the chair some 54 years before that.

The minutes of 5th February 1986 included a news item on an outstanding war hero, Sir Knight Sam Brodison M.M.  He was a commando in WW II, landed 16 times behind enemy lines and had a reputation for fighting fiercely alongside the partisans in Yugoslavia.  They adored him and referred to him as: Stari Vojnik – ‘The Fearless One’. In June 1986, the minutes record yet another sad legacy of the troubles – the murder of another of our members, Sir Knight David Wilson, who was brutally slain at the Cross in Donaghmore.  In that year Bloomhill had 80 Sir Knts walking three deep on parade in Cookstown and apparently Sir Knt Sammy Stewart was in great voice singing his favourite song, ‘The Grandfather Clock.’ In February 1987, two swords were purchased by the preceptory in memory of the late Sir Knight Joseph Brodison and in July 1987 a case was presented to the preceptory in memory of Sir Knight David Wilson.
On 16th August 1989, a special meeting was held in Newmills Orange Hall where lecturers Sir Knts Walter Millar, Tom Fleming and Stanley Henderson conferred and travelled the degree of Red Cross on 13 candidates, with 60 members being in attendance.

In 1990, the many charitable marathon runs undertaken by Sir Knt Robin Ferry were noted and a wisecrack stated that another of our Sir Knts was a good runner as he and his lurcher dog had chased a hare all the way to Pomeroy!

In 1992, Sir Knt Christie Abraham gave an account of the Presentation of the Colours for the 8th Co Tyrone battalion UDR in which a number of our Sir Knts had served.  100 Bloomhill Sir Knts were on parade this year and the officers wore yellow ‘freedom’ roses.

In 1993, a last minute decision taken on the Last Saturday morning resulted in £523 being lifted to assist the Hegarty family whose daughter required specialist treatment for Leukaemia and the family needed to travel to England for this treatment.

In February 1996, the preceptory ordered a new banner from W.M. Magowan, Garvagh at a cost of £1100 and it was decided to have a portrait of Sir Knight Joseph Brodison on the front of the banner with Moses and the Burning Bush on the back. In March 1997, the new banner was ready and it was brought to Sir Knight Frank Brodison so that he could see it.  The Ferry family donated new ropes and tassles for the banner. 22nd August 1997 saw the unfurling of our new banner by Mrs George Wilson in Tullanisken Parish Church car park, the DDM of Killyman RBDC, Sir Knight Millar Farr, acting as Chair.

In 1999 the DM, Sir Knt Robin Ferry, ran a 577 mile ‘ultra’ marathon for charity and, in 2000, a millennium dinner was held in Tullaniskin Parish Hall – the Ferry Bros playing the pipes and Sir Knt Rev Dr Eric Culbertson singing all the verses of Dollie’s Brae.  It was in this year that Sir Knt Robin Ferry first provided his bus to transport the preceptory to demonstrations and he has continued to give great support to the preceptory by doing so ever since.  Meanwhile, and typical of the man, he went and ran a charity run right across the Sahara desert! In August 2001 the preceptory raised £250 for Chest Heart and Stroke (Killyman Royal Black District Charity Appeal) and £390 towards Bloomhill Hall repair fund.  A decision was taken that once a member becomes 80 years of age or has given 50 years service to the preceptory, then he should become an honorary member. In 2003, Sir Knt Edward Robinson passed all the lecturer’s exams and the following year he played the key role in Killyman District’s Lecture Class presentation of the degree of ‘Gold Link and Chain’ at a lecturer’s conference in Donemana and he remains our current first lecturer.  Also our DM, Sir Knt Drew Robinson applied for and succeeded in obtaining funding from Diversity Challenges to design a website for Killyman Royal Black District Chapter.  He then collated the histories and relevant information about all 16 preceptories in Killyman District, their banners and their accompanying bands and managed the website until 2012.

New Officer collarettes were presented to the preceptory by Sir Knt Paul Robinson (Registrar) and dedicated in our hall on the morning of the 2006 ‘Last Saturday’ demonstration.  £250 was forwarded to the Open Doors Ministry – the Sovereign Grand Master’s appeal for missionary work in the Sudan and Christmas hampers were distributed to the more senior members

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‘Our Sammy’

The WM, Sir Knt William Stewart and the DM, Sir Knt Drew Robinson, visited Sir Knight Sammy Stewart who was ill and presented him with a 60 year bar for long service and a special cake to mark the occasion.

One of our younger Sir Knights was diagnosed as contracting Leukaemia and, at the behest of the WM Sir Knt Dew Robinson, the preceptory organised a charity band concert on 25th April 2008 in the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre, Cookstown.  This concert included 4 top flight bands – Dunloy Accordian, Sons of William, Cookstown, Aughintober Pipe and the Hounds of Ulster.  These highly skilled bands played a repertoire of traditional Irish, easy listening contemporary and folk music and Ulster-Scots music.  The event was compered by the comic and accomplished speaker, William Caulfield and the preceptory raised £3500.  This money was presented to the Patients Comforts Fund, Haematology Unit, Belfast City Hospital and flatscreen TVs were purchased for each of the 4 isolation wards there.  Little did we think that within six years another of our younger Sir Knts would also contract Leukaemia and derive benefit from these same TVs.

The newly elected Sovereign Grand Master, Sir Knt Millar Farr, attended the October 2008 meeting and presented two Red Cross certificates and 40, 50 and 60-year long service jewels to members of the preceptory.

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Sir Knts Ryan and Jason Ferry receiving their Red Cross certificates

The paperwork involved in running the preceptory increased so much that the Registrar reported that his case wouldn’t hold it all so the WM, Sir Knt Drew Robinson, presented the preceptory with another case to use.

March 22nd – 29th 2009 saw RBP 1147 organising a very successful Mission in Newmills Orange Hall with Sir Knt Andrew McCullough being the key speaker.

On the 5th June 2009 there was an excellent social event and fund raising night for our band, Bloomhill Accordian Band.  This was a BBQ and Treasure Hunt with local entertainment and £1390 was raised for the band.  This night saw the first appearance of ‘The 1147ers’ who are a music group specializing in easy listening music.  They perform Ulster Scots, Gospel, Irish and Country music and they often mix in stories, poems, sketches and their own compositions.The members of The 1147ers are all either members of Bloomhill Accordion Band or else Bloomhill RBP 1147 and the Group has since been regularly called on to perform in Orange and church halls and theatres all over Northern Ireland,including a City of Culture Black parade and service in Londonderry on 15th September at which over 800 Sir Knts attended.  The 1147ers have continued to promote the preceptory and this has greatly increased the profile of Bloomhill RBP 1147 as members of audiences always enquire about the origins of the Group.

The 1147ers

The 1147ers

‘Bloomhill Boot Camp’ in August 2010 saw the preceptory take 21 young people to enjoy an action packed weekend at Clearsky Activity Centre, Strangford.  Two action packed, fun filled days coupled with active discussion on Christian values and the role of the Loyal Orders in today’s world resulted in very positive feedback from the participants.  Representatives from Grand Lodge and the Imperial Black Institution answered some difficult but pertinent questions from the young people and engaged them in debate around issues such as why there is a need for the Black Institution, the role of women in the Loyal Orders and the meaning of the various symbols displayed by the Loyal Orders.  A detailed evaluation of this event was later presented by the preceptory officers to both the Orange Order and the Black Institution with recommendations for higher level consideration of running such events.

Courtesy of the DM, Sir Knt Garnett Ferry, the preceptory sold a large quantity of black mountain turf.  It proved to be a great year to make turf as the weather was very good, although apparently it was rather sore on some of the member’s backs!  It also proved to be a great winter in which to sell turf as it was one of the hardest winters we had experienced for many years.

A number of our Sir Knts participated in a going away event in the Royal British Legion Hall in Cookstown to wish Sir Knt Keith Murphy a safe journey to and from Afghanistan where he was about to serve with the Territorial Army.  Several other organisations in which Sir Knt Keith was a member attended this event and he was presented with a Holy Bible.  Later in the year, food parcels were forwarded by the preceptory to those serving in that terrible conflict.

November 2010 saw the first of the RBP 1147 annual darts competitions in Coalisland Orange Hall and surprisingly, Sir Knt Gordon Morrison does not always win!  A social night for friends and family with an added Christmas element was held in December and this proved to be a very nice way to end the year.  The Sovereign Grand Master was present as was the Molyneaux Mace about which he gave an interesting talk.  At the specific request of the Boot Camp participants, a social night for young people was held on 7th January 2011 and this was well attended.

RBP 1147’s Gospel Crusade was held in Newmills Orange Hall from Sunday 13th – Sunday 27th March 2011, George McConnell being the key preacher.  Special items of praise and testimonies to the saving grace and power of the Lord Jesus Christ made this an inspirational Mission and it was linked in with Bloomhill’s Gospel Concert held on Saturday 26th March 2011 in the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre, Cookstown featuring The Thompson Bros, Paul Irwin, Kathryn Mitchell, Live Issue and our own The 1147ers.  The darts night that November raised over £230 for charity and Killyman District Carol Service in Tullanisken Parish Church featured The 1147ers.  In light of the newly built, and very impressive, Stughan Orange Hall, the preceptory presented 100 comfortable chairs and the December social night finished off a very busy year for the preceptory.

Bloomhill RBP 1147 organised another Gospel Concert on Friday 1st March 2013 in the Burnavon Theatre, CookstownThis ‘Ministry through Music’ featured Kathryn Mitchell, Live Issue, Simple Faith, Rev Hugh Ross (or Pavarossi as he is now affectionately known) and our own The 1147ers.  The preceptory later presented a cheque for £1000 to Killyman District towards the Sovereign Grand Master’s appeal to helpAltziemers sufferers.

 Sunday 25th August 2013 saw the Killyman Black District parade and service to Tullanisken Parish Church, Newmills where a totally packed congregation was treated to the debut performance of the recently formed ‘Men in Black’ male voice choir.  The eleven choir members are all members of Bloomhill RBP 1147 and they sang: ‘Where the Roses never Fade’ and ‘What a Day that will Be.’  The unique sound and the blend of voices was so moving and inspiring that a number of those present gave the group a standing ovation.  The WM, Sir Knt Drew Robinson, commented that the choir thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the Black service and expressed best thanks of the Preceptory to Tullanisken’s Church organist, Carla Sinnamon, who gave the choir very capable direction.  Many people have since remarked on the talent and foresight of the Bloomhill Preceptory as they continually deliver new and exciting activities for the local community.  Following on from the annual November darts night in Coalisland, a successful table quiz was held in Bloomhill Hall in December with Sir Knt Gordon Morrison being the quiz master.

2014 saw the WM of Bloomhill RBP 1147, Sir Knight Drew Robinson, presenting a cheque for £300 to Carla Smyth, Southern Area Community Fundraising Co-ordinator for NI Chest Heart and Stroke.  The money was raised after one of the members was admitted to hospital.  Included in the photograph are some of the Officers and members of the Preceptory.

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Under the guidance WM, Sir Knt Paul Robinson, a special meeting took place on 25th June 2014 to mark the anniversary of the formation of the preceptory and also tonight’s BBQ and concert (27th June 2014).  Plans are progressing for a banner service in October to also commemorate the 90th anniversary of the preceptory.

An indication of the drive and strong community spirit within Bloomhill preceptory is the role played by the Sir Knts of Bloomhill in the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and by the fact that the preceptory will play a key role in the forthcoming centenary commemorations for WW1 which will take place in Newmills and district during the first week in August in each of the centenary years.  The newly formed Newmills and District VC Group is representative of some 23 different groups and organisations around the area and all of the principal officers of this new group are members of Bloomhill RBP 1147 – Sir Knt Drew Robinson who is Chair of the VC group, Sir Knt Alistair Badger (Vice-Chair) and Sir Knt Stephen Wilson (Secretary).