Joseph O’REILLY who was initiated into the Golden Dawn in January 1892 and chose the Latin motto ‘Meus agitat molem’.  He was initiated in London, but can only have been on a visit there, because he gave 61 Upper Grangegorman, Dublin as his address for GD correspondence.


Anyone attempting to trace their ancestors in Ireland will know how difficult that is: so many census and other records were destroyed in the 1920s.  WHO DID HE KNOW IN THE GOLDEN DAWN was actually easier to discover than details of Joseph’s family history and employment, if any, because he had joined the Theosophical Society (TS), in Ireland, in 1891.  One of the TS members who sponsored Joseph’s application was George W Russell.  Russell wrote regularly for the theosophical journals and also published poetry, all under the initials ‘AE’.  Russell was active in the burgeoning Celtic revival in Dublin, and so if you knew ‘AE’ you were also likely to know W B Yeats; though no one called Joseph O’Reilly appears in W B Yeats’ letters.  Perhaps the two of them didn’t have time to get to know each other very well, because I think tragedy may have intervened: Joseph’s entry in the TS membership books has a note “Dead Jan 94" on it.  It’s probably an indication of Joseph’s priorities that the GD’s records don’t contain a note that he had died.  There’s only a note, dated 1903, that he had let his membership lapse.



BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members.


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.  Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.  Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.  The list is based on the Golden Dawn’s administrative records and its Members’ Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.  All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but it’s now in the Freemasons’ Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden. 


Family history: freebmd; (census and probate);; familysearch.  They don’t cover people living in Ireland of course. Burke’s Peerage and Baronetage; Burke’s Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; and a variety of one-family genealogy websites.  



Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.


Catalogues: British Library; Freemasons’ Library.


Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources.  I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historian’s point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.


Theosophical Society: Membership Register September 1891 to January 1893 p18 Joseph O’Reilly application dated 7 November 1891, subscription paid 1891-93.  Sponsors: A W Dwyer and George W Russell.  Address as for GD initiation.


AE: eg articles etc in Lucifer: A Theosophical Magazine which ran from 1887 to 1897 and was published by the TS in London.


Collected Letters of W B Yeats volumes 1-III don’t contain any letters to Joseph O’Reilly.



24 April 2012