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The Mystery of Alexander Irvine’s Vault

Did you know that the legend of moving coffins in Barbados was not only linked to the Chase Vault at Christ Church Parish Church? The vault of Alexander Irvine, located in the St Michael’s Cathedral Churchyard is also said to be surrounded by a similar mystery.

Freemasonry was introduced to Barbados by Mr Irvine in 1740 with the opening of St. Michael’s Lodge. This was under the umbrella of English Freemasonry, which was the first Masonic rite to be established in the Anglophone Caribbean, followed by the Irish in 1783 and later the Scottish in 1799. Just three years after Irvine brought freemasonry to Barbados he unfortunately died and was interred in a vault in St Michael’s Cathedral Church. Another freemason, Governor Sir Evan MacGregor was also laid to rest in Alexander’s vault in 1841.

Just over 100 years after, while masons were investigating Irvine’s burial place; they discovered that there was a metal object resting against the inner side of the wall when they tried to open the door. It was discovered to be a large led coffin, with one end propped up against the wall and the other end on the floor. This was the only coffin found in the vault and its inscription proved that it was Sir Evan MacGregor’s. The coffin was placed back in its proper position along the left side of the vault.

In the May 1945 Journal of the Barbados Museum & Historical Society, Sir Algernon Aspinall outlined the mystery of the coffin’s strange position. “The coffin was reverently replaced in its proper position along the left side of the vault, leaving ample room for other coffins. How it came to be tipped up remains a mystery.”

The freemasons found no trace of Alexander Irvine’s coffin and came to the conclusion that it was made of wood and had disintegrated when the vault was opened for MacGregor’s burial. However, on a ledge at the far end of the vault, they found a skull and some bones, apparently the remains of Alexander Irvine. Visit our 3rd floor permanent gallery, where you can find further details about the development of freemasonry in Barbados.

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