Irish Republican News · July 12, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Orange Order - an alternative guide
The following account of the Orange Order and its early years is taken from ‘For God and Ulster -- An Alternative Guide to the Loyal Orders’ by the Pat Finucane Centre


Each year on the Twelfth the media devote extensive coverage to a series of parades which take place throughout the North of Ireland. Mention is made of the carnival atmosphere, the spectators along the route, family groups picnicking on the grass at the end of a long day and the sheer colour of it all. The majority of the parades are organised by the Orange Order, a benign religious and cultural organisation according to its supporters. A sectarian and deeply political organisation according to its detractors. But what is the Orange Order? Membership is restricted to male Protestants who must fulfill the following:

Qualifications of an Orangeman

“An Orangeman should have a sincere love and veneration for his Heavenly Father; a humble and steadfast faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, believing in Him as the only Mediator between God and man. He should cultivate truth and justice, brotherly kindness and charity, devotion and piety, concord and unity, and obedience to the laws; his deportment should be gentle and compassionate, kind and courteous; he should seek a society of the virtuous, and avoid that of the evil; he should honour and diligently study the Holy Scriptures, and make them the rule of his faith and practice; he should love, uphold, and defend the Protestant religion, and sincerely desire and endeavour to propagate its doctrines and precepts; he should strenuously oppose the fatal errors and doctrines of the Church of Rome, and scrupulously avoid countenancing (by his presence or otherwise) any act of ceremony of Popish worship; he should by all lawful means, resist the ascendancy of that Church, its encroachments, and the extension of its power, ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions or sentiments, towards his Roman Catholic brethren; he should remember to keep holy the Sabbath day, and attend the public worship of God, and diligently train up his offspring, and all under his control, in the fear of God, and in the Protestant faith; he should never take the name of God in vain, but abstain from all cursing and profane language, and use every opportunity of discouraging these, and all other sinful practices, in others; his conduct should be guided by wisdom and prudence, and marked by honesty, temperance, and sobriety; the glory of God and the welfare of man, the honour of his Sovereign, and the good of his country, should be the motive of his actions.”

Candidates must be proposed by a member of a lodge (under law 84) and promise among other things to:

at all times conform to the Laws and Ordinances of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland, and will at all times recognise and support the authority of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland.

I promise that, if admitted a member of this Lodge, I will always show due respect to the Worshipful Master and other Officers, and will endeavour to conduct myself as a Brother ought towards all members of the Lodge and of the Brotherhood, and that I will always observe and never knowingly violate, the By-Laws of the Lodge.

I was born at ................... in the county of ...................... of Protestant parents, was educated in the Protestant faith, and have never been in any way connected with the Church of Rome. My wife is a Protestant/I am unmarried..


1796 First Twelfth parades held at a number of venues including Lurgan, Portadown and Waringstown. The Northern Star reports that a Mr M’Murdie, an Orangeman, died of stab wounds following clashes with the militia in Aghalee (Jarman,1997, p.47).

Seven months earlier, the Governor of Armagh, Lord Gosford, spoke to a meeting of magistrates about the activities of the newly formed Orange Order:

“It is no secret that a persecution is now raging in this country ... the only crime is ... profession of the Roman Catholic faith. A lawless banditti have constituted themselves judges ...” (Curtis, 1995, p.9).

1797 14 people are killed in violence during an Orange parade in Stewartstown , Co. Tyrone.

1813 An Orange procession attempts to parade down Hercules Street (later Royal Avenue) in Belfast, then a narrow lane and the first ‘identifiable Catholic neighbourhood’ in the city. In the resultant violence four men die. The prosecutor in a subsequent trial notes that the Orange Order, “...had presumed to arrogate to themselves a title to exclusive loyalty ... [but] ... whatsoever be their professions, tend to disturb the public peace” (Hepburn, 1996, p.1).

1814 The Apprentice Boys of Derry Club, precursor of the present organisation, is founded.

1818 A number of people are injured during disturbances at an Orange parade in Kilrea, Co Derry. In Liverpool Orangemen attempt to burn effigies of the Pope and the Cardinal outside the Catholic Cathedral but are stopped by the Mayor (Gray, 1972, p.93).

1822 Fighting breaks out following an Orange parade in Middletown, Co Armagh. One man, Patrick Grimley, is killed. In Derry the Apprentice Boys parade is attacked. Tension in the city is linked to Catholic frustration at their continued exclusion from local political power and the growing campaign for Catholic Emancipation.

1823 The British Government puts restrictions on ‘popular societies’ (including the Catholic Association) curbing the Orange Order and its parades. It becomes illegal for the Order to administer oaths. As a consequence the Order is dissolved and reconstituted. Trouble is reported at the Twelfth parade in Killyleagh, Co Down.

1824 Serious disturbances occur at Twelfth parades in Belfast, Donaghadee, Downpatrick, Dromore and Newry.

1825 Sectarian confrontations follow Orange parades in Belfast. The Grand Lodge of the Orange Order dissolves itself in response to the Unlawful Societies Act. Nevertheless in Portadown and elsewhere Orangemen defy the law and continue to parade.

1827 Portadown Orangemen again defy the law and some 5000 march in the town.

1828 The Duke of Cumberland, Imperial Grand Master, in a letter to the Earl of Enniskillen, Deputy Grand Master, warns of the danger that “our public processions” could lead to “... a breach of the public peace ...” which could result in a ban on processions (Gray, 1972, p.112). The Belfast parades are canceled but illegal processions take place in several areas.

1829 The Grand Master tries unsuccessfully to cancel that year’s parades but he is ignored. Trouble occurs in Armagh, Bellaghy, Comber, Greyabbey, Glenoe, Portadown and Strabane where 3 people are seriously injured. In Stewartstown one man dies while seven are killed in disturbances in Clones and eight are killed in Enniskillen. In Maghera, Co Derry, several Catholic homes were burnt down prompting the intervention of the military who arrest a number of Orangemen. At their court appearance the men are rescued by a large mob. The magistrate instructs the police not to intervene (Gray, 1972, p.114).

1830 The Lord Lieutenant bans all processions but this is again ignored. In Maghery, Co Armagh “fierce fighting” breaks out between Orangemen and Catholic villagers “despite the presence of a large force of police and military” (Murphy, 1981, p.69 and Gray, 1972, p.114). Throughout the 1830s and 1840s clashes occur on the Twelfth in Belfast between the Catholic ‘Pound boys’ and the Protestant ‘Sandy Row boys’. In Scotland regular clashes occur between Orangemen and Irish immigrants.

1832 Belfast Orangemen celebrate a Tory election victory with an attack on a Catholic area whereupon fierce and prolonged fighting” follows. Four people die. The Northern Whig describes a prominent Orangeman, a Mr Boyce, addressing his followers from the window of the Tories’ committee room where they were reassured that “the Protestants had gained this victory, and that they would continue to maintain their ascendancy” (Curtis, 1995, p.36). The Party Processions Act comes into force. Those attempting to parade are prosecuted.

1833 In Tandragee an effigy is burnt of a local magistrate who had served warrants on Orangemen and rioting ensues during the Orange parade (Campbell, 1991, p.152). Illegal parades by Portadown Orangemen continue and Ballyhagan, a Catholic area near Portadown, is besieged by Orangemen who attack a number of homes.

1835 A riot erupts on the Twelfth following a controversy over an Orange arch in the Sandy Row area of Belfast. Meanwhile Hugh Donnelly, a Catholic from Drumcree, is killed in a confrontation with Orangemen near Portadown. In evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee set up to investigate the Orange Order an Armagh Magistrate, William Hancock, a Protestant, said:

“For some time past the peaceable inhabitants of the parish of Drumcree have been insulted and outraged by large bodies of Orangemen parading the highways, playing party tunes, firing shots, and using the most opprobrious epithets they could invent...a body of Orangemen marched through the town and proceeded to Drumcree church, passing by the Catholic chapel though it was a considerable distance out of their way.”

1836 The military use six pieces of artillery (!) to help quell trouble at an Orange gathering at Scarva. In Derry party parades are banned (Murphy, 1981, p.56).

1845 Following the lifting of the Party Processions Act Orange parades again take place in many areas.

1846 Trouble flares at Orange parades in Armagh and Newry.

1848 Trouble flares between Orangemen and those taking part in St Patrick’s Day parades in Downpatrick, Ballynahinch and Hilltown.

1849 St Patrick’s Day parades are again a source of conflict between Orangemen and marchers in Castlewellan and Crossgar. An Orange demonstration is hosted by Lord Roden, Grand Master of the Orange Order, on his estate at Tullymore, near Castlewellan, County Down. Roden launches a fiery verbal attack on Catholicism. Catholics, seeking revenge for the St Patrick’s Day incidents, attack Orangemen at nearby Dolly’s Brae. Six (Stewart, 1997 a, p.135), eight (Jarman,1997, p.55) or thirty (Campbell, 1991, pp. 255 ) Catholics are reported killed in the subsequent clashes with Orangemen and the militia. The event passes into Orange folklore. An official commission of inquiry condemns Roden’s role and he is forced to resign as justice of the peace but remains Grand Master.

1850 As a result of the clashes at Dolly’s Brae the Party Processions Act is renewed forbidding public displays and demonstrations.

1857 Following serious disturbances in Belfast the commissioners of the Belfast Riot Inquiry rule that the “originating cause of the riots” were the July 12 orange parades (Darby,1986, p.11). The Inquiry went on to state that the “celebration of that festival” was used “to remind one party of the triumphs of their ancestors over those of the other, and to inculcate the feelings of Protestant superiority over their Roman Catholic neighbours”(Stewart, 1997 a, p.151).

1860 One man dies and 15 others are wounded when Orangemen open fire on Catholics in Derrymacash, between Lurgan and Portadown, during an Orange parade. The Party Processions Act was subsequently amended to prohibit the carrying of arms on parades but this had “little or no effect” where the judiciary, military and police “were either openly sympathetic to, or intimidated by, Orangeism” (GRRC, 1996, pp.14).

1866 In Portadown three Orangemen are arrested and charged with “meeting and parading in the public road, wearing party colours, and playing music, which was calculated to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty’s subjects”(Walker, 1996, p.93).

1867 William Johnson of Ballykilbeg, a legendary figure in Orangeism, challenges the ban on parades by leading a large group of Orangemen from Newtownards to Bangor in “a display of Orange strength against the growing menace of Fenianism” (Gray, 1972, p.152). As a result he is convicted and serves time in Downpatrick gaol. Johnson was a fascinating figure who went on to defend the rights of Catholics to march. By this stage a massive campaign of civil disobedience had made the ban unworkable. With the collapse of the Party Processions Act the British Administration in Ireland institute a policy of “equal marching rights”. Parades are allowed to proceed but are restricted to non-contentious areas (Hepburn,1996, p.247 ). In west Ulster Orange parades are revived “in protest at the laxity of Dublin Castle in dealing with sympathy demonstrations for the Fenians.” An attempted Orange procession at Muff Glen near Derry is blocked by heavily armed Catholics (Murphy, 1981, p.117).

1869 Following rioting in the city the Londonderry Riot Inquiry notes that “the character of the demonstrations (by the Apprentice Boys) has certainly undergone a change, and, among the Catholic lower classes at least, they are now regarded with the most hostile feelings” (Darby, 1986, p.11). The Inquiry recommended that Orange parades be banned since they represented “the proudest recollection of one section” and “bitter humiliation” for the other (ibid., p.15). The ‘Shutting of the Gates’ ceremony in December, organised by the Apprentice Boys , sparks a counter-demonstration of several thousand people.

1870 In Derry a campaign of opposition to Apprentice Boys parades continues. In August a nationalist counter-demonstration to the Apprentice Boys parade is banned and “serious rioting ensued”. The controversy over parades continued. Lacy notes that in Derry: “from 1877 onwards the determination of Catholics to have the same rights as Protestants to march inside the walled city was increasingly asserted. The early 1880s were marked by many confrontations over marches and there was increased sectarian tension” (Lacy, 1990, p.203).

1883 Trouble flares in Donegal town when an Orange counter-demonstration was organised in opposition to Michael Davitt, one of the leaders of the Land League who was to address a meeting in the town. In Derry city “two persons receive wounds of a serious character” in clashes between Bogsiders and Apprentice Boys who have taken over the Town Hall in the Diamond during a visit to the city by the nationalist mayor of Dublin (Stewart, 1997, p.74).

1886 The Orange Order mobilises in opposition to Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill with parades throughout the North. In a letter Randolf Churchill incites Orangemen and Unionists to violence with the call “Ulster will fight (Home Rule), Ulster will be right.” Rioting follows the defeat of the Bill in June and 12 July Orange parades lead predictably to disturbances that are “probably the worst outbreak of violence that century”. By mid September some 50 people had lost their lives and thousands had been driven from their workplaces and homes (Curtis, 1995, p.142 ).

The growing political role of the Orange Order in the 1880s in co-ordinating the anti-Home Rule campaign had important implications for that most public manifestation of Orangeism, i.e. the parade. The middle classes and the gentry flocked back to the Loyal Orders having deserted them in the early decades of the century as disreputable “lawless banditti”. Institutional links with the emerging Ulster Unionist Party were developed and the Orders became more centralised and focused political machines. Mass mobilisations were co-ordinated in pursuit of a clear goal ; the defeat of Home Rule which the Orders claimed equaled “Rome Rule”. Annual skirmishes on the highways and byways of Ulster, though they still occurred, were no longer seen as appropriate to an organisation which had regained its respectability.

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