Orangemen's Day--a brief history

July 12th is a huge day in Northern Ireland and, seeing as I'm from there, I thought I'd explain it.

It all goes back to 1690. Yes that's right--1690! Tomorrow, July 12th 1690 becomes very much alive to some people in that part of the world. On that day, the Catholic King James (by the way, he was English and not at all fond of the Irish; in fact despised us) had crossed over to Ireland and the Protestants were decidedly unhappy because he was Catholic and they could not accept his rule. For months in the City of Londonderry (Derry to Catholics) the Protestants had been under siege by the King James' troops--the ancient city walls are three feet thick--and they were being starved into submission, were in fact eating their horses, cats and even rats.

On July 12th 1690--this was the day on the old Julian Calendar--the Protestant King William of Orange (a member of the same House that reigns in the Netherlands today, and who'd arrived in Ireland to assist the Protestants) crossed the River Boyne--a very famous river in Ireland--and a battle commenced between him and King James. King James lost the battle, though the siege of Derry and the Protestants liberation did not end for a further four weeks. (That day of liberation is celebrated separately in August by the Protestant Apprentice Boys and it's another day where the threat of violence lurks.)

From that ancient July 12th date till the present day, the Protestant majority--who formed the Orange Order throughout the Northern Irish province to honor King William --have celebrated the win by marching in the streets. Moreover, the Orange Order became synonymous with Protestant rule in Northern Ireland (and with overt discrimination against the Catholic minority) and all Prime Minsters up until the last one have been fervent members of the Order.

Even today, notwithstanding there is a sort of peace in Northern Ireland, there are many members of the Orange Order who insist it is their right to march through Catholic areas on July 12th. They refuse to change their march route and claim it is an ancient custom, a Protestant birthright, though nowadays the British government is much more impartial and has ordered the Police Service not to allow them to march in Catholic areas. (This, of course, disgruntles many police officers who are members of the Orange Order, but they must obey.) Official policy is that the Orangemen are entitled to celebrate their day but are not entitled to antagonize Catholics and, as a result, the police form a barrier between any Catholic areas on the official parade route and the marchers. Sometimes violence does ensue as either side shout insults at one another.

Many Catholics think it quite funny to watch the Orangemen strutting--accompanied by fife and drum bands--with black umbrellas, bowler hats and orange sashes identifying their lodge behind huge banners of King William on a white charger. Of note, no Protestant women are allowed to become members of these Orange Order lodges. It's a male only club even in 2005. Women may help raise funds and serve tea and sandwiches to their fathers, husbands, uncles and sons, but they may not aspire to membership.

Aside from the chauvenism (which many of the women don't object to, I might add,) I believe the entire "celebration" is archaic and utterly ridiculous. It's time to move on and let 1690 die forever. It's time for the Orangemen to accept they share part of an island with Catholics who have as much right to rule as they do. But then any of them reading my post would say, "He's a Catholic and a Fenian, so what does he know about anything?; let's march through their territory and humiliate them in the name of King Billy. God Save the Queen."

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Anonymous said...

A completely unbiased account the type of which you'd come to expect from an "Irishman".

I'm no expert on the Orange Order but even I know that while women don't become members, they have the Women's Loyal Orange Lodge.

You've also completely over-simplified the marching through "catholic areas" bit. Aside from the fact that most of the areas did contain Protestants (before some degree of ethnic cleansing in many areas like Londonderry's west bank) so-called contentious marches like Ardoyne don't so much go through a Catholic area as past it on the way to and from a Protestant area.

"Many Catholics think it quite funny to watch the Orangemen strutting"
Yes, and many catholics also think it quite funny to lob bottles, bricks and blast-bombs (like nailbombs) at the police service who are trying to keep the peace. But sure 'tis all in great "craic" isn't it?

You also don't seem to tell your readers that the defeat of King James also saw the end to absolute monarchy, something no doubt most of your American neighbours would welcome.

But well done, obviously another graduate of the Sinn Fein school of propaganda - you have the ability to demonise 1 million people in Northern Ireland simply for their nationality.

So what if we celebrate a war 300 years ago? Do you also recommend your American friends stop celebrating Independence Day? Sure it was 200 years ago now.

Maybe we should celebrate Ulster Day instead, to mark the day when hundreds of thousands of Ulstermen and women turned out to sign a declaration that they would never be dominated by Dublin, that wasn't even a century ago.

M. Damian McNicholl said...

Thanks for the diatribe, Beano. And to my fellow Americans--by the way Beano, I'm also American and my Granda was born here--this is part of the reason why I quit my homeland.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget to mention that the Orangemen are "Masons"!

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Anonymous said...

Im live in Belfast and thought I would let all you know some truths.

1/ To be fair to beano he is right women are very often massively involved in the lodges. Indeed they are some of the strongest supporters I have ever met.

2/ When violence broke out most people retreated into safety in their "own sides" area. This is why Londerry / Derry assumed its population spread (~70% catholic). The ongoing "ethnic cleansing" that occurs in Derry is mostly on the loyalist side. Its a common statistic on hate crime reports that ~85% of all non-racial intimidation is loyalist. This percent has went down in recent years. Republicians are very far from blameless but to be fair lets not mention only the minor side.

3/ I have to question making a technicality of whether a March goes through an area or round it? On the lower Ormeau road the march goes past the catholic area so why are they annoyed. Well... One year at a bookmakers on the lower Ormeau innocent catholics were shot by loyalists in retaliation for republician attacks. So what did the orange march do that year on passing the bookmakers? The members faked shooting each other at the bookmakers in front of the nationalist protest line which included family members of the dead. The readers can make their own minds up whether this "passing" was upsetting or not.

4/ "many catholics also think it quite funny to lob bottles, bricks, bombs..." Really? Sure you don't want to say republicians. It's not exactly a mere technicality. Sure most republicians are catholics but I would never call protestants bigots. However I would call orangemen (who are bigots by the statute of the loyal order). Imagine someone attacked the Jewish faith for the mistakes of Israel's army. Truly, you betray you own inherent bigoty by this remark. Espically with the little patronising remark at the end of that paragraph.

5/ Orangemen are not demonised by propaganda but by the scenes of shame they bring to the North. Want some propaganda. I had a 16 year old cousin who on coming back from town crossed a March. Some supporters spotted the collar of an Ireland top under his coat (his dad is from Dublin) and started to beat him. A middle aged orangeman came over stopped the fight, punched him and told him to "F**K off and dont let me see you in this street again". If you dont believe this I dare anyone to watch a March in a Celtic, Ireland or Gaelic T-shirt (For anyone stupid enough to do this be warned you will get beat).

Truth be known I will be happy to see Orange Marchs on the 12th of July,ulsterday down any road they like. But only once there is equality I can March down beside celebrating the Easter risings.

By the way im not religious and I dont want a united Ireland. I soley want to live somewhere I can walk down the street and not get beaten for what im wearing or where im from.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the typos on that last post. It was a bit rushed

M. Damian McNicholl said...

Thanks for dropping by Oracle--typos and all :)
To be honest, I'm not in the least biased. Over here and in England wher I lived, people don't care what religion people are--most of us anyway and Christian Right excepted in the US. And I sought out and befriended protestants when I lived over there.

But, in the end, the pettiness and hatred was a major factor in my getting out of the place. The world is too big and too full of excitement and interesting people for me to languish in the detritus of Northern Ireland's affairs. I like to go there to visit--but that's it.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that Ulster and ireland have major problems.But i have to say here in England the womans lodges and children's lodges all march on the 12th of July.Catholics watch the parade and very little trouble happens apart from maybe a few drunken teens shouting abuse.I laugh when i see blogs set up by people supporting one side and stating they are impartial.........

let the orangeman,WOMAN,children have there parades accept it as part of the culture of Northern Ireland.If you don't like it don't go and watch.
The whole of ireland is so wrapped up in the us and them attitudes from both sides, That it shadows all the other orange parades around the world that don't have the trouble.

Anonymous said...

having some good friends in the lodges of scotland and Belfast i do not think that they should have to struggle for the right to march where they like and i wish them every success in there on going fight babz

Anonymous said...

i have a orange brigade sash could anyone give me info on it please it was my grandads dbrgubb@aol.com

Unknown said...

I am an Irish descended American who has visited Eire on a few occasions. I never saw any public hate offense directed to Protestants but assume that some did occur, people being people. I often think of the similarity of the muslim mullahs and those in the North who have taken up the torch of the now redeeemed Rev. Paisley. Pray God forgive us.

Anonymous said...

I read with interest all the comments. When I was 9 yr old my grandfather passed away and these men came to our house and took his locked trunk and said they would pay for the funeral. I later learned he was an Orangeman - and today I can say if that is what orangeman stands for I am truly embarassed and apologetic for anything he may have done. How absolutely ridiculous and unchristian for people to have acted that way. Who cares - catholic, protestant - they both believe in God and I am sure God was not and is not pleased with how these barbarians acted.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother was given an orange sash from her side of the family. I have been given it and am looking for historical information and pictures to verify the age of the sash. Where can I go to get any historical information?

Regulus said...

Hi all,

My friend's grandfather was in the Orange Order, but upon marrying a Catholic woman, was forced to leave the order and shunned by his fellow brethren. Imagine losing your citizenship of your country just because you married an "alien" or being excommunicated from your own church because of an interdenominational marriage. The good news is that the happy couple produced a wonderful family, which went on to produce more wonderful families of mixed religions and respect for both. So a happy ending. I can't help but think: who are the greater losers in this? The people who rise above 17th century ancestral, primitive "my tribe or your tribe" bigotry and raise their children to be accepting of all variances in life, or those who languish in a prison of suspicious, fearful belligerence?

I am a Protestant by birth, although I'd hardly call myself a religious man by any extent. To be honest I could hardly even call myself a Christian most of the time:) but I was raised with Christian morality as, no doubt, some of the people here were too.

I find it most un-Christian to celebrate one's own culture in a field somewhere and then go to another part of the city and deliberately attack another person's culture and, when finished, return to their own field again. You work out what the motivation for this is. An Ancient birthright? a peaceful celebration of one's own culture?

Let's consider the word "right". All too often these days is this word bandied about and used to legitimise any sort of behaviour. Rights are abstract concepts and ideas; they are not written in stone and cast down from on high. In a more inglorious past, white men in most of the colonies had the "right" to own slaves. So, how about less of this "it's my right; therefore, I'm closing my ears and mind to anything else" One man's right or one woman's right doesn;t provide a carte blanch to do whatever the heck you want and sleep well at night. As I said earlier primitive thinking from a relatively primitive, superstitious time.. Let's remember the 17th century was not without a good witch-burning from time to time and spare a thought for those unfortunate women, maybe healers, maybe just outspoken and not little, obedient "wifeys". I was at a bonfire one evening in my youth and was horrified to see an effigy of a pope shoved on top. What am I supposed to read from that? How do I explain that to my child: that, sometimes, it's OK to kill another person if you don't agree with them.

Ironic as it is, the standing pope at the time of the Battle of the Boyne gave his full consent and support to Prince William of Orange. Wonder how many bonfire attendees are aware of that fact as they burn an effigy of a religious institution which actually supported them. Imagine, in the UK, burning the stars and stripes too, cos people had forgotten what help the US brought to WWII

Regulus said...

As a protestant of good standing and decent education I, in no way, identify with anything the orange order stands for. It is not representative of Northern Irish protestants at all and stands to the shame of most fair-minded folk, Beano - people who'd do anything to find a way to live in peace with their neighbour, a sentiment which you are sadly lacking.
One will notice in Belfast that most of the flags etc go up in underdeveloped areas and are largely the privy of the ill-educated and ignorant. Most middle class NI protestants would squirm at the thought of a regular orangeman presuming to speak for all protestants. Most of us think they are a joke, a very bad joke which has long missed its window of opportunity to gain acceptance from the entire community.
Most people in NI work very hard all year to build bridges and then, every July....Jingo! we all have to start again. I have met few Orangeman who I didn't think were bigots. So, as a Protestant, I say it high time the orange marches stopped altogether. It has become part of an annual shame that the rest of the UK tunes into in July.
A previous post made mention of the Ormeau Road bookmakers and the manner in which the orangemen carried themselves. I must admit, that this was not entirely known to me but, after having read it, am utterly repulsed by the actions of those orangemen. Is there any vestige of decency in that sort of behaviour.
I know some elderly men who have quietly hung up their sashes as they can no longer reconcile themselves to whatever it is that the orange order represents. Now, some of you might say that these men were involved in contentious marches back in the bad old days but I think it's more positive to focus on the fact that they have seen the light, so to speak (yes, about bl*ody time, say some of you but better late than never) :)
The orange order has become, in my mind, a truly dangerous obstacle to lasting peace in NI so we are left with a simple choice:

Regulus said...

Allow a minority of malcontents to get their annual hate day at the expense of general good-feeling, whilst the rest of us taxpayers write the cleanup cheque after
Disallow the usage of any public road. The fields are a wonderful idea if folks could just stay in them. It bothers no one and has a peaceful festival atmosphere.
One person's right to freedom no longer remains a right if they trample all over another person's right to that same freedom.
Beano - I find your attitude repugnant and similar to the classroom defense of "but he started it, Miss" It doesn't matter who starts something - it's who stops it. Trying to defend bigotry with a semi (and I use this in its loosest way) reasoned response is, in the common parlance of our North American friends, akin to "putting lipstick on a pig". You need to read more and learn that your real enemy is your own ignorance. Robert Key, an Englishman, wrote a three part series of books called the Green Flag Series..detailing the history of this island from plantation to partition. It's a very interesting read and, should you wish to learn the truth and not fuel yourself with backstreet, backwoodsman propaganda, you'll discover a whole new perspective on all of this...such as 1798 when a group of Presbys (me :) ) and Catholics united together against imperialism with a dream to free the entire island from the whims of English kings and Queens. Now you seem to support them. One wonders who you really are loyal to...The English Queen of your fellow countrymen, here, in Ireland. You were duped and tricked into thinking that Irish catholics were your enemy. If you had any wit, you'd know that sectarianism was largely a tool created by Imperial England after the the failed rebellion of the United Irishmen to separate Catholics and Protestants so that they would never unite and form their own country, just like the rest of the colonies...and bl*ody idiots like yourself swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Like I said, a little more reading might become you, sir.

Anonymous said...

orangemen are idiots and have done nothing but cause grief to others

Irony1690 said...

....yes, something , over simplified , as the incumbent pope backing his buddy William to defeat the French usurpers and their claim as pope ....battle of the boyne ....battle of the popes .

Unknown said...

I went to school with Orange lads and lasses in Northeast Philadelphia, 1957-1969. They were good kids and stayed out of trouble.Most of them were Presbyterian or fundamentalist Protestant with an occasional Methodist.We all attended public elementary and high school and never had any problems. If they didn't like the Pope or Roman hierarchy, that was their belief system and culture. Catholics in Northeast Philadelphia hated Jews, most Protestants and the Orthodox Christians back then. Today, this might include Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.If Biden gets in, we will find out how different from the late John F. Kennedy he truly is.