Poem "WHAT ARE YOU?"
The minute books of the County Grand Lodge of Armagh provide a continuous record of the meetings of the County Lodge from November 5th 1892.
A special meeting on March 11th 1893 indicates that politically some things have not changed very much in the last 100 years.
This was the considered response of the representatives of the Orange Order in the County to Prime Minister William Gladstones 2nd Home Rule Bill. We should note that one of the resolutions in 1893 presages the wording of the Ulster Covenant of 1912.
On the motion of Br. Campbell, seconded by Br. Fallerton, the following resolution was also adopted: - "That the masters of all Lodges in the County Armagh be, and are now called upon to enrol all Protestants between the ages of sixteen and sixty years who are willing and ready to pledge themselves to resist by all lawful means the setting up of a Parliament in Dublin, and if such a Parliament should unfortunately be set up, to refuse to acknowledge its authority, and be ready for any emergency that may arise out of such circumstances." The following petition to Parliament against the Home Rule Bill was unanimously adopted -
TO THE HONOURABLE THE COMMONS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND, IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED.
The humble petition of the members of the County of Armagh Grand Lodge, representing over ten thousand members of that Order, staunch Loyalists,
That petitioners respectfully but earnestly approach your Honourable House to submit their views in regard to the proposed measure, entitled "A Bill to Amend the Provisions for the Government of Ireland," which your petitioners view with very great alarm and dread.
That petitioners are the descendants of English and Scotch settlers, who, in carrying out the policy of the English Government, during the 16th and 17th centuries, were brought over to and "planted" in Ireland, and that petitioners consequently find themselves located and settled in that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland.
That petitioners and those whom they represent have always endeavoured to be upon good terms with "all men," and they have successfully devoted themselves to the cultivation of the soil, the promotion of manufactories, the extension of trade, the pursuit of the highest professions and the arts, the result being that they converted a wilderness into fruitful fields; and this inland county in Ulster is one of the most orderly, most peaceable, and most prosperous in Ireland.
Those petitioners are anxious to continue to live in this way, and, in conjunction with every other Irish-man, to enjoy the very many great privileges, which each loyal man under the paternal Government of the United Kingdom enjoys.
These resolutions were followed up by an Address presented to Lord Salisbury the leader of the Conservative opposition to the Liberal Government when he visited Ulster. The phrase "folly and ambition of an aged politician" is of course a reference to Gladstone.
TO THE MOST NOBLE THE MARQUIS OF SALISBURY, K.G.
My Lord Marquis - We, the members of the Grand Orange Lodge of the County of Armagh, desire, on behalf of over 10,000 men whom we represent, to tender to your Lordship our most sincere thanks for your opportune visit to our country while she is passing through the grave crisis in her fate, brought upon her by the folly and ambition of an aged politician and the blindness of the party which still follow him. We look back with regret to the days so lately gone by when the firm and even-handed administration of the lay by the Government of which you were the chief was allaying strife, and rendering it possible for men of all parties to devote themselves to the development of the resources of our common country. While we make no undue claim to religious, political, or social ascendancy over our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, we are firmly resolved never to submit to any infringement of our civil and religious liberties. The precious birthright bought by the blood of our ancestors we are determined to bequeath unimpaired to our children. We are convinced that the new-fangled constitution now proposed for this country would, if established, be fatal to religious liberty, and, though we have many other serious objections to its provisions, it is chiefly upon this account that it excites our abhorrence. Under these circumstances we venture to accept your Lordship's visit as a token of the sympathy, which is felt for our cause by the great Unionist party in Great Britain. We beg that you will convey to our loyal kinsmen on the other side of the Channel our sincere thanks for the efforts which they are making on our behalf; and we hope that you will feel able to report upon your return that the men of their race and religion in this country deserve a better fate than the slavery to which Mr. Gladstone desires to consign us. We feel that to your Lordship personally we owe a deep debt of gratitude for your present visit and for your untiring exertions in the cause of the Union, and we hope that before long we may again find you at the head of a Government under which Ireland may look for law, order, peace, and prosperity. - Signed by order,
Parker G. Synot, Grand Master, Co
Armagh, May 25th, 1893.
In 1897 the County Lodge decided to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign by sending her an illuminated address:-
ADDRESS FROM THE COUNTY ARMAGH GRAND ORANGE LODGE.
At the special meetings of the County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge it was decided to present a congratulatory address to her Majesty. The following address was prepared and illuminated on a parchment scroll by Mr. M Watters, and forwarded to her Majesty. The illumination of the address was handsomely executed:
Address to her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, and so forth.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR MAJESTY,
In the past, as in the present, Orangeism has always been noted for its unflinching loyalty to Throne and Constitution, even from its very foundation by one of your illustrious predecessors.
We beg respectfully to assure
your Majesty of our devotion and loyalty to the Crown of the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Ireland; and we pray that the King of kings may still further
abundantly bless and prosper you and all the members of your illustrious house;
and that your Majesty may be long spared to rule over a people by whom you are
beloved and reverenced, and over dominions on which the sun never sets. (Signed
on behalf of the Grand Lodge)
In 1901 Queen Victoria died and Irish Nationalists questioned the Protestant nature of the succession and coronation oath.
The minutes for May 4th 1901 record:-
Resolved, that at this our 1st meeting since the lamented death of our late Queen we beg to express our deep sense of the benefits conferred on the country by her great example and our devoted loyalty to her successor His Majesty King Edward the Seventh, and our respectful sympathy with him in his heavy bereavement.
It was proposed by Bro, Rev R. J. Whan, seconded by Bro Wm Locke, and unanimously : resolved 'that we strongly object to the weakening of the security for the Protestant Succession by any alteration of the oath of the sovereign but we suggest that those to whom the oath and declaration are offensive should be excused from attendance'.
County Grand Master Parker G Synnot
J. P. of Lurgana, Whitecross
(Parker Synnot died in 1900 and in 1901 Sir James Stronge was elected County Grand Master).
The 10,000 Orangemen of the County were divided into 205 Lodges organised as follows:-
Portadown District No. 1 WM Bro.
W J Locke, Portadown
Richhill District No. 2 WM Bro. John
Loughgall District No 3 WM Rev. F
M Moeran, Loughgall
For the Twelfth celebrations in 1900 the Districts of County Armagh were divided over three separate demonstrations.
The principal meeting was at the Primatial City for Armagh, Portadown, Richhill, Killylea, Keady and Newtownhamilton Districts in the Palace Demesne.
Markethill, Tandragee, Bessbrook, and Lurgan Districts met in Markethill in a field lent by Mr. Singleton on the Hamiltonsbawn Road about a mile from the town. The Armagh Guardian newspaper estimated that these Districts took 45 minutes to pass in procession.
Loughgall district joined with Districts from County Tyrone and met in a field at Tamnamore belonging to Mr. Averell Lloyd.
The minute books show the emphasis placed at the end of the 19th Century and beginning of 20th Century on Orange funerals, on assisting orphans, and on paying-off debts of deceased members which of course reflects in part on the absence of any welfare state at that time.
Of course political crisis was ever present. In tandem with the Home Rule controversy, a land war was raging in many parts of Ireland as the tenant farmers demanded ownership of the farms from the Landlord class (mostly Anglo-Irish Ascendancy). In Ulster the antipathy between tenant farmers and landlord was never as bitter because (a) most tenants and landlords in Ulster were Protestant and (b) The Ulster Tenant Right custom had given tenants in Ulster better conditions of tenure.
The trouble in the other 3 Provinces often seemed to be an anti-Protestant war. It became hard to distinguish, especially with the introduction of Boycotts, between a war over land ownership and a political campaign to drive Protestants and Unionists out of Ireland.
An example from the County minutes of 1908 gives a flavour of those times:-
ARMAGH, 21st December, 1908.
At the recent Meeting of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland attention was called to the cruel tyranny to which Loyalists are now exposed in many districts of Ireland, and our Brethren representing those districts having stated that the help of the Orange Institution would be welcomed, and had been long looked for, the Grand Lodge then on considering the matter decided to re-appoint an Emergency Committee, as follows:-
The Earl of Erne, K.P.
The Committee afterwards met, and took the preliminary steps that were necessary to give effect to the decision of the Grand Lodge.
In pursuance of a direction from the Committee, the Grand Orange Lodge for this County met in Armagh to-day, and unanimously passed the following Resolutions, to which we call your most serious attention:-
RESOLVED - "That the Grand Lodge of Ireland deserves our best thanks for taking up the case of oppressed Loyalists in the South and West; that we promise them our financial and other support; that our County Grand Treasurer send a contribution to the funds of the Emergency Committee as a first instalment from the Brethren in this County; and that all our District Lodges be directed to meet within a fortnight, and all our Private Lodges to meet within three weeks from this date to take such steps as may be necessary to give effect to the policy of the Grand Lodge of Ireland."
"That we hereby call upon all our District and Private Lodges to guarantee a contribution to the funds of the Orange Emergency Committee, such guarantee to be paid in four equal instalments, the first to be paid forthwith, the second after three months, and the others when called upon, to our County Grand Treasurer".
You will receive full instructions
from the Officers of your District Lodge for the carrying out of the Resolutions,
but meantime we send you form of guarantee, which you can fill up after your
next Lodge Meeting, and return to Bro. Wright, our County Grand Treasurer, with
the first instalment of the guarantee by your Lodge.
Yours faithfully and fraternally,
JAMES H. STRONGE, Bart.,
With the encouragement of the Orange Order the Unionist clubs had begun to prepare for this eventuality in 1904 when the Ulster Unionist Council was formed (leaving the Southern Unionists isolated).
In 1911 Sir Edward Carson became the leader of the Ulster Unionists. The County Lodge sent Carson the following address to:-
THE RIGHT HON. SIR EDWARD CARSON,
In the name of all the Orangemen of the County of Armagh, whom we represent, we beg to give you a hearty welcome to Ulster on your arrival to open the campaign against home rule. In this grave crisis we desire to confide in you, as a leader, whose knowledge of Ireland, and particularly of the Loyalists of Ireland, peculiarly fits you to stand by us in our hour of danger and difficulty.
As you are aware in the year 1795 a number of men banded themselves together in this County for the protection of life and property against a people whom we have ever considered as rebels against English rule. After the Battle of the Diamond, where our cause was triumphant, our association was formed, and from a small beginning now flourishes throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. In the past, as in the present, our members have always proved themselves to be loyal and faithful to their country and the empire, but today we find ourselves once more confronted with the enemy, who would have despoiled the Loyalists of 1795. We inherit their spirit; we are opposed to any scheming design, which will put the heel of the enemy on our necks. We refuse to submit, and are determined to resist home rule at all costs. We quite recognise the grave responsibility we place upon you, but if the courage and determination and the combined and concentrated force of the Orangemen of this County is of moral or physical support at this momentous period of our History, we assure you that you may calculate on the Orangemen of the County of the Diamond.
May almighty God give you wisdom and strength to lead us straight to victory, and save our beloved land from civil war, devastation and ruin.
(Signed on behalf of the County
Armagh, 23rd September, 1911.
In May 1912 the County Lodge resolved:-
"That whereas the Government of Ireland Bill would deprive us of the rights which we enjoy as citizens of the United Kingdom, and place us under the authority of the United Irish League - the authors of outrage and intimidation - and of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy who have recently promulgated theories characterised by cruel intolerance and by arrogant presumption, we deny the right of Parliament thus to dispose of our future, and we are prepared to take any steps that may be necessary to protect our liberties."
Perhaps Sir James Stronge who proposed this resolution had in mind, when he accused the Roman Catholic Hierarchy of intolerance and arrogant presumption, the issue of the "Catholic Bulletin" of March 1912, which declared "the time has come for action. The day of Ireland's missionary heroism is at hand to bring into the bosom of Holy Church the million of our separated brethren is a most attractive programme." (Quoted in J Bardon's A History of Ulster page 423)
"A special meeting of the County Grand Lodge was held in the Orange Hall Armagh on Wednesday 4th September 1912 at 3:15 pm
1. to consider the advisability
of the brethren of the County attending en
The chair was taken by Bro Sir James Stronge County Grand Master at 3:15pm and the vice-chair by Bro James Gilpin, Deputy Master of Loughgall during the temporary absence of Bro Allen, Deputy Grand Master.
All the Districts in the County were fully represented. The Lodge having been opened with prayer and a portion of scripture the County Grand Master moved:-
"that it is the duty of the Orangemen of the County of Armagh to do all in their power to make the meeting at Portadown on September 25th and the Ulster Day celebrations worthy of the Unionist cause, and to exert themselves to ensure that every Unionist in the County has the opportunity of signing the Covenant." The Resolution was seconded by Bro Gilpin and passed unanimously.
On the motion of Bro Crozier seconded by Bro Foy it was resolved that the Orangemen of the various Districts of the County should attend in their full strength the public meeting against Home Rule in Portadown, that they should wear regalia and march in procession four deep each District being headed by a Union Jack or Bannerette or both, and by a band, but that no banners or big drums be permitted in the procession.
1914 - 1948
The Home Rule crisis passed without a civil war when the "Great War" in Europe started.
The Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, told the House of Commons that the UVF's patriotic spirit had made the coercion of Ulster "unthinkable" and that Home Rule would not be implemented until the end of the war and amending legislation later on would make special provision for Ulster.
The 12th July Demonstration was held at Killylea in 1914. This was to be the last such demonstration until the war ended. Directions on how to observe the 12th during the war were given to the District Lodges as follows:
At the Half-Yearly Meeting of this Lodge, held in Portadown on Monday, 24th inst., the circular letter of 12th April, 1915, issued by our Grand Master, Bro. Sir Jas. H. Stronge, to the County Grand Lodges of Ireland, was read and considered, in which he said that the Central Committee of the Grand Lodge had unanimously requested him to make suggestions as to the best manner of observing the 12th July this year; that it was only too likely that the war would not then be concluded, and the vital interests of our country would still be at stake; that many of us had already lost relations, and almost all of us had lost friends; and that by July thousands of Ulsterman would probably be at the front, where so many had fallen gloriously for their country, and as it was absurd to say that anything could be quite as usual this year, he thought that our celebrations should be modified to suit the circumstances of the time and the thoughts of the hearts of those who would be taking part in them, and that anything maintaining the orderly and semi-military characteristics of the celebrations would be appropriate, and anything emphasising their religious character would be especially appropriate; but, on the other hand, it was thought that on this occasion some of the festivity and some of the speech-making might be out of place. Having said so much, he left the matter to the best consideration of the County Grand Lodge, with the suggestion that no resolutions should be proposed, but that after a short address from the Chairman a short SERVICE OF INTERCESSION should be conducted by our Chaplains, commencing with the 90th Psalm and concluding with the National Anthem. And he also stated that he understood a great many of our Brethren were of opinion that it might be better this year to observe Sunday, 11th July, instead of Monday 12th; and that if any County Grand Lodge should take this view he could see no objection to their arranging accordingly.
After several of the Brethren had exposed their views upon the subject, it was moved, seconded, and unanimously resolved:-
"That no County Demonstration be held on 12th July this year; that it be left to the several Districts to carry out the suggestions contained in the Grand Master's letter; and that in no case shall big drums be permitted, or banners be displayed; and further, that no Drumming Parties be permitted in the County during the continuance of the war; and that any Lodge disobeying this resolution be liable to suspension."
The Collections taken up at the Services arranged for should be devoted to the Enniskillen Orphan Society.
By order of the County Grand Lodge.
"That we desire to convey our heartfelt sympathy to the inhabitants of Dublin of all creeds in their sufferings and loss by the recent insurrection, we hereby declare afresh our loyalty to King and Empire, we venture hope that the lives and property of law abiding Irishmen will no longer be endangered in the vain hope of enabling a false appearance of unity; and we protest against the absurd suggestion of a portion of the English press that this is a favourable moment for the introduction of Constitutional changes."
The one event that all Orangemen remember in the First World War is the change of the 36th Ulster Division on 1st July 1916 - the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.
As J Bardon records "Blacker's Boys - men from the Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan Ulster Volunteers - returned with only 64 men out of 600 who had gone over the parapet." Most of these were Orangemen.
Captain Wilfred Spender, a staff officer with the UVF and later on first Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, wrote a famous eyewitness account of the attack:-
"I am not an Ulsterman, but yesterday, the 1st July, as I followed their amazing attack I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world.
My position enabled me to watch the commencement of their attack from the wood in which they had formed up, but which long prior to the assault was being overwhelmed with shell-fire, so that the trees were stripped, and the top half of the wood ceased to be anything but a slope of bare stumps with innumerable shell holes peppered in the chalk.
It looked as if nothing could live in the wood, and, indeed, the losses were heavy before they started.
When I saw the men emerge through the smoke and form up as if on parade, I could hardly believe my eyes. Then I saw them attack, beginning with a slow walk over 'No Man's Land' and then suddenly let loose as they charged over the front two lines of enemy trenches, shouting 'No Surrender, boys'.
The enemy's gun-fire raked them from the left, and machine guns in a village enfiladed them on the right, but battalion after battalion came out of the awful wood as steadily as I have seen them at Ballykinler, Clandeboye, or Shane's Castle."
(Note: the Ulster Division charged from Thiepval wood uphill to capture a series of German concrete bunkers called the Schwaben Redoubt)
Grand Lodge forbade any demonstration on 12th July 1916 but in 1917 at the County meeting in May Rev Whan proposed:
"that this County Grand Lodge instruct each District under its jurisdiction to carry out Rule 28 on the coming 12th July and arrange for a Public demonstration with bands, banners and regalia and so commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne and also the memorable and splendid charge of the Ulster Division in France on 1st July 1916."
In 1917 Sir James Stronge's son was killed in action and a resolution of sympathy was sent to him at Tynan Abbey. He replied in a letter dated 2nd September 1917:-
"Dear Crozier, very many thanks for your sympathy. As you know what a fine and capable fellow my son was and how he drew everyone to him you can realise the pain his death causes to me and to all the family.
But if he was required for the cause
we are thankful that he fell as he did instantaneously and at the head of his
own dear Battalion of Transport men who would have done anything for him. They
were taking water and ammunition to the men in the fighting line over a notoriously
dangerous road and had been spotted by the heavy guns of the enemy. His dear
wife is very brave about it. She and my second daughter hope to go back to the
Ulster Hospital in France before long.
Another sign of the loss of men was the efforts made by the County Lodge to increase the amount of money paid to the Lord Enniskillen Memorial Orange Orphan Society because of the great number of children left with out a father.
At its half yearly meeting in November 1918 the County Lodge recorded:
"its deep sense of thankfulness to Almighty God who has given us complete victory in this most just war, the Lodge desires also to record its gratitude to the brave men through whose instrumentality the victory has been gained, and its satisfaction that the lives so freely given for justice and for country have not been given in vain."
Once the war was over, the political crisis returned and in 1920 Ireland was partitioned. The County Grand Lodge welcomed and supported the formation of the Unionist Government of Northern Ireland but was gravely concerned at IRA attacks across the new border. The following letter was sent to every private Lodge in the County:-
ARMAGH, 23RD NOVEMBER, 1920
Dear Sir and Brother,
At the November Meeting of the Grand Orange Lodge of this County the following resolution was passed unanimously, and I was directed to forward a copy of it to you and all concerned for your information and immediate action as the matter is very urgent. The swearing in of Special Constables is already begun, and it is most important that our loyal Brethren should give no cause to the enemy to triumph by showing any doubt or hesitation at this crisis in our history.
"That we, the Officers and Members of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Armagh, wish to express our deep sense of gratitude to those among our Brethren who, during the present emergency, have proved that the old spirit of Orangeism is still alive among us, and who have secured our liberty during the last few months, and have achieved such marked success in protecting lives and property in this County.
"We welcome the opportunity which is now given us of ending once and for all in the Six Counties the lawlessness and sedition which has been urging our unhappy country towards the loss of so many loyal and innocent lives. And we call upon all loyal Orangemen to do to everything in their power - both by joining up themselves and urging others to do so also - to further the new Special Constabulary Scheme and make it a complete success. We suggest that those Brethren who, for physical reasons, cannot take part in active work should continue to supply hot refreshments at night for the men who are on patrol."
Please impress on the Members of your Lodge and on all Brethren and sympathisers who come into your sphere of influence that the offer now made to us is unique in the history of our Institution, and gives us the opportunity of establishing on a firm basis the principles to which we have pledged ourselves as Orangemen. Of any who hang back now it can be truly said that "he who is not with us is against us."
I wish to make quite clear three points to which some Brethren still seem to be in doubt:-
1. Our Special Constables in the
B and C Classes will be under their own officers, chosen by themselves; and,
while co-operating with the Police, will not be required to take any orders
from them or be in any sense under their command.
County Grand Master
As the IRA attacks continued the County Lodge wrote again to the private Lodges in 1921 as follows:-
Grand Orange Lodge of County Armagh
I herewith send you copy of the following Resolution which was unanimously passed at the half-yearly meeting of the Grand Orange Lodge of this County, held in Armagh to-day, namely:-
As the matters dealt with are urgent, I am directed to request you to bring the Resolution before the Members of your Lodge at the earliest possible date, and ask them to give their united and wholehearted support in having the Resolution carried out.
To the Worshipful Masters of the several Private Lodges.
Michael Farrell and other Nationalist historians have described Northern Ireland as "The Orange State", claiming that Northern Ireland was run by Orangemen in the interests of Orangemen, but the minute books of the County Lodge show that there were many disagreements between Orangemen and the Unionist Government.
The first disagreement was over the Education Act proposed by Lord Londonderry (the first Minister of Education). Before the 1920's Education had been largely provided by the churches. The expenses of providing school buildings and salaries of staff forced the churches into transferring schools to the state.
Lord Londonderry's Education Act, which became Law in 1925 incorporated the findings of the Lynn Committee into Education provision and paid all teachers salaries in elementary schools. Schools transferred from church control were known as four and two schools (management committee composed of four people nominated by the transferors and two by the local educational authority).
This Act was attacked by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches and Orange Order.
Firstly the managers of Catholic schools stated that "the only satisfactory system of education for Catholics in one wherein Catholic children are taught in Catholic schools by Catholic teachers under Catholic auspices." The Roman Catholic Church succeeded in getting another Education Act in 1930, which gave grants of 50% for building work for privately managed schools.
Protestant objections centred on the clergymen losing their control over teaching appointments to the 4 and 2 Committees and their demand for compulsory Bible instruction in state schools. The Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor stated in response:
"We cannot transfer any schools. We cannot accept simple Bible teaching. I wish to emphasize this point. Simple Bible teaching is based on the fundamental principle of Protestantism, the interpretation of sacred Scriptures by private judgement".
These Educational matters were first raised in the County Grand Lodge in 1922 in a letter from LOL 94 (Armagh District), which resulted in a resolution.
"That we the Grand Lodge of County Armagh do hereby enter our emphatic protest against the passing of the Education Bill now before the Northern Parliament, unless amended so as to secure the appointment of teachers of the same religion as that of the owners or trustees of the school, or of the majority of the children attending the school as in its present from it presents a serious menace to the Rights and Liberties of Protestants in the Six Counties and to the vital interests of the Protestant religion."
In May 1926 the County Lodge discussed a motion from Richhill District
"That we the members of Richhill District LOL No 2 desire to express our profound dissatisfaction with the Armagh Regional Committee in refusing to incorporate in the deed of transfer of Public Elementary Schools in this County to the Education Authority the clause providing that "Daily Biblical instruction should be given in these schools by the teaching staff." We regard the action of the Armagh Regional Committee as being indefensible in view of the Amending Bill to the Education Act passed in the Northern Parliament as the result of an Agreement between the Government and the Protestant churches in this area."
Another serious disagreement between the Orange Order and the Unionist Government was over the question of Orange Halls being required to pay rates. In every decade beginning in the 1930's and continuing to the present day, the minutes of the County meetings show anger that Orange Halls in Northern Ireland were being crippled with rates whilst Orange Halls in the Free State were classed as community halls and were rate-free.
By 1950 the relationship between the County Grand Lodge and the Unionist Government had become so strained that a special County meeting on 31st July passed the following resolution:
"We the officers and members of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge are of the opinion that the present policy of our Northern Ireland Government is a betrayal of the trust reposed in it by the Orangemen and Protestants of Northern Ireland."
So much for Farrell's exaggerated and insulting description of "the Orange state!"
At its half yearly meeting in May 1932 the County Lodge accepted the invitation of Tandragee District to hold the County 12th Demonstration at Poyntzpass. 1932 was a year of rising religious and political controversy and tension. De Valera's Fianna Fail (Soldiers of Destiny in English) had just been elected to government in the Free State and an economic war had begun with Britain. De Valera had signalled his intention to change the Free State Constitution and there were fears that the IRA would be revived. In 1931 Orange parades were attacked in County Monaghan and County Cavan and in December 1931 Cardinal MacRory declared: "The Protestant Church in Ireland, and the same is true of the Protestant church anywhere else, is not only not the rightful representative of the early Irish Church, but it is not even a part of the Church of Christ."
In June 1932 the Roman Catholic church held an International Eucharistic Conference in Dublin attended by the Papal Legate Cardinal Lauri who visited Newry amid scenes of religious fervour.
It was against this background that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Lord Craigavon delivered his famous speech at the demonstration field at Drumbanagher, near Poyntzpass, in which he said: "Ours is a Protestant government and I am an Orangeman."
This is nowadays so often quoted out of context and used to harm the Unionist cause and make propaganda for Sinn Fein.
In 1935 at the November County meeting the County Grand Master, Sir William Allen, "made touching reference to the death of Worshipful Bro. Lord Carson. The Secretary was instructed to forward a letter of sympathy to Lady Carson. The motion was passed in silence, the Brethren standing." Carson was given a State funeral in Belfast and his body lies beneath a tomb in Belfast Church of Ireland Cathedral.
On 7th December 1935 Lady Carson replied:
"Dear Mr Rock, it was most kind of you to send me the sympathy of the County of Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, and I do appreciate it so very much indeed. Ulster really has been wonderful to me, and I will never forget you all. Yours sincerely, Ruby Carson."
The minutes of the half yearly County meeting on 20th November 1939 do not mention the outbreak of the Second World War at all. It had started on 3rd September 1939. The war was first mentioned at the meeting in May 1940 when it was decided to have no County Demonstration during the war and it was left to each District to make their own decision as to how to mark the Boyne Anniversary during wartime conditions.
In 1943 the Northern Ireland Prime Minister John Andrews retired and was replaced by Lord Brookeborough. The County meeting passed the following resolution:-
"That the County Grand Lodge of County of Armagh in Lodge assembled desire to place on record its sincere admiration and appreciation of the services rendered by Brother The Right Honourable J. M. Andrews for his long and devoted services to Northern Ireland during his terms of office as Minister of Labour, of Finance, and as Prime Minister, and for his unswerving loyalty to the maintenance of our connection with Great Britain. We tender to him our gratitude for his devotion to duty during the times of stress and war and we feel that the tribute paid to Ulster by the British Prime Minister Mr Winston Churchill has been fostered by Mr Andrews by his integrity of purpose and honourable conduct during this great world war."
The tribute to Ulster referred to
is as follows:- "This was indeed a deadly moment
in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern
Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters or perish for ever
from the earth
. we left the Dublin Government to frolic with the
Germans and later with the Japanese representatives to their hearts' content."
In 1948 Sir William Allen died and the minutes record the following tribute:
"Before proceeding with the business of the County Grand Lodge, the D.C.G.M. referred to the death of the County Grand Master; and the Members standing in homage directed that a record be placed on the minutes of the County Grand Lodge:-
This County Grand Lodge mourns profoundly the loss sustained by the Institution at large, and especially by this County, through the lamented death by accident of our beloved County Grand Master Lt. Col. Sir William James Allen, K.B.E., D.S.O., M.P., who for 20 years presided with universal acceptance and acclaim over this Grand Lodge, and whose presence and conduct in the Chair, both in Lodge and at the County Demonstrations, brought to the discharge of the high duties of his Office the most happy and harmonious worth, dignity and beneficent influence in our proceedings. Not alone as Grand Master and leader do we mourn him: he had our affectionate regard as a tried and trusty friend of every member of the loyal institutions, and a staunch and loyal exponent and champion of the finest traditions of Protestantism in this, the County of his birth - of which it was his pride to speak as "the County of the Diamond" which he loved so well and served so devotedly to his life's end. He had his desire, so often expressed, that he might die in harness; and his knightly Christian example and noble work will remain treasured possession. May this memory keep his image bright to inspire and carry us onward to maintain and extend the cause in which he nobly lived, which it was his chief ambition to serve, and in which he has passed to his well-earned reward.
1948 - 1981
John Peel retired as County Grand Master in 1949 (died 1955) and the post was left vacant until R. J. Magowan of Portadown was elected in 1951.
In 1954 the property in Loughgall known as Sloan's House, where the first warrants were given out after the Battle of the Diamond, was purchased by the County Grand Lodge from the Jackson family. A small Orange Museum was created in the property - the rest being let to tenants.
The Armagh Guardian of July 7th 1966 contains the following article on the Orange Museum:
DOLLY'S BRAE FLAG FOR ORANGE MUSEUM
Latest item of historical interest to go into the Orange Museum at Sloan's House in the village of Loughgall is a faded flag which was carried at Dolly's Brae on July 12th 1849.
The flag has had a most varied existence from that day when the Orangemen of County Down defied their opponents and marched over the hill near Castlewellan, thus directing attention to the right of assembly and procession.
Mr. Robert E. Bell, Oakland, California, U.S.A., is the person to whom Orangeism in Ireland is indebted for the return of this emblem to the land of its birth.
When Rev. Professor David Esler of Malone Presbyterian church, Belfast, was in America a few years ago on the staff of the Presbyterian Seminary, San Anselmo, California, he got in touch with Mr Bell, who inquired about the Orange Order in Ireland and so it came about that the flag was despatched to Mr H.A. Cushnie, Brownlow House ,Lurgan.
One of Mr Bell's aunts gave him the flag on which is printed: 410 Rathfriland. Also printed on it is a compass and square and the words: Vide, Aude, Tace (See, Dare and be Silent).
Sometimes the minutes record a "less serious" side to the Order. For instance in 1959 a Lodge in Scarva had invited Sir George Clarke, Grand Master of Ireland, to the installation of their officers. However, this ceremony took place in November and not January as is the rule, which prompted an inquiry by a member of the County Lodge "Did he install the Officers ten months late or two months early?"
In 1962, fifty years after the signing of the Ulster Covenant, a Jubilee Parade was held to the Balmoral Show grounds in Belfast. The County Grand Lodge of Armagh accepted the invitation of Belfast County and all Districts attended the mammoth parade on September 29th 1962. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland unfurled the largest Union Jack ever made at the Covenant Jubilee (last time flown at Carson's rallies). Before the parade the County Lodge organised a special service at St Marks Church in Armagh.
In 1964 the County Lodge opposed the Unionist Government's plans put forward by Home Affairs Minister William Craig to build a new city in the County. The following resolution was passed:-
"That this meeting of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge protests in the strongest possible manner at the proposed development of a new City between Portadown and Lurgan, and we are unanimously convinced that it will be detrimental to the strong Orange interest in this County, and will eventually be responsible for over-throwing the Unionist representation in the Imperial Parliament.
We would point out that the Protestant population majority in this County is approximately 5000 and no doubt this will be considerably reduced once the project envisaged by the Government has become a reality. Thus we will have a strong Nationalist area between two loyal towns.
We respectfully call on the Government to cease forthwith with its plans for the New City and allow Portadown and Lurgan to extend their existing boundaries and develop according to proper standards of planning."
No need to record what happened next.
The County minutes record more quarrels with the Unionist Government over schools when in the 1960's small rural schools were closed. The minutes for 1964 record:
"We, the Officers and members of County Armagh Grand Lodge, protest in the strongest possible manner to the closing of the following schools in this County, viz:-
Cladymore, Madden, Temple, Cormeen and Middletown. It is true to state that these schools have been neglected by the County Armagh Education Committee for many years, and allowed to remain below the standard required in the regulations, so that eventually the committee would be in a position to formulate a re-grouping scheme. No doubt these schools have been the central point of education for many years and because they have served a useful purpose, the local people are determined, at all costs, to retain them.
The closing of small Protestant schools throughout the County would be a disastrous and retrograde step and we respectfully implore the Minister of Education to stop its disruptive policy of concentrating on larger schools at the expense of the smaller ones.
The loyalists have suffered enough frustration at the hands of our Unionist Government without incurring more disfavour."
In 1965 the new Prime Minister Capt Terrence O'Neill and his wife visited Sloan's House and he and his wife were shown over the museum by the County Officers and Loughgall District Officers.
Also in 1965 worries were expressed about the Ecumenical Movement. A letter from Bessbrook District was read at the County meeting:-
"The ecumenical movement is of an overwhelming one-sided nature and our members are alarmed at the consequences if this Romeward trend were to continue. Our church leaders are bending over backwards to please their Roman counterparts with blind campaigns of unity. To many of our church leaders Protestantism is a dirty word, and anyone who sticks rigidly to the old principles of the Reformation, is branded a bigot.
Whilst we believe that a more friendly spirit is essential in our mixed community, we must stress that on issues relative to our Religious Faiths, a strong stand must be taken."
In 1966 worries were expressed at the County meetings about plans by Republicans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rebellion in Dublin - specifically a parade in Armagh at which a large number of Tricolours were flown. In retrospect, knowing what was to start in 1969 and continue for 30 years, could these celebrations of the Rebellion have re-kindled the spirit of militant Nationalism and contributed to the Civil Rights movement and the re-emergence of the IRA?
In 1968 the County Grand Master, R. J. Magowan, died and a tribute was given at the County meeting by the Deputy County Grand Master Joseph Twyble:
"Worshipful Brother Twyble expressed the great sense of loss felt by all the Brethren at the passing of our highly esteemed County Grand Master. Brother Magowan was an outstanding citizen and a leader of great ability. Brother Twyble recalled the many offices in public life, which Brother Magowen had held, including Lord Mayor and Freeman of the Borough of Portadown also Chairman of the Portadown and Banbridge Water Board. In the Orange Institution he held the offices of Deputy Grand Master of Ireland, County Grand Master of this County for 17 years, Worshipful Deputy Master of Portadown District and Worshipful Master of LOL 322 for many years. He was pleased to hear of the purchase of Bessbrook Town Hall by Bessbrook District and the Museum in Loughgall was a monument to his driving force."
Also in 1968 the County Lodge supported the actions of Home Affairs Minister William Craig and the R.U.C. in seeking to control Civil Rights marches. In 1969 the present "troubles" began with the Hunt Report recommending the ending of the 'B' Special Constabulary. The IRA re-emerged with the murder of 3 Scottish soldiers who accepted an invitation to a party in a house in North Belfast, only to be murdered. The minute books record that "resolutions were received from Tandragee, Armagh and Lurgan Districts expressing dissatisfaction with the Hunt Report, in particular matters concerning R.U.C. uniforms and the phasing-out of the 'B' Specials to be replaced by the unknown Ulster Defence Regiment.
The County were agreed that no change would take place in R.U.C. uniforms without the consent of the Rank and File of the R.U.C. with regard to the "B Specials", the fact that opposition forces were not now welcoming the new Defence Regiment spoke for itself and members were satisfied that the security of the Province would be stronger than ever.
Knowing what was about to happen to the security of the Province in the next 30 years it is hard to read this extract from the minutes without feeling that many members of the County suffered from a great degree of complacency. However, in their defence, they did not have a crystal ball and could not see into the future. Also they were constantly re-assured by their unionist representatives.
As trouble continued and the IRA Campaign developed fears were expressed at the County meeting that the Twelfth demonstration in 1969 might be banned. In 1970 the Unionist Government did in fact impose a 6 months ban on all parades (not including the 12th). At the County Lodge meeting "the County Grand Secretary produced forms which he had received from Tandragee District incorporating the following statement:-
'we the undersigned members of the above Lodge being aggrieved at the present ban on parades will not tolerate any ban on traditional loyalist parades. We also request the Government to take all necessary steps immediately to restore Law and Order in Northern Ireland.' These forms had been signed by all private Lodge members in Tandragee District. As the ban referred to had now been lifted there was no further action taken."
Tension continued to mount and at the field in Portadown on 12th in 1971 some Orangemen had disrupted proceedings on the platform by shouting and demonstrating their strong feelings. The District Master of Portadown, Wor. Bro. Herbert Whitten complained about the conduct of four brethren and in a special hearing two members were suspended and two were expelled from the Institution. Also in 1971 the County discussed a resolution from Diamond Memorial LOL (Loughgall District):-
"We the Loyal Sons of Ulster have pledged ourselves to maintain our constitutional position as an integral part of Great Britain at all costs. As the Republican forces increase their bombings and shootings in an all-out bid to achieve a United Ireland against the wishes of the majority and viewing with impunity the Hunt Report, disarming the R.U.C. and disbanding the trusted 'B' Specials, our only alternative would be to enlist a local defence force comprising of Orange Brethren to defend our property and homes."
Tandragee District wrote to request that Grand Lodge appoint a Public Relations Officer to appear on television to defend the institution, and Killylea True Blues LOL 630A sent a resolution to the County meeting which condemned:-
"The refusal of membership to the UDR of able bodied loyal men with 20 years of faithful service in the Ulster Special Constabulary. The apparent slight on these men's character is preventing many Loyalists from applying for membership of the UDR. The Lodge also deplored that men with experience and knowledge of firearms were prevented from carrying arms in the RUC Reserve and had to carry out duties unarmed along with inexperienced young Constables."
In 1972 Prime Minister Brian Faulkner again banned all parades for a time, much to the disgust of the Order, but then Edward Heath, British Prime Minister decided to abolish the Northern Ireland Parliament and institute a system of Direct Rule by Secretaries of State.
At the May meeting the County Secretary read a letter from Grand Lodge:-
"We unreservedly condemn the suspension of parliamentary democracy in Northern Ireland as a surrender to violence and civil disorder. We therefore demand the full restoration of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the re-introduction of British standards of democratic legislative procedures."
Also in 1972 the first parade in Portadown to be re-routed occurred when a traditional Junior Orange procession from Corcraine Orange Hall to Carleton Street had been turned on the orders of the R.U.C. area commander. Wor. Bro. Herbert Whitten Worshipful District Master of Portadown District had been given no reason for this decision. The County noted that this decision had broken an agreement with the authorities that there should be discussion with the various organising bodies of parades if it was considered necessary to re-route. The County Lodge was also shocked to learn that notice had been given to the R.U.C. by the Armagh Republican Clubs of their intention to parade through the City in view of the fact that:
1. Republican Clubs are banned organisations.
At the November meeting in 1972 notice was given that a new newspaper - "the Orange Standard" - would start monthly publication on January 1973.
Also in 1972 the County was worried that unionist unity had been fractured and was informed that Grand Lodge had sent a telegram to Messrs Faulkner, Paisley and Craig "Immediate personal initiative and intervention demanded by you jointly - reference - formula for unity to prevent confrontation and possible militant consequences."
In 1972 Wor. Brother Twyble resigned as County Grand Master and Brother J. A.(Sandy) Anderson was elected.
In 1973 a referendum, known as the "Border Poll" was held. The County Grand Lodge contributed to a poster campaign to encourage a large turnout of voters.
1973 BORDER POLL
DEFEND THE CROWN AND CONSTITUTION
VOTE FOR YOUR BRITISH HERITAGE
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
1974 was another tension-filled year with the formation of the "UUUC" - United Ulster Unionist Council, the election of Brother Harold McCusker as MP for County Armagh, and the Ulster Workers' Council Strike which brought down the power-sharing Executive headed by Brian Faulkner on the issue of a Council of Ireland.
One member of the County Lodge spoke of the work of the UUUC Committee in the County, which had decided to support the Loyalist Strike, and gave details on various actions taken by the committee to alleviate hardship to the farming community as a consequence of the strike. The brethren were asked to spread the information in their districts.
Then in 1975 came a terrible blow to the Orange Order in County Armagh - the IRA attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall. It is best to quote the relevant portion of the minute book in full:-
9th September 1975
"An emergency meeting of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge was held in Armagh Orange Hall on Tuesday 9th September 1975 at 3:00pm.
Rt. Worshipful Brother Joseph A. Anderson J. P. County Grand Master occupied the chair assisted in the Deputy chair by Worshipful Brother W. C. Moody M.B.E. J. P, Deputy County Grand Master.
The meeting was opened with prayer by Brother Rev. T. R. B. Taylor and Scripture reading by Brother Rev. W. S. Martin.
The circular concerning the meeting was read by the County Grand Secretary.
The County Grand Master stated that this emergency meeting had been called following the massacre of the five of our Brethren in Tullyvallen Orange Hall and other Brethren from Newtownhamilton and Keady.
Rt. Worshipful Brother Anderson spoke of the great standing of all these Brethren in our Institution. Brother James McKee J.P. Worshipful Master LOL 630 and also Deputy District Master of Newtownhamilton District was a man highly respected by all with whom he came in contact. He had been welcomed to the County Grand Lodge for the first time in May of this year. The County Grand Master paid tribute to the work of Brother McKee in Tullyvallen Lodge and silver band. His passing will be a severe loss to the area.
Bro. Nevin McConnell Secretary LOL 630 had put in a tremendous amount of work in the Lodge and in Newtownhamilton District, and he will be remembered as an industrious man in all his activities.
Brother John Johnston Chaplain LOL 630 was a man of over eighty years of age. He lived in a strong Republican area but had always stood as a true Orangeman and loyalist.
Brother Ronald McKee LOL 630 son of Brother James McKee J.P. was following in his father's footsteps in the Lodge and Band where he had been leader of the Band. Brother Ronnie had been brutally shot whilst trying to escape through a window.
Brother William George Herron was a faithful and devoted member of LOL 630 and had been such for a long number of years.
The only crime these men had committed was their membership of the Orange Institution. The consequences of the foul act committed at Tullyvallen Orange Hall will be felt in this County Grand Lodge for a very long time. Words cannot express the feelings of our hearts at this time of deep sorrow.
Another member of this Lodge Brother William Meeklim had set up a very successful business in Newtownhamilton and was much loved and respected by people in the area. The details of his torture and murder were abhorrent.
Rt. Worshipful Brother Anderson referred
to the wounded members of the Lodge who were still in hospital and expressed
the hope that they would have a speedy and complete recovery from their injuries.
Brother Anderson paid tribute to the member of the Lodge, also a member of the
RUC who had acted so courageously in firing at the IRA murderers and indeed
his action averted what might have been an even greater tragedy.
Also Mr Bertie Frazer of Newtownhamilton who had been murdered when leaving his farmyard at Ballymoyer. Mr Frazer was a good family man who served Ulster in the U.D.R.
Worshipful Brother Anderson stated that all these murders highlighted the obvious lack of security in the South Armagh area and despite the fact of a deputation to the Secretary of State lead by Brother Harold McCusker M.P. no effort was made by Mr Rees to have security tightened. He paid tribute to Brother McCusker for his work. Rt. Worshipful Brother Anderson extended the sincere sympathy of the County Grand Lodge to the families relations and friends of all those who had been killed.
Worshipful Brother W. C. Moody M.B.E. J.P. Deputy County Grand Master said that the County Grand Master had spoken for all present and congratulated him on the leadership he had given over this difficult time.
The Brethren assembled stood to order in silence as a mark of respect, and the Obituary prayer was read by Brother Rev. Johns.
As if Tullyvallen was not bad enough, the following year (1976) brought another IRA massacre at Kingsmills, Bessbrook district.
The minutes record:
"Rt. Worshipful Brother Anderson stated that he found words difficult to find to express County Grand Lodge abhorrence of the murders of our brethren and friends from Bessbrook and Glenanne who were callously shot down returning from their days work. He extended sympathy to the wives and families of all in that area."
In 1978 after spending 2 years researching the possibility, Brother Harold McCusker MP reported to the County Lodge that he could not proceed with a proposal to form an Orange Credit Union as it would have to be linked to the Irish League of Credit Unions and its money invested in Dublin. We should note that Orange Credit Unions were eventually formed, starting in 1989 with the Orchard Credit Union.
Unfortunately I cannot end this article in 1981 with up-beat news. A special County meeting was called for 20th February 1981 to consider the murders of Sir Norman Stronge and his son James Stronge by the IRA and the burning of Tynan Abbey.
The County Grand Master, Brother J.A. Anderson paid tribute to Brother Rt. Honourable Sir Norman Stronge.
"He had been speaker of the Parliament at Stormont for a long number of years and had always been a staunch unionist and loyal Orange and Black man.
The County Grand Master had known him for 28 years. Sir Norman was a highly respected member of the community. We could not afford to lose people of such calibre.
He compared the loss to the Institution to the Queen losing her cousin, Lord Mountbatten, in the Eire murder, or the Prime Minister's loss of Airey Neave. He regretted the loss of both father and son and the destruction of Tynan Abbey."
A long discussion on security followed.
Two faults, which contributed to the murders, were identified:-
No criticism could be attributed to the R.U.C. and R.U.C.R. who came on the scene at Tynan Abbey. Overall criticism could be levelled at the army officers who seem to give border security a low priority.
It was decided to send a deputation to see the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in London.
Also in 1981 Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein's Director of Publicity stated at his party's annual conference "Who here really believes that we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if with a ballot box in this hand and an Armalite in this hand we take power in Ireland?"
Was a new phase in the terror campaign about to begin?
WHAT ARE YOU?
Are you a loyal Orangeman and worthy
of the name
Of William Prince of Orange, immortal honoured fame?
What is your daily practice, which is the part you play?
Do you respond to duties' call and tread the narrow way?
Was it through love and loyalty that
you a stranger came
To cross the rugged mountains in search of Jordan's plain?
Where the waters stood divided and the chosen found a way
Was it to aid such principles you joined the grand array?
Was it for sake of earthly gain you
joined the glorious throng
Of William Prince of Orange who conquered at the Boyne?
Do you accept the righteous robe that made all nations free
And care not for the principles that gained such liberty?
Do you uphold the principles for
which our fathers died,
Or when the enemy is in view are you the one to hide?
Have you attained the golden steps, Faith, Hope, and Charity,
Or do you stand at Rome's command to lap and bend the knee?
These are simple questions, to each
your answer give
The world will prove it's value by the life you try to live
If you're a would-be Orangeman then choose some other sect,
But if a worthy Orangeman you're one of the Elect.
© County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge 2008
Design and Development by Jim Reaney