This book represents a natural outgrowth from research I conducted earlier on the Irish in nineteenth-century Cumbria. While pursuing what was then doctoral work I found myself increasingly interested in an under-studied and relatively elusive element of the Irish Diaspora. I refer to Irish Protestant migrants: those who left the northern heartlands of Ulster for new lives in the industrial north and Scotland. As I conducted my research, I repeatedly noticed two things: first, that Protestants came to the fore as a substantial element of the migration from Ireland to industrial Cumbria; and, secondly, that they brought with them a distinctive organisation which became both culturally ingrained and longliving. That organisation was the Orange Order.
The movement of people to Cumbria looked quite unlike the migrations which dominated the historiography to that point. Famine-fleeing and primarily Catholic victims of rural hardship these migrants to Cumbria most assuredly were not. Catholics were among their number, and they came into the region in significant proportions, but the majority of the movement to the Lake Counties came after the Famine and a large and robust minority was Protestant. Nor were they all poor and unskilled; they were not by any means the archetypal outcasts. Moreover, whether they were Catholics or not, they came primarily from Ulster. They counted among their number skilled men and miners, clerks and clerics, and the odd member of the middle class. Each of these groups further diluted the usual association of Irish migrants with an undifferentiated lack of skill and an unremitting poverty. Yet the groups I studied in Cumbria had almost entirely escaped the historian's gaze.
As I drew my earlier research on Cumbria to a close a key gap remained open and I fully expected it to remain that way. The lacuna was one derived from an apparent absence of detailed manuscript source material on the Orange dimension of this movement from Ireland. The Orange Order was central to the cultural, social and political lives of many of the Irish Protestants who made their way to the industrial north and Scotland. This zealous ultra-Protestant organisation was an important and sometimes turbulent influence upon the communal life of Cumbria, Lancashire and elsewhere. But little could be written about it.