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The Orange Order and the border

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

David Fitzpatrick
Department of Modern History, Trinity College Dublin
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Relief was the dominant response of northern loyalists and Orangemen to the tripartite agreement of December 1925, which confirmed the border as defined in 1920. A year later, when the Prime Minister visited Newry to preside over the Grand Orange Lodge of County Down, he and ‘Lady Craig were made the recipients of very handsome presents from the Loyalists and Orangemen of Newry and District in recognition of valuable services in connection with the settlement of the Boundary question’. The agreement promised to end fourteen years of uncertainty, during which the frontier of loyal Ireland had contracted to a point where it seemed barely defensible. Under relentless pressure from successive governments as well as nationalists, the opponents of Irish self-government had effectively abandoned hope for the three southern provinces in 1911, and for the three Ulster counties with large Catholic majorities in 1916. The survival of the Irish Free State remained in doubt until 1923, and the incredibly vague terms for the proposed boundary commission created justifiable fear among loyalists that further attempts would be made to cripple the northern state by massive territorial transfers. Craig’s great success, apart from stifling the northern civil war in June 1922, was to hold the line of the six counties until Cosgrave’s government acknowledged the fait accompli.

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Copyright © Irish Historical Studies Publications Ltd 2002

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1 County Down Grand Orange Lodge, Annual Reports, minutes for 11 Nov. 1926, p. 16 (Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (henceforth G.O.L.I.) Archives, House of Orange, Belfast). Unless otherwise stated, all cited manuscript and rare printed sources (including the cited reports of Grand Orange Lodges printed for internal circulation), were consulted at the House of Orange. For permission to examine these documents, and for their helpful advice, I am grateful to Messrs George Patton (Executive Officer), Cecil Kilpatrick (Archivist) and David Cargo (Assistant Archivist).

2 Northern Standard, 9 Aug. 1913, quoted in Livingstone, Peadar, The Monaghan story: a documented history of the County Monaghan from the earliest times to 1976 (Enniskillen, 1980), pp 3667Google Scholar.

3 Orange Standard (Birmingham), i, no. 11 (Nov. 1914), p. 171.

4 For police returns of membership of the U.V.F. on 31 May 1914 see Choille, Breandán Mac Giolla (ed.), Chief Secretary’s Office: intelligence notes, 1913–16 (Dublin, 1966), p. 100Google Scholar. By comparison with the non-Catholic population recorded in the Census of Ireland for 1911, the percentage in each county belonging to the U.V.F. is as follows: Cavan, 20.5;Tyrone, 16.1; Londonderry, 12.3; Monaghan, 12.1; Armagh, 11.6; Fermanagh, 11.1; Donegal, 9.0; Down, 8.1; Antrim, 7.8; Belfast, 7.6.

5 Orr, Philip, The road to the Somme: men of the Ulster Division tell their story (Belfast, 1987), p. 44Google Scholar.

6 The non-Catholic percentage of the population of each Ulster county in 1911 was as follows: Cavan, 18.5; Donegal, 21.1; Monaghan, 25.3; Londonderry (County Borough), 43.8; Fermanagh, 43.8; Tyrone, 44.6; Armagh, 54.7; Londonderry (County), 58.5; Down, 68.4; Belfast (County Borough), 75.9; Antrim, 79.5. See Vaughan, W.E. and Fitzpatrick, A. J. (eds), Irish historical statistics: population, 1821–1971 (Dublin, 1978), pp 678Google Scholar.

7 Reports of the proceedings of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, at the general half-yearly meeting, minutes for 6 Dec. 1911, pp 26–7.

8 Ibid., p.27.

9 The decisions to dissolve the Grand Lodges of King’s County (Offaly) and Longford were taken on 11 June 1913 and 15 Dec. 1915 respectively, and the last returns for Cork were approved on 15 Dec. 1915 (ibid.). On 12 June 1918 the Cork Grand Lodge had been suspended indefinitely ‘on account of war’ (G.O.L.I., Central Committee, MS minutes of proceedings (1884-1927)).

10 Sir James Stronge to Hugh de Fellenberg Montgomery, quoted without date in Tunney, John, ‘The Marquis, the Reverend, the Grand Master and the Major: Protestant politics in Donegal, 1868–1933’ in Nolan, William, Ronayne, Liam and Dunlevy, Máiréad (eds), Donegal, history and society: interdisciplinary essays on the history of an Irish county (Dublin, 1995), p. 690Google Scholar.

11 G.O.L.L, Reports, 14 June 1916, p. 11. This resolution was moved by Michael Knight, Grand Master of Monaghan.

12 Ibid., 13Dec.l916, pp32, 44.

13 G.O.L.I, Reports, 9 June 1920, p. 8; County Antrim G.O.L., Annual Reports, minutes for 20 May 1920, p. 8; 17 Nov. 1920, p. 13.

14 The Grand Lodge adopted a resolution from Armagh, calling ‘upon all loyal Orangemen to do everything in their power — both by joining up themselves and urging others to do so — to further the new Special Constabulary Scheme’ (G.O.L.I., Reports, 15 Dec. 1920, p. 23).

15 Ibid., 14 Dec. 1921, p. 48.

16 Ibid., pp 7, 12, 32. For a report on the occupation of this building see Diarmuid O’Hegarty (Secretary, Provisional Government) to Peter Ennis (Chief of Republican Police), с 12 Apr. 1922 (N.A.I., Home Affairs (Justice) files, H 5/63).

17 Orange, Black and Loyalist Defence Association (henceforth O.B.L.D.A.), MS minutes of proceedings (1921-4; 1924–9), Executive Committee, 11 Nov. 1921, 2 Dec. 1921, 9 Dec. 1921 (G.O.L.I.).

18 Printed circular in G.O.L.I., Central Committee, minutes, 17 Mar. 1922; G.O.L.I., Reports, 13 Dec. 1922, p. 28.

19 G.O.L.I., Reports, 13 Dec. 1922, p. 28. This report omitted all reference to military organisation, observing enigmatically that ‘there may be some doubts as to the objects of this Association’.

20 O.B.L.D.A., minutes, Executive Committee, 9 Dec. 1921.

21 Ibid., 21 June 1922. Solly-Flood also appealed for information, ‘so that he could at least place the leaders in internment camps or ships’, and received ‘a hearty vote of thanks’.

22 G.O.L.L, Finance Committee, MS minutes of proceedings (1922-40), 7 Feb. 1923, 7 Mar. 1923. The Old Town Hall in Victoria Street had also served as headquarters for the Ulster Volunteer Force.

23 The murders at Altnaveigh are commemorated in the banner of L.O.L. 37, Newry No. 9 District (County Down), which depicts the victims’ houses over an inscription ‘In memory of our friends who died because of their faith, 17th. June 1922’: see Jarman, Neil, Displaying faith: Orange, Green and trade union banners in Northern Ireland (Belfast, 1999), p. 47Google Scholar. For this and other references I am much indebted to Jane Leonard, Ulster Museum, Belfast.

24 W. H. H. Lyons, Grand Master, telegram to Northern Ireland cabinet, 10 Feb. 1922, in G.O.L.I., Central Committee, minutes, 17 Mar. 1922; G.O.L.I., Reports, 28 June 1922, p. 6; Kennedy, Dennis, The widening gulf: northern attitudes to the independent Irish state, 1919–49 (Belfast, 1988), pp 735Google Scholar. The Grand Master was correct in his supposition that the forty kidnapped unionists were detained with the connivance of ‘the so-called Provisional Government of Southern Ireland’: see Tim Coogan, Pat, Michael Collins: a biography (London, 1991 ed.), pp 344-7Google Scholar.

25 G.O.L.I., Finance Committee, minutes, 7 Mar. 1923; G.O.L.I., Reports, 1922–3.

26 G.O.L.I., Reports, 13 Dec. 1922, p. 22.

27 The Grand Lodge resolved that ‘we recognise that there is no alternative to the proposed Grand Lodge for the Free State’, though the proposal had provoked ‘considerable discussion’ in the Central Committee. In June 1923 Monaghan sought an adjournment of the issue; three months later Cavan intimated ‘that this Grand Lodge would expect to work under Grand Lodge of Ireland as formerly’; and by December Monaghan ‘had decided not to proceed with the formation of a Grand Lodge for the Free State’ but to resume its adherence to the Grand Lodge in Belfast (G.O.L.I., Reports, 13 Dec. 1922, p. 22; 12 Dec. 1923, p. 24; G.O.L.I., Central Committee, minutes, 12 Dec. 1922, 23 June 1923, 3 Oct. 1923, 11 Dec. 1923).

28 G.O.L.L, Reports, 12 Dec. 1923, pp 24–5; G.O.L.I., Laws and ordinances of the Orange Institution of Ireland (1913 ed.); Constitutions, laws and ordinances of the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland (1924 ed.). Likewise, the Orangeman’s ‘Particular Qualifications’ no longer required maintenance of ‘the Laws and Constitution of the United Kingdom’, but only of ‘the Realm’.

29 G.O.L.I., Reports, 8 Sept. 1948, pp 35–6.

30 Ibid., 13 Dec. 1939, p. 29; 14 Dec. 1949, p. 34; 14 June 1950, pp 15–16; 13 Dec. 1950, p. 27.

31 Albert Ellis (Grand Secretary, Donegal G.O.L.) to Harry Burge (Grand Secretary, G.O.L.I.), 27 Dec. 1962 (G.O.L.I.).

32 The words ‘God save the queen’ were used in lodge meetings, but not in public until 1967, when a county referendum approved the latter practice by 106 votes to 81: Alexander Elliott (Grand Secretary, Donegal G.O.L.) to Walter Williams (Grand Secretary, G.O.L.I.), 15 Nov. 1965, 7 Dec. 1967 (G.O.L.I.).

33 G.O.L.I., Reports, 12 Dec. 1923, p. 23.

34 George Griffin (Coohor, Tinahely) to W. N. Cross (Joint Hon. Sec, O.B.L.D.A.), 3 June 1924 (O.B.L.D.A., minutes, Executive Committee, 16 Jan. 1924, 7 Mar. 1924, 21 May 1924).

35 Irish Folklore Archive (henceforth I.F.A.), University College Dublin, MS 1574, ff 522–3 (testimony recorded by James Delaney, c. Oct. 1960). Apart from the quoted anecdote, in which a Kilkenny farmer (Michael Moore) described ‘Young’ Carty’s visit to a cousin in Cavan, these tales emanated from Longford.

36 Resolution from Portadown district (G.O.L.I., Reports, 18 Dec. 1918, p. 41).

37 Ibid., 15 Dec.l920, p.24.

38 O.B.L.D.A., minutes, Executive Committee, 1928–9; list of loans (with minutes), 1924–8. Most applications for grants and loans before 1924 were refused for lack of funds.

39 G.O.L.I., Reports, 14 Dec. 1927, p. 42.

40 County Down G.O.L., Annual Reports, 11 May 1933, pp 5–6; G.O.L.I., Reports, 14 Dec. 1938, pp 26, 29.

41 G.O.L.I., Reports, 14 Dec. 1921, p. 30. On 30 December 1921 the O.B.L.D.A. had specified ‘anti-boycotting’ as an object for funding (G.O.L.I., Central Committee, minutes, 17 Mar. 1922).

42 ’If found necessary’, a deputation was to wait upon each firm (O.B.L.D.A., minutes, Unemployment and Boycott Committee, 15 Nov. 1921).

43 O.B.L.D.A., minutes, Standing Committee, 29 Dec. 1921. For Prescott-Decie’s robust defence, following his resignation as a Divisional Commissioner (R.I.C.), of ‘counter-reprisals... done under my directions’ see Armagh Guardian, 23 Sept. 1921.

44 G.O.L.I., Central Committee, minutes, 17 Mar. 1922; G.O.L.I., Reports, 28 June 1922, p. 12.

45 Cumberland True Blues L.O.L. 155, minutes of proceedings (1924-38), 15 Oct. 1924 (G.O.L.I.).

46 Ibid., 8 Jan. 1930.

47 Information kindly supplied by Jane Leonard and Gordon Lucy. For this and other observations I am grateful to the participants in the conference on ‘Living with the border, 1922–5’ held at the Ulster Museum on 7–8 November 2000, at which a version of this article was presented.

48 Extract from Belfast News-Letter, 31 May 1923, in G.O.L.I., Reports, June 1923, pp 12–13. When urged by the New South Wales G.O.L. to organise a special appeal to rebuild the obelisk, the Central Committee resolved that ‘it would be useless to think of replacing the monument and to thank the Grand Lodge of New South Wales for the kindly thought’ (G.O.L.I., Central Committee, minutes, 3 Oct. 1923).

49 Earnán de Blaghd (Minister for Local Government) to Kevin O’Higgins (Minister for Home Affairs), 27 June 1923; Eamon Ó Cugáin (Assistant Commissioner, Civic Guard) to Éinrí O Frighil (Secretary, Department of Home Affairs), 20 July 1923 (enclosing superintendent’s report) (N.A.I., Home Affairs files, H 75/15).

50 Brady, Conor, Guardians of the peace (Dublin, 1974), pp 7980Google Scholar.

51 Northern Standard (Monaghan), 20 July 1923, 18 July 1924, quoted in Livingstone, Monaghan story, pp 394, 419, 421. Haslett was the county’s Deputy Grand Master, and Martin represented Monaghan on the Grand Committee of the G.O.L.I.

52 I am informed by Gordon Lucy that Twelfth processions were resumed in Cavan (incorporating Leitrim brethren) in 1924, followed by Donegal in 1925.

53 L.O.L. 155, minutes, 15 June 1928, 3 July 1929, 10 June 1931 (G.O.L.I.).

54 I.F. A., MS 1404, ff. 492–1 (testimony of Gus Martin, citing Thomas Kiernan from Newtowngore, recorded by Conall Ó Céirin, 24 Mar. 1955).

55 Livingstone, Monaghan story, p. 421; County Monaghan G.O.L., MS minutes of proceedings (1932--42; 1943–60), incorporating extract from minutes of L.O.L. 272, 13 July 1931 (G.O.L.I.).

56 The occasion of this outrage was a demonstration arranged by the Grand Black Chapter for 11 August 1931, in commemoration of Jacobite defeats in Derry and Newtownbutler in 1689 (Livingstone, Monaghan story, p. 422).

57 County Monaghan G.O.L., minutes, 17 May 1932, 28 June 1932 (G.O.L.I.). The usual church services were to be held, but without processions or regalia.

58 L.O.L. 155, minutes, 18 May 1932 (ibid.). The lodge survived.

59 The non-Catholic percentages of the censal population in 1926 (and 1936) were 21.5 (18.9) in Monaghan; 18.1 (16.4) in Donegal; and 15.9 (14.5) in Cavan: see Vaughan & Fitzpatrick (eds), Irish historical statistics, pp 67–8. The number of deputies elected for each county between 1923 and 1948 was as follows: Monaghan, 3; Cavan, 4; Donegal, 8 (7, for two constituencies, from 1937). See Walker, B. M. (ed.), Parliamentary election results in Ireland, 1918–92 (Dublin & Belfast, 1992), pp 108-74Google Scholar. Individual electoral records were abstracted from the same work.

60 Irish Freemasons’ calendar and directory for the year A.D. 1914 (Dublin, 1914), pp 1778Google Scholar. Myles’s brethren in the Londonderry Chapter (no. 13) of Prince Masons of Ireland included three members of the G.O.L.I.: Major Charles F. Falls, Maurice С Hime, headmaster of Foyle College, Derry (Deputy Grand Masters), and the bishop of Derry, Dr George Chadwick (Grand Chaplain). Myles was among those kidnapped in February 1922 (see above, p. 57).

61 The names and addresses of all members of G.O.L.I., including County Grand Officers, appear annually in G.O.L.I., Reports.

62 County Monaghan G.O.L., minutes, 14 Nov. 1939 (G.O.L.I.).

63 L.O.L. 155, minutes, 11 May 1927 (ibid.); County Monaghan G.O.L., minutes, incorporating extract from minutes of L.O.L. 272, 2 May 1932 (ibid.).

64 Address on the history of Monaghan Protestantism by Michael Knight, in County Monaghan G.O.L., minutes, 12 Nov. 1940 (ibid.).

65 Ibid., 19 May 1936. Like Cole in Cavan, Knight was succeeded as County Grand Master by his son. Three times a candidate for North Monaghan in the House of Commons, he was last defeated, in December 1918, by Ernest Blythe. For Knight’s wide-ranging contribution to politics and local administration see Livingstone, Monaghan story, pp 284, 362–4, 377, 406, 546.

66 Orange Standard, ii, no. 21 (Sept. 1915), p. 130. MacDonald’s novel graphically depicts the plight of Orangemen in Monaghan during the turmoil of 1920–22, and their ambivalent relationship with brethren north of the border.

67 County Monaghan G.O.L., minutes, 12 Nov. 1940 (G.O.L.I.).

68 Ibid., 5 Oct. 1932.

69 Ibid., 14 Nov. 1932.

70 These figures are based on county dues returned in G.O.L.I., Reports, Dec. 1922.

71 MS enumeration of lodges by county, c. 1964 (G.O.L.I.). About eight east Donegal lodges were affiliated with the City of Londonderry G.O.L. Their combined membership probably exceeded that of the lodges affiliated with County Donegal G.O.L.

72 County Monaghan G.O.L., minutes, 21 May 1935 (G.O.L.I.).

73 All county returns of resignations confirmed by G.O.L.I, were normally listed in the printed half-yearly reports for December. My abstract indicates that recorded resignations from lodges in the three counties amounted to 33 between 1851 and 1917, and 11 between 1930 and 1975.

74 The percentage ratio of brethren returned by County G.O.L.s in 1965, to the censal population of non-Catholics in each Ulster county in 1961, was as follows: Fermanagh, 14.9; Tyrone, 12.7; Armagh, 11.5; Cavan, 10.8; Londonderry (county and city), 10.6; Monaghan, 10.4; Antrim, 6.5; Down, 5.4; Belfast, 4.7; Donegal, 2.2 (excluding lodges affiliated with the City of Londonderry G.O.L.: see above, n. 71).

75 Part of that decline is presumably attributable to the ageing profile of the southern Protestant population, which exacerbated the problem of finding younger recruits.

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