The Loyal Orange Institution (or Orange Order as it is better known) is the largest Protestant organisation in the world and has roots in England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, Ghana, Togo, the United States, New Zealand, Nigeria and of course its birthplace Northern Ireland, where it is strongest.
It has existed in some form or other for over three hundred years, since the time of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-90 when the Dutch King, William of Orange claimed the English throne. It is in his name the Order associates and strives to commemorate even today.
Following the Battle of the Diamond in County Armagh in 1795 the Order began to take a more formal shape and ‘lodges’ were formed for the protection of local inhabitants. Its ethos is based on civil and religious liberty for all, and although it is an exclusively Protestant organisation, its teachings promote tolerance and understanding of other beliefs while encouraging members to advance the Reformed Faith.
The numbers swelled to such extents that superior ‘district’ and then County lodges were formed to administer the organisation. A ‘Grand Lodge’ soon followed, made up of delegates from each area. The Order was twice proscribed by the British government during the 19th century but it survived underground and later its parades were also outlawed, causing martyrdom for one William Johnston who served two months in prison for his organisation of a parade in the Newtownards area in defiance of the ban.
The Order was a strong supporter of the Union between Ireland and Britain and ferociously opposed the Home Rule Bills of 1886-1914. It played a large part in the setting up of the Unionist political party and until the latter years of the 20th century sent delegates to party meetings. Members also pledge loyalty to the Queen and the Protestant succession to the throne. At times the ranks have included many prominent public figures, including members of parliament, Northern Ireland Prime Ministers and even members of British Royalty.
The public face of the Order has always been its ‘Twelfth of July’ parades which commemorate the victory of King William III at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne in Ireland. Lodges across Northern Ireland and indeed the world come together with marching bands to parade through town and village streets dressed in regalia and carrying flags and emblems of the Order.
Today the Order operates mostly freely with local lodges holding monthly meetings, social events, church services and various demonstrations. It still faces opposition, some of which is growing, that seeks to restrain the practices of the members. However the Institution survives in keeping with the words of William Johnston in the late 19th century who said “They thought Orangeism was dead; it is in fact undying”.
Why not join us?
Newtownards District consists of twelve lodges making up a membership of over 300. Each lodge holds a monthly meeting, where issues affecting the lodge are discussed. Though much of the business is of a formal nature, there is much social gathering between the members as well, at parades and other events which are organised throughout the year. If you would like to talk to someone about joining, contact us