The “Glorious 12th” and the Loyal Orange Lodge

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This photo shows one of the more impressive buildings in “downtown” Queensborough, the building that once housed the Loyal Orange Lodge (L.O.L., as you can see on the front of the building). The Orangemen were quite the force in rural Ontario once upon a time, but in my family’s quarter the institution (as opposed to the individual members – that’s an important distinction) was not, shall we say, held in high esteem. The Orangemen set themselves up in opposition to the Roman Catholic church and tradition, and while my family was staunchly Protestant, my father the United Church minister had no time for wars of religion or religious discrimination of any sort – or organizations that sympathized with same.

Today, July 12, is an important day in Orangedom – the “Glorious 12th,” the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, when the Protestant William (of Orange) defeated the Catholic James; they were rivals for the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Orange Lodge traditionally held a parade (white horse and all) on July 12 to celebrate the victory.

A while back in response to one of my posts, my friend and former colleague Brian, in Abu Dhabi, sent in his memories of summers in a small Ontario town where the Orangemen were a force:

“My sister and I found the whole town mortally dull except for the annual LOL parade (back in those days LOL meant Loyal Orange Lodge). And the maiden aunt with whom we stayed wouldn’t let us, good Catholic kids, get anywhere near the parade, no matter how much we wanted to see the white horse, because obviously the Protestants would murder us if we got close.”

He’s laughing about it now, but for sure the tensions were real in those days.

There was always an Orange parade on July 12 in our area – Madoc, I think, but my family would always have been at the family farm in Haliburton County then because my dad took “vacation” (working 14 hours a day harvesting the hay) in July, so we weren’t around. Not that we would have attended even if we were.

But Dad was well aware of the parade and always found one fact about it most amusing: every year the same man was chosen for a position of pride, holding the open Bible (at a passage that must in the Orangemen’s minds have backed up their anti-Catholic position, though of course nothing in the Bible does anything of the sort). The great thing about this guy filling that role year after year was this: he couldn’t read.

Perfect.

6 thoughts on “The “Glorious 12th” and the Loyal Orange Lodge

  1. It’s astonishing to think that the Orange Lodge was allowed to parade into our church and fill several pews one Sunday a year with their sashes and pins and everything. I’m 45, and this happened into my teens; when I realized what the Orangemen stood for, I was absolutely stunned that our church could sanction a group based on religious discrimination and even hatred. People in this area (Lindsay) as young as their 60’s will tell you that in their youth, there were Catholic and Protestant parts of town, and you Did Not walk through the other one. Millbrook’s 4th Line Theatre’s “Cavan Blazers”, which is produced every few years, provides a sharp lesson on the tensions’ origins. There are still bastions of one or the other, albeit not nearly as vicious as in the past. (Although, within the past 10 years or so, a volunteer firefighter of our acquaintance grumbled that he wasn’t getting on the local force full-time because he was an Orangemen.) Almost as soon as Mum and Dad moved here in the mid-60’s, Dad was approached by someone from the Reaboro Orange Lodge to join–it obviously didn’t take long for word of religious affiliation to spread. He declined, although the man offering the invitation was as good a neighbour and community-builder as you could ask for. Anyway, the Reaboro lodge building was demolished years ago; its banners now hang in Lang Pioneer Village’s Loyal Orange Lodge building. There are some traditions that should have been buried long before they were, and I couldn’t be happier to see this one dying out. And when people complain about immigrants bringing their religious and cultural tensions to Canada, we should realize it’s nothing new–we’re experts in that field from way back.

  2. My husband’s dad grew up in Smith’s Falls, and, being a good Catholic, obeyed his parents. HOWEVER, horror of all horrors, his best friend was a Protestant. That didn’t go over well. Tim says that one of his buddies went into an Irish bar in Ottawa, left a check for a certain Irish Organization of the military persuasion, and it got cashed! Long memories.

  3. Among other things, Orangemen were largely responsible for Regulation 17, which essentially wiped out French-language schooling in Ontario for decades. That infamous law took effect a century ago this month, leading to the assimilation of hundreds of thousands of franco-Ontarians and causing a rift between French and English Canada that has never completely healed. Like you, Katherine, I don’t see anything glorious about the Glorious 12th.

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