Orange Marches

An Outsider’s Twelfth

 The Orangemen had come from all over and for several hours they moved in procession past our door, walking four abreast, all of them dressed in navy blue suits with bowler hats and ornate sashes of orange decorated with metal trinkets representing five-cornered stars and Jacob’s ladders and Masonic symbols. 

At the head of each lodge, the principal officers, highly ornamented with sashes and large matching cuffs and tasselated aprons and carrying Bibles or gavels or ceremonial swords as symbols of their distinguished positions, bore themselves with solemn dignity. 

There were bands by the dozen and large painted banners held aloft by waltzing men, depicting in a hundred different themes the benefits which Protestantism and Britain had brought to mankind. Over the caption ‘The Secret of England’s Greatness’ one banner showed a portly Queen Victoria handing a Bible to a black man; another showed the burning of Latimer and Laud at the stake; we saw Martin Luther nailing a wad of papers to an iron-studded door; Jacob’s vision; Britannia holding her trident proudly in front of a Union Jack; Queen Victoria sitting on a Union Jack; John Bull, Bible in hand, out with his bulldog. Each lodge had a number and a fanciful title emblazoned on its banner. There were ‘True Blues’, ‘Chosen Few’, ‘Loyal Sons’, ‘Boyne Defenders’ and ‘Purple Stars’. Each lodge had its drumming party made up of six or more sweating, shirt-sleeved men lashing big drums with canes, making an ear-shattering noise with a sort of primitive rhythm.  Each party of drummers was led by a man blowing a yellow cane flute from which an occasional squeal could be heard over the thunder of drums.

The marchers were solemn and unsmiling: there was nothing light-hearted about this gathering of men in their Sunday suits. From the speeches of the leaders it might be inferred that the forces of Popery were about to seize the Throne of England.



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