Friday, July 10, 2009


The Twelfth.

This blog recalls the days and nights when a scóraiocht – an evening of song and stories - would not have been complete without some republican in the company singing an Orange ballad or two. In the those days a bus run to Bodenstown or Edentubber would not have been completed without a lusty rendition of Dollys Brae or The Boul’ Orange Heroes of Comber from the uppity Fenians en route.

This blog has the proud distinction of knowing its way through The Sash. I once used to know it in Irish. So did the late Eddie Keenan. And he was a better singer than me.

My interest in Orange ballads was a natural outworking of a love for folk or roots music. Browsing in Smithfield Market and its second hand bookstores put me in touch with the writings of Richard Hayward. His evocative musings through Ulster and Irish countryside lore unearthed a volume of Orange ballads.

I swallowed it all in a volatile musical mix which included The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, The Dubliners, Lonnie Donnegan, Seán O Riada, Maeve Mulvenna, Johnny McAvoy, Mary Black, Kathleen Thompson, Eamon Largey, The Beatles, The Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Dylan, Planxy, Woody Guthrie, the Spinners, Joe Heaney, Burl Ives, Prionsais McAirt, Pete Seeger, Gene Autry and so on and so on.

By the way the first LP I ever bought was one by Gene Autry. I remember my mothers delight when I placed it on the turntable and music issued forth from the gramophone player she had rented on hire purchase from Bannon’s, the furniture people. My mother loved singing. But I digress. Time to reroute back to Orange ballads.

Within recent days, as happens round these parts at this time of the year, huge Orange bonfires are being built on main thorough fares. These are part of the ‘celebration’ of the Twelfth.

Interestingly enough if this blog went out now and gathered tyres and wooden pallets and set them afire in the street or even in a vacant lot somewhere in the neighbourhood, some one would alert the police and I quite rightly would be entitled to be arrested. Even on environmental grounds. But not on the Twelfth.

Attacks on Catholic owned property, schools, churches and so on also increase coming up to July. The awful sectarian killing of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine recently is proof of how deadly this can. For the record this blog opposes sectarianism wherever it comes from. Likewise attacks on Orange halls and other property.

Kevin McDaid

Sectarianism is a direct symptom of colonialism. It is a device to keep people in their place and to divide people who should have a lot in common with each other and little in common with elites, Orange and otherwise.

So what is the Twelfth about? It has little to do with religion though many Orange men are both religious and decent. Others are not. They know the Twelfth is about power or what passes for power in these parts.

What most of Orange men do not know is that the Pope supported King Billy. It was King Billy and the Pope against King James and the King of France. The Pope paid part of King Billy’s expenses and when news of his victory at the Boyne reached Rome a Te Deum was sung in the Vatican in celebration.

The Pope, Innocent supported the Dutchman, King William after the English parliament sacked James and invited William to take his job. James teamed up with the King of France to get his throne back and he and William chose Ireland as the battlefield. So there you are. Now you have a context for my knowledge of Orange ballads.

Orangeism has a lot to do to get the rest of us to accept why it wants to march where it is not welcome. Part of that is Orange men coming to understand why they want to do this.

Or why Orangeism is sectarian?

It's about power stoopid.

Or it used to be but is no longer except in last ditchland where bigotry still gets traction.


Anonymous said...

submitted by Kathy Collins

it may be about power...stupid...but it is also about HATE. You have used my line that the orange order is like the KKK....for many years espically way back in 97 when the line got you alot of press.

In the United States people stand up to the KKK and call it what it is...a hate organization... How the US broke the power of the KKK was to go after their money and ownership of their physical buildings-- lodges--halls.

There is legislation in the EU that can label an organziation as a hate group...and that is what the orange order is. You have you refused to walk down that road?

Kathy Collins

Paul Doran said...

Gerry.Yes I used to sing the Sash
but as you say the 12th was something else, I re-call Orangemen or some of them not speaking to my father for 2 weeks,because of the 12th.and then they used to come to him as he was the local Shop Steward looking for things to brought up @ the next Union meeting in Belfast, where he attended on the 1st Monday of each Month for over 25 yrs. How they and still do used to march up the streets of Newcastle in Co Down and how they used stop outside the Local Pub, Church and give their Lambegs a good "Diggin",Such hatred of us Taigs. it was bred into them. I recall the comments of our President a few years ago and she was right, but people took it the wrong way I knew what she meant.Any Thankfully they won't be getting away with that nonsense anymore.Their day has gone.

BY the way , I read Toiréasa Ferris today and what a breadth of fresh air. Now if you applied her methods, then the Party would grow and the votes would come. A party of Community attivists, re call the writtings of the Prisoners during the 70s&80's they wanted the same and they were right.

Ed Feighan said...

Hi Gerry Maybe when I stop to see you and Richard this month you could sing me a few bars of Fenian Record Player,one of my favorites. ASee you soon. E.F

Timothy Dougherty said...

I also have a love of fork music Gerry. Literary interest in the popular ballad was not new,English Elizabethan and Stuart composers had often evolved their music from folk themes."folk" coincided with an "outburst of national feeling all over Europe. Folk Music it is a cultural processes rather than abstract musical types.Music can tell a story and give us a living tradition in the efforts. Like any fire in fact or heart it must have some controls the tendency to become a wildfire and disrupt and not light is just a disturbance.

Doyt said...

A good attempt to hide the underlaying prejudice but ultimately it emerged. What you fail to comprehend is that to the unionist community the Twelfth is a community festival where people come together and have a bit of craic.

The way some nationalists have demonised the Twelfth as a sectarian festival will be the ultimate flaw in their peace strategy. Sinn Fein in particular have created a beast they can no longer control with the parades issue, and it will be their undoing when dissidents take up the same strategy and replace Sinn Fein on the streets.

A little bit of tolerance goes a long way!

Micheal said...

Orangism is, like contemporary christianity, in my view, a big male ego trip and that's why there's so much violence and sectarianism associated with it. The last gasp desperate attempt to rescue a deflating ego and wrest some pretention of control over the created god.

I think the orange community in the North of Ireland were just ordinary Irish people, duped by British imperialists whose agenda was to divide and rule, ensuring there would be only one real state power in these islands. They were used by the Tories of the 19th and 20th century.

Many people were duped. Everyone gets fooled at some stage in their life. We all make mistakes. History is always exactly as it was.

The green, white and orange flag of the Irish Republic stands for the inclusion of all the Irish people as equals. Ulster orangemen and dizzy loyalists too.

Republicanism is the hallmark of the true protestant faith, "a living political ideology based firmly on principles and always open to refinement, re-appraisal and self-criticism."*

*(paraphrasing content of G.Adams, Bodenstown address 1983.taken from "Sinn Fein, A Century of Struggle p.187)

Linda Coleman said...

You're right, Gerry; no matter where you are in the world, all this racism, sectarianism, whatever you call is, is all about power. Whether is Hutus and Tutsis or Protestants and Catholics, the conflict has been originally set up by the powerful to divide and conquer. If the human race would ever figure that one out, it would be all over for imperialism in every form.

Kate said...

Thanks for the history lesson Gerry.
I'll try to erase the viual of Gerry Admans singing the sash.
I will also refrain from using words of old less I sound sectarian.
I have witnessed many of these "Marches" in my time and again, for reasons stated, I reserve comment.
Instead I will tell a wee story:

When I was about 9 years old, and was inside the chapel as the "Band" was halted outside banging the big drum. The priest told us to stay inside till it passed.
He then said "Pray for them" my brother replied "I'm not praying for THEM" The priest then gave us a piece of chocolate and said "Well then pray for me, and stay inside"

That event was about power too, as it remains today. So I will think chocolate.......and pray for the safety of people today.

Ta ar la anois


John Ryan said...

Gerry. I'm a committed protestant Christian living in Sydney Australia. My father was born in Dublin, now living in Australia. I'm very proud of my Irish heritage. But I am incredibly embarrassed by so-called Protestant marchers. You are so right when you say that this practice has nothing to do with religion. No genuine Bible believing Christian would have anything to do with it. It's high time the practice was either updated or dropped. It does nothing but provoke violence and it would be better if Protestant Christians tried to find some better way of celebrating their heritage that focussed on bringing the Belfast community together.

Anonymous said...

excellent blog by the way... i feel i need help i really don't like the 12th..any ideas on why i feel this way

Richard said...

Ireland was too often the meat in a sandwich of competing interests -British colonial interest, either for avarice or security, Spanish Catholic interest as a way of underming Protestant England and of course thereafter the Dutch republic and any other pesky prods, King Louis's interest in putting a Roman Catholic but more importantly compliant JAmes II back on the throne.
The British put the Orange boot on the Fenian neck, while others would have used Ireland to put their boot on the English and Protestant neck.
Pity the poor irish in the middle.

Anonymous said...

The way forward in my opion, is to draw attention to the orange order and the British State. We have to remove the respectability attached to sectarianism. The first step, must be to stop the 12 and 13 of July being a paid public holiday This is not acceptable in the 21st centuary. This case must be taken to the Human Rights Courts in Strasburg

Richard said...

Is not the Orange tradition broader than the OO? What room in the nationalist view is made for the Protestants of Northern Ireland to be proud of their specific tradition, also in contrast to the nationalist one, but without actual bigotry or accusations thereof?
To some extent the survival and prospering of Protestantism and relative liberalism in Europe with the consequence of enlightenment and progress was dependent on the victories of William and his allies (incl of course the Pope - allies of convenience with various interests have always existed) over the absolutist and persecuting Catholic Louis. William's victory ultimately brought more suffering to the Catholic Irish, BUT he was in a broader sense on the right side in a pan European politico-national and British ideological struggle and the United Irishmen certainly did not disavow this Orange heritage.
Can Orange bigotry be challenged on the basis of the virtue in its own tradition and, equally, can nationalists see that virtue? Can nationalists accept the fact that the Catholic Irish, seeking only or in the first instance at least, and, ofcourse, understandably to secure their own welfare in their own land, were nevertheless the allies of a tyrant, or at least the allies of an ally of a tyrant. I respect the memory of King Billy as that of a figure who fought a tyrant in a worthy cause. I regret the outcome for the Catholic Irish, though Billy himself was not directly responsible.
I hope that nationalists can think about the threads which link the victories of physical force political Protestantism, which were in the main defensive, to the survival of an environemnt where the enlightenment values of the United Irishmen could take hold.
Why ALLOW the 12th to be about bigotry?