Friday, July 10, 2009
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.
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.