A concise history of the Orange Order

From Peep O’Day Boys to parades on the Twelfth of July

  • The Order was founded in 1795 in by Daniel Winter, James Sloan and James Wilson after a stand-off in Co Armagh between Protestant Peep O'Day Boys and Catholic Defenders ended with the Battle of the Diamond and the deaths of 30 Catholics. The organisation's mascot bears the name Diamond Dan.
  • The order's name comes from Protestant King William of Orange who defeated Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690.
  • Membership today is estimated at about 34,000, down from a peak in the 1960s when it boasted more than 90,000 members.
  • The order holds 17 or 18 principal parades throughout Northern Ireland on July 12th each year commemorating the Battle of the Boyne, the biggest event being in Belfast. Every year on the Saturday before the 12th, a parade is also held in Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal.
  • Most members of the Order, who call each other brother, wear an Orange collarette rather than a sash, notwithstanding that the air, The Sash My Father Wore, is the tune most associated with the order.
  • Orangemen, and some women, parade behind marching bands during Twelfth of July parades. Many parades also feature the Lambeg drum, one of the loudest acoustic instruments in the world, 92cm (3ft) in diameter and 61cm (2ft) deep, and weighing between 16–18 kg (35-40lbs). The drum, which is beaten with curved canes made of malacca, is usually carried by the drummer while marching with the aid of a neck harness.
  • Many nationalists view the Order as a purely anti-Catholic organisation. The Order states: "Orangeism does not foster resentment or intolerance. Condemnation of religious ideology is directed against church doctrine and not against individual adherents or members." It has a cross-community outreach programme but membership remains overwhelmingly Protestant.
  • Members join lodges, equivalent to a branch or a club, that are run by a worshipful master and deputy master, equivalent to a chairman and deputy chairman. Meetings take place in Orange halls. There are more than 1,100 lodges. The order also has members in countries such as Ghana, Togo, Australia, Canada, the US, New Zealand and Britain.
  • The order's governing body is the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, and its Grand Master is Edward Stevenson.
  • More than 330 members of the Order were murdered during the Troubles, mostly by the IRA. The last victim was prison officer David Black, murdered by dissident republicans in November, 2012.