If my people, which are called by my
name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their
wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will
heal their land. 2 Chr. 7:14
have seen that before the 1798 Rebellion the middle and upper classes in
Ireland had been wooed from historical Protestantism by so-called Enlightenment
ideas, particularly Masonry.
loyalties were completely distorted by the rise of the Volunteer regiments
which were at first Protestant but later sought to enlist Roman Catholics and
make common cause with them under a banner of republicanism. The result was a
growing alienation from the Crown and the Protestant succession, and in their place the
courting of the French and of the Americans. Rebellion was in the air. Yet in
the midst of much uncertainty and confusion, one clear line was drawn as 1798
approached, and that was the appearance of the Orange Order.
first we must mention the Peep-‘o-Day Boys. They were violent, poor
Protestants and notorious because of their distinctive title and for their activities.
They arose at about the same time that the Lord miraculously resurrected the
Williamite spirit amongst Protestant loyalists, leading to the rise of the
with the Peep-‘o-Day Boys was therefore inevitable and in this confusion Rome
saw her chance to slander the Orange movement which was a substantial and
crucial Protestant force in Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century when
the slanders came to a head.
in his The Making of Modern
Ireland 1603-1923, Professor Beckett, says, “The main hope of the revolutionary leaders
still lay within the peasantry, and during 1796 and 1797 they made great
efforts to win them over to their cause. They were aided by a development that
at first sight seemed unpropitious – a sharpening of sectarian strife in the
north. This reached a crisis in September 1795, when a pitched Battle between
Peep-‘o-Day Boys and defenders took place at the Diamond in County Armagh. The
Defenders who seem to have provoked the conflict, were completely routed and
that evening the victorious Protestants established the Orange society.”
as we shall see, is quite untrue. It was the founders of the Orange Order, not
the Peep-‘o-Day Boys, who fought and won at the Battle of the Diamond.
that is Rome’s myth – that the men who set out to the Diamond as Peep-‘o-Day
Boys in the morning became Orangemen in the evening. Fr Cleary, Rome’s Orange
historian, disseminated this notion throughout the British Empire as “Catholic
Truth”. (see my last article).
scholar James Wright states that Fr Cleary’s account, “was a very selective
presentation,” and Fr Cleary made, “a seemingly strong case for seeing the
original Orangemen as nothing more than the Peep-‘o-Day boys operating under a
new cloak of convenience.”
Wright is saying that the idea that the Orange Order was a continuation of the
violent Peep-‘o-Day boys, though untrue, was not easy to disprove and he adds
that this slander of Fr Cleary’s became widely accepted as the explanation of the rise
of the Orange Order.
Sir Richard Musgrave
old Protestant historian, Sir Richard Musgrave, rightly says of the battles
between the Protestant Peep-‘o-Day Boys and Roman Catholic Defenders: “The
details would be as uninteresting as that of (battles between) the kites and
Sir Richard Musgrave adds that we should know that, “The large quantities of
arms distributed amongst the population and interest in things military
resulting from the Volunteer movement gave an exaggerated importance to
normally insignificant brawl … It was still illegal for Catholics to acquire
firearms … Roman Catholics broke into and plundered stores or entered the
houses of Protestants by night carrying away swords, guns and pistols … As
early as 1784 there were reports of efforts by Protestants called Peep-‘o-Day
boys at unofficial enforcement of the code by daybreak raids on the homes of
Catholics to search for arms”. The linen industry was growing fast at this
time and the
boys extended their activities to smashing Roman Catholic looms and even
maiming any opposition.
The rise of the Defenders
one brawl a defeated Presbyterian blamed an intervening Roman Catholic for his
defeat. This so escalated matters that a gang, the Nappagh Fleet, came into
being. The confusion of the times saw a Roman Catholic heading a gang of
Protestants spoiling for a fight whilst a Dissenting minister headed up the
opposing Roman Catholic Bawn fleet.
Bawn fleet, with other Romanists, became knows as the Defenders. At first both
gangs “had papists and Presbyterians mixed indiscriminately”. No doubt with
priestly assistance, these two groups soon polarised into exclusive Protestant
and Roman Catholic warring parties. Hence the Roman Catholic Defenders’ thirst
for arms was only matched by the Protestants aggressive dawn raids to seize
them back and more besides. It is unthinkable that God would use such people
and means to effect His purposes in the coming Day of Deliverance.
Rise of the Orange Order
insists that the Orange Order arose amongst the Lord’s people. “The battle of
the Diamond … and the duplicity and treachery of the Romanists on that occasion convinced the
Protestants that they would become an easy prey to their enemies, from the
paucity of their numbers, unless they associated for their defence;
particularly as the fanatical vengeance which they (the Romanists) displayed on
that and other occasions,
convinced the members of the established church that they (the Romanists)
meditated nothing less than their total extirpation … They (The Orange Order)
were merely a society of loyal protestants, associated and bound together
solely for the purpose of maintaining and defending the constitution in church
and state as established by the Prince of Orange at the glorious Revolution,
which they regarded as a solemn and sacred duty.”
recognised a Providence in dangerous times. “It confers distinguished credit on
its (The Orange Order’s) members, that they united and stood forward for this
truly patriotic purpose, unsupported and unprotected by the great and powerful,
to whom their motives were misrepresented by traitors, who knew that the
institution would form a firm barrier against their nefarious machinations.”
But Musgrave offers us no detail, because in those days everybody knew this was
just who were these people who fought the militant Roman Catholic Defenders at
the Battle of the Diamond?
always, where Protestantism thrives the associated industriousness brings
economic prosperity. The new Orange movement first appeared in Armagh and part
of Tyrone and these were the very areas of a massive expansion in the linen
industry. Wright observes that huge changes had occurred from the time of the violent
peasant agrarian societies of the 1760’s. A much more affluent and mixed urban
and rural society had arisen linked to each other through the linen industry.
The number of weavers in Ulster had nearly doubled in this brief period.
was more sophisticated. Masonry was still a powerful force in Ireland but this
would not attract these Protestants. Volunteering in the Irish self defence
regiments would be an obvious choice, but the Volunteers were often revolutionaries
discarding the Crown and Protestant succession and keen to embrace Romanism in a republic.
Providence brought about a change of heart in the rank and file of the Armagh
and Tyrone Volunteers, rekindling the Williamite spirit of their forefathers.
like-minded Protestants could then freely identify with them. Thus Wright can
say, “The role and function of the Volunteers as a precursor of Orangeism
cannot be underestimated”.
the Roman Catholic Defenders became more militant, Volunteer marches took on a
more Protestant character, with the singing of old Williamite victory songs.
Hence in 1778 when, “the Benburb Volunteers marched to Sunday worship at Armagh
Cathedral … they were assaulted by a large body of papists”. A similar
disturbance occurred on the way home and
two Romanists were killed. Their funerals were massively attended and the
Roman Catholics now saw the Volunteers as the enemy rather than as a potential
ally. The tide was turning. An enquiry showed that the onset of violence was
due to the “Volunteers playing tunes that were an insult to Catholics”. The
illustration shows one of the Williamite victory songs. These were still in
the consciousness of the older generation. Words like, “Protestant Boys both
valiant and stout, fear not the strength and power of Rome …” drove the
Defenders to declare their true colours.
local transformation of the Volunteers into what we now regard as the
traditional Orange style, became more marked in the face of the Defenders’
increased militancy. Following the first Catholic Relief Act, which raised
Roman Catholic aspirations, Roman Catholics could now be armed. As a result,
membership of the Defenders burgeoned. Hence Wright finds evidence of “an Orange-style
society meeting in 1793,” of 138 members with no connection to the Peep-‘o-Day
Boys. This confirms the testimony of the early Orange historians like R M
Sibbett who insist on a prevailing Orange witness before 1795.
when the Defenders provoked the Battle of the Diamond it was these earnest
Protestants, not the rascally Peep-‘o-Day Boys, who rallied to the cause.
Fortunately there were some amongst the Protestants who both possessed military
skills and understood discipline in battle which they had learned in their old
Volunteering days. The Defenders outnumbered them ten to one but this was a
Glorious Day of Deliverance and the Lord of Victories was on their side.
Indeed there is a song sung to a variety of tunes, composed after this victory,
to keep memories fresh.
For we say when the light of the morning broke,
On the Diamond Hill they’d rallied.
What though they were many, and we but few,
Yet each to the conflict hasted,
And the shot was sharp, and the aim as true,
While that fearful struggle lasted.
Yes, last it did – aye, many a day!
But the shield of our God was o’er us;
Till at last, like a quarry long held at bay,
We drove them like chaff before us.”
brings us back to Rome’s slanders under the banner of “Catholic Truth”. For
Boys movement was the early or preparatory phase of the Orange association.”
defeated their opponents at Diamond hill, the victorious Peep-‘o-Day boys took
the alias of Orange Boys or Orange Men.”
association brought about a more complete organisation of the scattered
Peep-‘o-Day Forces and opened out … a wider field of activity.”
“For the purpose
of taking off the stigma of delinquency, the appellation Peep-‘o-Day Boys was
changed to Orangemen.”
“Musgrave (‘s) …
statement is not supported be a scrap of proof.”
as for Rome’s slanders, “We drive them as chaff before us”.