“Oh, it was the biggest mix up that you have ever seen;
My father, he was orange and me mother, she was green.”
-From “The Orange and the Green” by Anthony Murphy
A few words o’ the Irish? Begosh and Begorrah, is it not too late, what with St. Paddy’s Day happening these four days past? Not at all at all, for it is many days hence to July 12, and the glorious anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, a popular celebration among certain locals in the early days of our city, if you were Protestant, that is.
It should be kept in mind, for those who keep such things, that St. Patrick was-and still is, for that matter-a Catholic Saint and therefore March 17 is generally considered to be a Papist celebration.
Thus the Catholic “St. Patrick’s Day” celebrated with green and “The Glorious Twelfth” celebrated with orange, represent the two colourful sides of the religious coin that is Ireland.
The Orange Institution, commonly known as the Loyal Orange Lodge and other such titles, was founded in 1796 in Ireland, reaching Canadian shores in a formal way in 1830, and has continued in varying degrees ever since.
Although St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in Cranbrook from the earliest days, it was not until July 12, 1904, that a group of like-minded individuals met at the Wilga Boarding House on 9th Ave. to enjoy the first ever Cranbrook banquet in honour of the Battle of the Boyne.
The Wilga, originally the first residence of lumber mill owner M.B. King, is easily explained as a likely choice for the event: the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Hoadley, were good cooks, which is important when celebrating a 324-year-old conflict.
The battle itself took place at the River Boyne, Ireland, about 30 miles from Dublin. It was an attempt by the former Catholic King James II of England and Ireland and VII of Scotland to regain his thrown from his son-in-law and nephew, Protestant King William III of Orange.
The actual date of the conflict is given as July 1 in the Julian (Old Style) calendar which translated to either July 11 or July 12, in the Gregorian (New Style) calendar initiated in 1582.
The present day Gregorian calendar was a Catholic initiative which the Protestants only grudgingly adopted over the next 100 years or so, with the exception of the Russians who waited until 1918, and nowadays the date of the actual Battle of Boyne is generally accepted as July 11.
Luckily (for some) the decisive Battle of Aughrim, 45 miles from Dublin, was coincidentally fought the following year on July 12, by the same armies minus King James who had skedaddled to France to live out his life with his cousin King Louis XIV.
Both battles were rather handily won by King William’s forces, thereby ensuring that the monarchy would remain in Protestant control from then on.
Even though many dates were simply shifted from one calendar to another, the Orangemen refused to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne on any date other than July 12.
Locally the “big day” remained pretty small at first. Cranbrook Loyal Orange Lodge #1871 was officially sanctioned in Jan. 1905, with upwards of 40 members.
Although the group would generally gather twice monthly at their meeting hall (borrowed from the Odd Fellows, various CPR Brotherhoods, the Labor Union and the Carmen of America until finally settling into the Royal Black Knights of Ireland Hall over the Cranbrook Cigar Store and Pool Hall on Baker Street in 1914) and perhaps undertook other activities, the only apparent public display over the next few years came on the evening of July 12.
On the date in question the “brothers” would gather at their lodge to parade in their regalia along the downtown streets, generally stopping in either the Methodist or Baptist Church for a special sermon and then returning to their starting point from whence they would disburse at some later point in the evening (sometimes a much later point in the evening).
In 1908, the Cranbrook chapter travelled to Fernie to celebrate with the Lodge there. The Fernie group held a grand parade in the morning led by a chosen member riding a white horse representing King William. The afternoon and evening were given to athletic activities and general socializing.
It had its effect on the Cranbrook group and often, in years following, the Cranbrook parade was headed by the local Worshipful Master astride a white steed amidst the skirl of bagpipes (the group was not restricted to those of Irish descent) and, frequently with the addition of members from surrounding towns (there were some 60 chapters in B.C. at the time), the affair took on a rather grand caste and attracted quite an audience.
The advent of World War One seems to have laid the local Loyal Order low although it went through a rebirth of sorts in the 1920s, carrying on into the early 1930s when it appears to have simply faded away.