“You picked a hell of a day to get married!”
Those were the first words spoken to our mother, the day she met her new father-in-law, Vince Stafford. He was referring to the fact that they were married on the twelfth of July. He made it quite clear that he was not pleased that his son had chosen to welcome a Protestant into their Roman Catholic family, on July 12th of all days!
Some called it Orangeman’s Day, and some referred to it as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’. On July 12th each year, Protestant organizations celebrated the victory of Protestant King William of Orange, riding a white horse, who defeated Catholic King James, at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690.
The Orange and the Green
When I was a kid, the Irish Rovers recorded a song called “The Orange and the Green”, about a child growing up with one Roman Catholic parent, and one Protestant parent. We saw them perform the song many times over on a popular television show called ‘The Pig and Whistle’, and the irony of the song was not lost on us.
Our father, a Roman Catholic, from Drummond Township, grew up attending St. Patrick’s church in Ferguson Falls, while our mother attended Calvin United in Bathurst (Tay Valley) Township.
Although the feelings of bias and animosity between these two religions may seem foreign to us in these more inclusive times, they were still very much in the forefront, during the 1940s, when my parents married. Mother said she never felt accepted by Dad’s family, particularly his parents; and that never changed even up to the late 1950s and early 1960s when the in-laws passed away.
This religious prejudice ran on both sides of the fence. I recall our cousin, Ruth Rutherford, in Ogdensburg, New York, was forbidden to marry her sweetheart, a Catholic lad, and she never got over it. She remained single for the rest of her life, unable to marry her true love.
It may be difficult for us to imagine, but there were times in our early history in Canada where it was not uncommon for the July 12th celebrations to result in violence or even death.
‘The St. Alban’s Advertiser’, July 20, 1877, p.3
In the early years of the last century, the Orangemen’s Day parades in Canada drew crowds in the thousands, and it was not unusual for fights to break out, and insults along with injuries were to be expected.
Orange Parade, Toronto, July 12, 1911
Although Orangeism originated in Ireland and England, Ogle Robert Gowan, the Order’s first Canadian Grand Master is recognized as the founder of Canadian Orangeism. It is interesting that Gowan is known to have been a frequent visitor to a local fortune teller, Mother Barnes, the Witch of Plum Hollow. Not wishing to be seen consulting a sooth-sayer, he often sent his wife and their maid to ask questions about his politics and his career.
Orange Lodges, as the membership halls were called, sprang up all over Canada, and in Eastern Ontario, they were a common sight in almost every community. The closest Orange Hall to our house was at Wemyss, frequently used as a dance hall, and a place to play cards and socialize.
“The Perth Courier” Sept. 27, 1940, p.4
Carleton Place was one of the first communities to establish a Loyal Orange Lodge, along with Perth, Smiths Falls, and Montague Township.
In the early days, thousands attended Orange events:
“The Perth Courier”, July 8, 1904, p4
Through the decades, many community organizations also held their meetings and socials at the local Orange halls.
“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 23, 1941,p.1
Carleton Place had one of its largest crowds of visitors on July 12, 1920:
In 1921, the Orange Order agreed on several resolutions, including one intended to abolish all separate schools in Canada.
The popularity of the Orange Order celebrations continued through the 1930s…
“The Perth Courier”, July 13, 1934, p.1
Flag of Canada’s Grand Orange Order
An Orange parade was often led by one of the members on a white horse, symbolizing the white horse ridden by King William of Orange, at the Battle of the Boyne.
Some of the symbols worn by members of the Orange Order
Orange Order – ‘Keys to Heaven‘
To assist in the war efforts, every Orange Lodge in Canada was turned into a recruiting office in WWII
“The Perth Courier”, July 19, 1940, p.1
Lanark County Oranges Lodges, Active in 1946
Lanark County – Orange Order Officers 1946
“The Perth Courier”, July 18, 1946, p.1
In 1957, the Orange Day celebrations were held in Almonte, and Rev. Canon J.W.R. Meaken, shared some comments as part of his address to begin the meeting:
“The Perth Courier” July 25, 1957, p.7
Interest in joining the Orange Order began to dwindle in the 1960s and 1970s, and instead of thousands attending the annual parade, it became ‘hundreds’.
“The Perth Courier” July 8, 1971, p.1
Memberships grew smaller and smaller in many parts of the country, and in Lanark County, one of the oldest Orange Lodges, in Carleton Place, closed after 185 years, in January of 2015. The existing membership would merge with the Montague lodge # 512. (The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued the original warrant for the Carleton Place Lodge back in 1830.)
Left, John Arksey, County Master for Rideau/St. Lawrence County Orange Lodges,center, Kevin Bradley, Grand Master of the Carleton Place Lodge, and Mark Alexander, provincial grand master, Ontario East, of the Grand Orange Lodge of Eastern Ontario.
“Inside Ottawa Valley” Dec 02, 2015, by Desmond Devoy, ‘Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette’
At one time, there were 30 Lodges throughout Lanark County. After the closing of the Carleton Place Lodge in 2015, only the Montague Lodge and the Smiths Falls Lodge (No. 88), remained. The Almonte Lodge (No. 378) amalgamated with Carleton Place in 1987, Franktown in Beckwith Township (No. 381) in 1992, and Drummond Centre in Drummond/North Elmsley Township (No. 7) in 2013.
Throughout the many decades of the celebration of Orangemen, their sometimes vocal, and occasionally violent encounters with the Catholics, our family will continue to celebrate July 12th for a different reason. July 12th, for us, was the joining of the two religions, historically separated on this date, a young Protestant girl from the west, and a handsome Roman Catholic lad from Drummond Township.
Maybe they were ahead of their time. It was 1943 afterall, and marrying outside of one’s religion was often frowned upon. Luckily for us, the five children that followed in this unconventional marriage, would grow up in a home where we learned to respect different opinions, different points of view, and different religions.
And so, the Protestant girl, and the Catholic boy were married for almost 50 years, until Dad passed away.
I still smile when I hear that Irish Rover’s tune, “The Orange and the Green”, and July 12th, for us, will always be a special day in our own family history.