The small County Armagh Village that saw the birth of Orangeism over 200 years ago is perhaps an unexpected venue for insights into Offaly history, but that is indeed what happened recently.
Sloan’s House Museum of Orange Heritage in Loughgall, where the first Orange Lodges were officially formed in 1795, saw a presentation delivered entitled ‘All the Kings Men- the Orange Institution in Kings County’. The evening was the latest in a series of events delivered by Orchard County historian Quincey Dougan and facilitated by the museum, looking at the extent that Orange Lodges were active outside the confines of Ulster.
‘All the Kings Men’ was largely focused on an Orange Revival that took place in Offaly during the late 19th Century.
Speaking on the topic Quincey said: “From having a negligible number of active Orangemen in 1880, in the space of a few years there were eleven energetic Orange Lodges working, and gatherings to celebrate important anniversaries were attracting massive crowds. One Twelfth of July rally in 1887 was reported by the Irish Times as having over 1,400 people present!”
The scale of membership was such that a brand new ‘County Grand Lodge’, an overseeing body for smaller localised Orange Lodges, was formed for Kings in 1881, which eventually would include not just Offaly Lodges, but also others from Tipperary, Laois, West Meath, Kildare and even Galway! Dedicated premises for four Offaly lodges were registered with the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, then based in Dublin, with Orange Halls noted as being Golden Grove, Aghancon (Leap Castle), Shinrone, and the Oxmantown Hall in Birr. An Armagh connection was recounted by way of John Wright, editor and owner of the Kings County Chronicle and a native of Armagh City, who was also a proactive Orangeman, with his newspaper referenced by many during the period as simply being an ‘Orange organ’.
If you have any insights into past Orangeism in the Republic of Ireland you can contact Quincey on 07835624221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The next presentation in the series will take place on Tuesday 28th August 2018, with the subject ‘The Three Castles Orangemen- Orangeism in the City of Dublin’.