The history for Cork's 44 Orange Order Lodges

The history for Cork's 44 Orange Order Lodges

The Orange Lodge flag from Bandon Orange Hall dating from the 1800s which is now framed in the West Cork Heritage Centre, Bandon. Picture copied by Denis Minihane

A TALK taking place in the city early next month aims to shed light on the ‘forgotten history’ of the Orange Order in Cork.

Armagh-based historian Quincey Dougan has spent years researching the Orange heritage of the Republic of Ireland and has been invited by the Cork Archeological and Historical Society to share his findings.

When he turned his attention to Cork he discovered a thriving culture of Orange lodges throughout the county in the nineteenth century.

“Orange lodges were present in Cork from 1797 and at its absolute peak there were 44 separate lodges in Cork, involving thousands and thousands of men,” Mr Dougan told the Evening Echo. “The main centres were in Bandon and Cork city. There were eight orange lodges in the city alone.”

One important location was across the street from the Crawford Art Gallery, where the talk is taking place.

“The Starbucks on Emmet Place was the site of the Cumberland rooms and in 1833, the Orange Order opened their first dedicated premises there,” Mr Dougan said. “More than 500 people were present on the occasion.”

The Starbucks premises on Emmett Place was the site of the Cumberland rooms and in 1833, the Orange Order opened their first dedicated premises there. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The Starbucks premises on Emmett Place was the site of the Cumberland rooms and in 1833, the Orange Order opened their first dedicated premises there. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

While the city had a particularly strong community, Orange lodges reached all parts of the county — with lodges in Fermoy, Mitchelstown, Youghal, Kinsale, Clonakilty, Charleville, Millstreet and Bantry, to name but a few.

“Bantry is the most south-westerly point of Orangism,” Mr Dougan said.

The tradition was so strong in Cork it earned the county a very different nickname to the one we most frequently use now.

“Irish Nationalism knows Cork as the rebel county, Irish loyalism knew Cork as southern Derry,” Mr Dougan said. “That name arose because there were Bandon men who fought with King Billy at the Battle of the Boyne.

Bandon Orange Hall, now a dwelling house.	 Picture: Quincey Dougan
Bandon Orange Hall, now a dwelling house. Picture: Quincey Dougan

“They kept that Orange affinity and the entirety of Orange Cork revelled in the idea that it was southern Derry, there are poems about it.

“The Bantry lodge called itself western Derry.”

Proof of that is on display in Cork Public Museum, where an Orange sash from the Bantry lodge bears the legend ‘western Derry’.

The Orange tradition in Cork dwindled in the late nineteenth century before the War of Independence saw the end of Cork lodges.

“By the early 1900s there were only a few lodges left in Bandon and the city, by the 1920s they didn’t exist on paper anymore,” Mr Dougan said.

At a time when Brexit has pushed the border and the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the North back into the headlines, Mr Dougan hopes the history he uncovers can help strengthen relations between all sides.

“The idea of these talks is an opportunity to explore the complexities and contradictions in Irish history,” he said. “It challenges some of the absolute positions that some people have.

“It lets us look at concepts of respect and equality, and in general is about dealing with diversity in the present and the future.

Presentation made to a departing member of Cork City Lodge number 983 in 1888. 	Picture: Quincey Dougan.
Presentation made to a departing member of Cork City Lodge number 983 in 1888. Picture: Quincey Dougan.

“By looking at these contradictions, and hypocrisy on both sides in the past, it offers more opportunity for peace-building and relationship building.”

All are welcome to attend the talk, which takes place in the Crawford Art Gallery on Wednesday, February 6 at 8pm.

Mr Dougan’s research continues and he would be interested to hear from anyone with any artefacts or recollections of Cork’s Orange history. He can be contacted at qdougan01@qub.ac.uk.

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