Museum appeal to Ulster’s marching bands

As part of its major exhibition in 2019, the Museum of Orange Heritage would like to highlight the role and importance of the marching bands community in Ulster.

To this end, the Orange Institution is appealing for information about all individual bands, from all genres, across Northern Ireland and the border counties.

Such content will form an integral part of the wider ‘For Singing and For Dancing’ exhibition at Schomberg House, Belfast, opening this summer; focusing on the music, poetry and ballad traditions of the Orange family.

To ensure that the museum includes as many marching bands as possible, it is requesting the following information: name of band, type of band, date of formation and a brief history.

As part of the appeal, it would also be most beneficial to include any archive or current photographs of the respective band.

Please email all information and images to [email protected]; or alternatively, contact the museum on 028 9070 1122.

All submissions will be acknowledged, and the content used solely for educational and display purposes.

Exhibition looking through the eye of a needle

The rich material culture of Orangeism is the focus of a new exhibition.

A variety of sashes, collarettes, tablecloths and handkerchiefs are among the many items on public display at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

One of the exhibition centre pieces is a damask linen tablecloth, owned by King William III, which has been on display in the museum since it opened in 2015. Presented to William, this remarkable item was made to commemorate William’s victory at the city of Grave in 1674 and helps reveal the story of the European power struggle that set the background context for the Williamite Wars.

Orangeism has a material culture tradition dating back to before the formal creation of the Orange Institution in September 1795. Regalia, banners, keep sakes and flags have long been a feature of this tradition, with many early items embodying the message and symbolism of the Glorious Revolution.

Through its latest temporary exhibition, the museum aims to highlight aspects of the tradition it holds in its collection, allowing visitors to see for themselves how such materials were made and used in the past.

Museum of Orange Heritage curator, Jonathan Mattison, said: “We want to highlight the diverse nature of early Orange regalia, explain how it was made and the symbolism that is on display.

“We have a wide variety of textile items in our collection from sashes to banners, and everything in between. We want to use this exhibition and the associated workshops to help people explore this aspect of the Orange tradition.”

The Belfast exhibition, entitled ‘Through the Eye of a Needle’, runs until May 2019. Two textile-based craft workshops will be held on Saturday February 9 and Saturday March 9. For more information on these interactive events, call 028 9070 1122 or email [email protected].


New exhibition highlights Orange war sacrifice

Orange halls, built as memorials in the aftermath of the Great War, are the subject of a new exhibition and booklet.

‘Memorials to Sacrifice’ is the latest initiative by the Museum of Orange Heritage marking the centenary of the Armistice, and the contribution of members of the Orange Institution on the front line.

It is estimated upwards of 20 halls owned or primarily used by Orange lodges were erected as memorials to Orangemen who paid the supreme sacrifice during the First World War.

Such properties remain actively used by the Institution at locations across Northern Ireland, including Randalstown, Muckamore, Tullylish, Crumlin, Templepatrick, Dungannon and Ballymacarrett in east Belfast.

The detailed exhibition – which will travel across the Province – is initially on public display at Limavady’s Orange Heritage Centre until the end of November. Research for the project was compiled by History Hub Ulster.

The accompanying booklet states: “The War Memorial Orange halls were not just erected to provide a meeting place for lodges and preceptories, they also provided a place where ex-servicemen could meet to socialise and to reminisce. They also provided a place in which the core values of the Orange Order could be presented to members of the local community.

“The halls were often built by the brethren or by ex-servicemen and often had facilities – for example, washrooms, toilets, central heating, electricity – that were still absent in many residential properties.”

A number of the halls were named after individual soldiers who lost their lives on duty, including the Uprichard Memorial hall in Tullylish, Co Down.

It was formally opened in 1928 in memory of four members of Rising Star of Tullylish LOL 2020 who died during the Great War, one of whom was Major Henry Uprichard. The senior serviceman of the 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme.

Another property featured is the Lord Northland Memorial Orange hall in Dungannon. It was built in memory of local war hero, Captain Thomas Knox, Viscount Northland, who served with 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. He was also the Commanding Officer of the Dungannon Battalion of the Tyrone Regiment UVF. The Orangeman died in February 1915 of wounds received at La Bassee, France.

Commenting on the exhibition, museum curator Jonathan Mattison said: “We are delighted to launch this educational travelling exhibition and informative booklet, which underlines the extent and contribution of Orangeism to the Great War, and its lasting legacy for local communities.

“This display appropriately touches on the theme of remembrance and commemoration, and supports our ongoing Service and Sacrifice exhibition in marking the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.”

For more information on ‘Memorials to Sacrifice’, contact the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.


Delving into WW1 history at the roll of a dice

Players of a novel board game highlighting the contribution of Orangeism to the Great War are plotting their next move ahead of the Armistice centenary.

The innovative and interactive educational resource is one of the highlights of the ongoing ‘Service and Sacrifice’ exhibition at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

Visitors to the outreach facility, including schoolchildren, can participate in the board game as World War One soldiers; navigating their way, at the roll of a dice, through seminal battles of the Great War, learning interesting facts and anecdotes from the front line 100 years ago.

All the time players are being informed of military history and the Institution’s contribution to the war effort; picking up significant details, such as when the first tanks were used, and the first gas attack took place, among other information.

Museum curator Jonathan Mattison said the board game has been well received by members of the public.

“It was designed as a unique way in which young and old could engage with aspects of history from the Great War,” he said.

“Incorporating elements of the Orange service and sacrifice, during the conflict, the board game allows participants, especially young people to engage with history through a non-traditional learning format.

“In the Museum of Orange Heritage, we have created a balance between established methods of learning and new technology. Interactives provide a useful addition to such an environment.

He added: “In this age of technology, it is also productive to include other ways of encouraging education through participation, and this is why we developed our table top board game.”

As a worldwide organisation, it is estimated as many as 200,000 Orangemen and women enlisted in the Armed Forces or the various medical and nursing units.

The wider museum exhibition, which was launched earlier this year, marks not only the centenary of the Armistice, but also chronicles the remarkable personal stories of individuals associated with the Loyal Institutions who enlisted for King and country.

A number of significant items relating specifically to Orangemen who served with the 36th Ulster Division and other regiments from the period feature in the exhibition, as well as a number of battlefield incidentals and other artefacts.

Among the exhibits is a replica of a Royal Naval Armoured Car – ‘The Ulster’ – which was deployed on the Western Front in 1915. The display also features a walk-through imitation World War One trench.

Service and Sacrifice’ runs at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Cregagh Road, Belfast until 15 December 2018. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For group bookings, please contact 028 9070 1122.

Five-star visitor rating for Belfast museum

The Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast has been officially recognised for its quality of service.

The Orange Institution’s main outreach facility was recently presented with a certificate of excellence by the online travelling review site, TripAdvisor, based on the positive reviews by visitors.

To qualify for such a commendation, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four out of five. The Orange museum currently has a five-star rating.

Museum curator Jonathan Mattison hailed the award as a “fantastic achievement”.

He said: “This recognition from TripAdvisor is a wonderful reward not only for the museum, but for all the staff involved in its everyday operation.

“Since opening in 2015, we have been delighted to welcome thousands of visitors from not only Northern Ireland, but also the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, and from across the world.

“To secure a certificate of excellence demonstrates the high standards of our museum, and we will seek to build on such positive customer feedback in the days ahead.”

TripAdvisor spokesperson Hayley Coleman said: “TripAdvisor is pleased to honour exceptional hospitality businesses that have received consistent praise and recognition by travellers on the site.

“By putting a spotlight on businesses that are focused on delivering great service to customers, TripAdvisor not only helps drive an improvement to hospitality standards around the world, it also gives businesses both large and small the ability to shine and stand out from the competition.”

The museum at Schomberg House displays a wealth of items relating to the history of Orangeism across the world.

Artefacts include King William’s original saddlecloth from the Battle of the Boyne and the Paymaster General’s book of payments to the Williamite army.

The east Belfast interpretative centre is currently hosting the ‘Service and Sacrifice’ exhibition, marking the centenary of the Armistice and paying tribute to Orangemen and women who served during the First World War.

Last year, the Museum of Orange Heritage in Co Armagh was also presented with a prestigious four-star visitor experience award.

Sloan’s House in Loughgall, recognised as the birthplace of Orangeism, received the official acknowledgement from Tourism Northern Ireland.

The Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. The Loughgall museum is open from 10am to 4pm.


History to come alive as museum hosts Boyne Day

Boyne Day returns to the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast this weekend.

On Saturday, the outreach facility will be a hive of activity for the family orientated event, with information and activities exploring the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and its legacy.

Costumes and weapons will be brought to life through the recreation of a period camp, with living history performers. Children can also avail of various art and craft activities.

In addition, visitors on the day will be able to get their picture taken with a notable artefact from the period, currently on temporary loan at the museum. A military halberd, or a shortened pike, thought to have been used as a weapon during the Boyne battle 328 years ago, will be made available to the general public.

Other pieces on display in the museum gallery relating to the Glorious Revolution, include a Boyne musket and a bayonet, among many other pertinent items.

Curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said following the success of the inaugural Boyne Day last summer, the event was now an integral component of the museum’s interaction with the wider community.

He said: “Boyne Day is our way of bringing the legacy of the Battle of the Boyne to life. This was one of the most seminal battles and indeed moments in the history of the British Isles and was integral to the Glorious Revolution.

“As the tourist sector grows in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, it is important that we increase knowledge and understanding about the Williamite Trail in Ireland and its impact on our shared history.”

Visitors to the museum will also have the opportunity to view the ongoing ‘Service and Sacrifice’ exhibition marking the centenary of the end of the First World War this year. The impressive display chronicles the remarkable personal stories of individuals associated with the Loyal Institutions who enlisted for King and country 100 years ago.

Boyne Day takes place on Saturday August 18 from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Admission is free for children under 16. Entry for adults costs £3, including free admission to the museum. For more information, contact the Museum of Orange Heritage on 028 9070 1122, or visit

Boyne blade fit for two kings goes on public display

An historic bayonet exemplifying the complexities of the Williamite War in Ireland has gone on public display at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

The late 17th Century blade is thought to have been originally owned by a Jacobite soldier, who subsequently switched forces before the Battle of the Boyne to fight under the command of King William.

The weapon is the latest addition to the Orange Order museum’s impressive collection dating to the Glorious Revolution.

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said the item was a “fine example” of a typical British Army plug bayonet from the period.

Explaining the uniqueness of the artefact, he said: “The markings on the hilt and guard make reference to ‘Albany’, which in all likelihood means that this item belonged to a soldier serving with the regiment that was raised by James II prior to his becoming King in 1685.

“The markings on the lower section of the blade indicate that some, if not all, of the regiment switched sides at the beginning of the Glorious Revolution and the Williamite and Jacobite War in Ireland. This change of allegiance makes the piece quite interesting as it reflects the fact that many soldiers and regiments, who had been serving together prior to 1688, ended up fighting on rival sides during the war in Ireland.

“The soldier who used this weapon may have been conscious that the regiment had originally been loyal to James Stuart so etched WR and 1689 on the blade to show his support for the Glorious Revolution and the Constitutional change that had just taken place.”

Mr Mattison said the blade was an “interesting and valuable” piece, and confirmed it was now appropriately on display with a Dragoon carbine that saw action in the war with the Jacobite Forces.

He added: “It allows us to highlight not only the practical side of late 17th Century warfare, but also the complexities of the armies fighting on either side. In 1685 this soldier had been loyal to King James II. By 1689 he was very publicly showing his loyalty for the new constitutional settlement and the enthronement of King William III and Queen Mary II.”

The bayonet unveiling comes ahead of Boyne Day which returns to the Belfast museum next month.

The family event, on Saturday August 18, will incorporate living history displays, children’s arts and crafts, and other activities highlighting the Battle of the Boyne and its legacy.

Running from 10.30am to 3pm, admission for adults to the museum is at the reduced rate of £3. Entry is free to children under 16.

New war exhibition marks service and sacrifice

A major exhibition paying tribute to Orangemen and women who served during the First World War has opened in Belfast.

‘Service and Sacrifice’ at the Museum of Orange Heritage marks the centenary of Armistice this year and chronicles the remarkable personal stories of individuals associated with the Loyal Institutions who enlisted for King and country.

A number of significant items relating specifically to Orangemen who served with the 36th Ulster Division and other regiments from the period feature in the exhibition, as well as a number of battlefield incidentals and other artefacts.

Among the exhibits is a replica of a Royal Naval Armoured Car – ‘The Ulster’ – which was deployed on the Western Front in 1915. The display also features a walk-through imitation World War One trench.

The exhibition was officially opened by David Wilsdon, whose great-uncle – David Russell – fought with the Royal Naval Division in Russia during the Great War.

It is estimated 200,000 Orangemen and women from across the world served during the First World War, with thousands seeing action at the Somme and other seminal battles. At least five Orangemen were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry, including Robert Hill Hanna from Kilkeel. Many others like Benvarden Orangeman, John Meeke, were also hailed for their outstanding bravery on the front line.

Many Orangewomen enlisted with medical and nursing units, including Jean Victor Bates, who served with the Ambulance Corps, and was recognised for her service by both the Belgian and Serbian governments.

Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Harold Henning, said the Institution was “honoured” to showcase such an exhibition, the only one of its kind marking the centenary of the Armistice.

He said: “The involvement of Orangeism across the globe to the First World War effort cannot be overstated. The selfless service and sacrifice of Orangemen and women was truly incredible; their bravery and heroism shining brightly in the darkest theatres of battle. As we mark the centenary year of the Armistice, it is right and appropriate we remember our former members locally, and right across the Commonwealth, who volunteered for the greater good.

“Indeed, their service prompted Sir Edward Carson to say on the Twelfth of July 1918: ‘I believe that throughout the whole of this war wherever Orangemen have been found they have been in the forefront of duty, ever willing to give a hand to bring about a successful conclusion to the war’”

He added: “This exhibition is an educational and historical asset regarding the Great War and the Orange contribution to it, as well as a fitting tribute to all of those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “Through this exhibition we wanted to explore the more unusual stories about Orange participation in the First World War. In this centenary year of the 1918 Armistice we wanted to demonstrate that Orangemen and women served in a variety of roles and theatres of the war. We are indebted to families across Northern Ireland, and elsewhere, who provided us with information and artefacts relating to the service of their loved ones, not only on the Western Front but as far away as Russia and Africa.

“This exhibition is the flagship endeavour as part of a series of events being held by the Orange Institution to mark the ending of the First World War. We hope it will encourage others to share their stories about participation during that awful conflict.”

‘Service and Sacrifice’ runs at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Cregagh Road, Belfast until 15 December 2018. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For group bookings, please contact 028 9070 1122.

New journal highlights Orange history and heritage

A new publication which aims to highlight and preserve aspects of the Orange tradition was recently launched by the Institution.

The third volume of the Journal of Orange History, like its predecessors, aims to provide a unique platform for those researching and producing articles on aspects of Orangeism and its heritage.

The latest version, unveiled by Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson and Gavin Robinson MP, includes articles on a number of subjects including ‘Canada and the Great War’, focusing on the involvement, service and sacrifice of Orangemen from Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War.

Other topics include a detailed feature on Captain Rev James Barbour Orr, thought to have been the most senior Orangeman to have died during the Great War. The Scotsman was killed in action while leading his men in the Ypres area in July 1917.

The Orange Order in Canterbury from 1864 to 1908, and the origins and outworkings of the Institution in Co Limerick are also examined in detail.

Historical footnotes concentrating on Orangeism in the United States of America and notable former members of the Order worldwide also feature.

Authors in the journal include Iain Carlisle, Mark Dingwall, Patrick Coleman and Quincey Dougan.

The journal is the latest educational resource to be published by the Museum of Orange Heritage. The publication is sponsored by the Friends of Schomberg House museum support group.

Writing the journal’s foreword, museum curator Jonathan Mattison, said one of the aims of the booklet is to encourage the exploration of Orange history.

“Some of this year’s articles were inspired by talks given to the Orange history club that meets in the Museum of Orange Heritage throughout the year. The club has proved a lively and interesting forum for debate and discussion.”

He added: “We are extremely grateful to the Friends of Schomberg House for again sponsoring the Journal of Orange History. This journal provides a platform to explore aspects of Orange related history and heritage as well as encouraging people to become involved in researching that history. We are also keen that new authors have the opportunity to have their work published.”

The Journal of Orange History is currently available to purchase for £3. To obtain a copy, visit the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast or telephone 028 9070 1122.

If you are interested in contributing to the winter 2018 edition, email [email protected].

Wall of Fame unveiled at Belfast museum

Orangemen and women prominent in a variety of walks of life have been inducted onto a new wall of fame.

The innovative feature at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Belfast, showcases upwards of 70 individuals who have exceeded in their chosen field since the formation of the Institution in 1795.

It includes former prime ministers and statesmen; entrepreneurs; war heroes; missionaries; sports personalities and explorers.

Pronounced figures among the stairwell of portraits are Sir Mackenzie Bowell (prime minister of Canada 1894-96); Rev Dr Rutledge Kane (minister and Gaelic language enthusiast 1841-1898); James Craig (first prime minister of Northern Ireland (1921-40); Dr Thomas J. Barnardo (founder of the children’s charity (1845-1905); Robert Quigg (First World War Victoria Cross recipient) and Alan Campbell (Olympic rower and bronze medallist).

Other sporting personalities to be displayed include football legend George Best and Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey. John Houlding, founder of Liverpool Football Club, is also featured.

Unionist politicians are prevalent on the wall with leading figures such as Sir Edward Carson, Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux joining former prime ministers, John Millar Andrews, Viscount Brookeborough, Terence O’Neill, James Chichester-Clark and Brian Faulkner.

The Order’s military heritage is also underlined with Kilkeel’s Robert Hill-Hanna, awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917, among seven such recipients and others, along with Eric Glass, the most highly decorated member of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Bill Greer, who was driving J.F Kennedy’s limousine when the former US president was assassinated; celebrated musician Richard Hayward; and one of Northern Ireland’s leading business figures, William Wright, are other notable figures to gain recognition.

They join three ladies – Jean Bates (Queen Elizabeth medal recipient), Nancy Riach (swimmer) and Alicia Dickson-Hamilton (world champion drum major) – on public display at the outreach facility.

Museum curator Jonathan Mattison maintained the wall of fame was an appropriate tribute, serving to recognise members of the Institution who have excelled, and continue to do so, in wider society and further afield.

He said: “We are delighted to have installed our much-expanded graphic display of significant Orangemen and women. Down through the centuries, members have been involved in much more than meeting in their Orange halls or taking part in processions. They have been at the forefront of a variety of endeavours serving their respective communities around the world.

“Their lives, actions, and continued achievements, allow us to dispel some of the myths about the Loyal Orange Institution down through the centuries.

“This display will greatly enhance our offering at the Museum of Orange Heritage and, in this particular case, every picture really does tell a story of a thousand words.”

The Cregagh Road museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.


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