Museum exhibition showcases Reformation legacy

A major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has officially opened at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

‘Staunch and True’ examines the impact and legacy of the momentous event, and its enduring relevance in terms of theology, politics and wider society.

In October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ‘95 Theses’ on the castle door in Wittenberg in Germany – an act widely seen as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which spread throughout Europe.

Focusing on Luther’s principle role in what was a watershed moment for Christianity, the exhibition also explores the impact of pre-1517 reformers and how figures within the Loyal Orange Institution have played their part in fanning the ‘spreading flame’.

The contribution of pre-Reformation champions such as Jan Huss and John Wycliffe are considered, as well as Orangemen in its aftermath who proclaimed the reformed faith, including Dr Thomas Barnardo, and clergymen Rev Dr Thomas Drew and the former Bishop of Connor, Cyril Elliot.

The display includes a reproduction of a 16th Century printing press, which portrays the Reformation’s importance in accessibility to the printed word.

Another notable artefact on public display is an Erasmus Greek New Testament, dated 1527.

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, formally opened the exhibition.

He said: “As an organisation wedded to the reformed faith and based on Biblical principles, it is only natural that we should pause in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation and celebrate, not merely the events of 1517 and the 16th Century, but the impact and legacy these events have bequeathed to the modern word.

“Our latest major exhibition provides an informative insight into the historical context of the Reformation and how its powerful legacy impacted and inspired future generations.”

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “Whilst there were key figures before Martin Luther – his actions ‘burst the dam’ in terms of bedding in the Protestant Reformation. Like all revolutions 1517 was not an end in itself but has had a continuing impact on all aspects of life, not least through the creation of democratic politics and freedom of the individual.

“Staunch and True is Northern Ireland’s most significant examination of the Reformation and its enduring legacy. The Museum of Orange Heritage is delighted to play its role in commemorating such an evangelical landmark, and showcase material relating to such a seminal event to a wider audience.”

The exhibition will run at the Cregagh Road museum until the end of November 2017. The Museum of Orange Heritage is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Group bookings can be made by arrangement.

The exhibition opening comes ahead of a major rally to mark the Reformation anniversary in Co Armagh next month. Members of the Loyal Orders will take part in a procession through Portadown on Saturday 6 May, prior to a religious service at Shamrock Park. The latter is due to commence at 7.15pm.

Battle of the Boyne recited at Orange Museum

The story of the Battle of the Boyne has been brought to life at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

Drogheda-based author, Nicola Pierce, led two workshops for young people and adults at the outreach facility, reading extracts from and explaining the rationale of her latest historical novel, ‘Kings of the Boyne’. The book is a fictional account of the seminal 1690 battle of the Glorious Revolution between King William and King James.

Miss Pierce also used the context of her four novels – the sinking of the Titanic, WWII’s Battle of Stalingrad, the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne – to explain her approach to writing about history for children.

The public readings set the factual historical context of ‘Kings of the Boyne’, with the author explaining how she preferred to use real people, such as Gerald O’Connor, 19, a dutiful son and Jacobite, whose account of the battle can be found in the National Library in Dublin. For the Williamite side, she brought back the Derry brothers from her previous novel ‘Behind the Walls’, Robert and Daniel Sherrard, who were part of the original 13 apprentices who locked the four gates of Derry against a Catholic army in December 1688.

Miss Pierce expressed her appreciation to the Orange museum for hosting the event.

She said: “It was such an honour and thrill for me to be invited to speak at the museum. I’m not a historian but I love showing my way into something like the Battle of the Boyne and discussing the challenges of presenting it in a novel for younger readers. And I was really excited to see for myself King William’s letter and saddlecloth.”

Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “Creating better understanding of all aspects of history is important, especially Irish history. Today’s event with author Nicola Pierce, is another example of how the Museum of Orange Heritage is helping the whole community understand the events of the Glorious Revolution. Nicola has written a number of historical fiction books for young people and we are delighted to have her discussing her two books about the Glorious Revolution and Williamite and Jacobite War in Ireland.”

Among the guests at Tuesday morning’s workshop was The High Sherriff of Belfast, Alderman Tom Haire.

Kings of the Boyne, published by O’Brien Press, is currently available to purchase at the Museum of Orange Heritage shop, priced at £8.

Museum ‘striking a beat’ with Lambeg workshop

The iconic Lambeg drum is the feature of a series of workshops and open days this month at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Belfast.

Commencing on Saturday, drumming enthusiasts and members of the public are invited to come along to explore the traditions surrounding Ulster’s loudest musical instrument.

Over the course of three weekends, visitors to the Cregagh Road museum can learn more about the history and heritage of the Lambeg drum, and in particular its long held association with the Orange tradition.

At the workshops, members of the public will hear how the traditional instrument is both made and played.

A variety of Lambegs will be on display, including an impressive tribute drum to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Some archive film footage will also be available.

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “The Lambeg drum is one of the most recognisable musical instruments associated with Ulster and Orangeism.

“The rhythms and times beaten out on the Lambeg form part of the heartbeat of the Orange tradition, and form an integral part of the colour and infectious musicality of Ulster’s cultural heritage.

“It is therefore only appropriate we showcase the sight and unmistakable sound of the Lambeg drum to a wider audience.”

While it is difficult to place an exact year on the origin of the Lambeg, Orange tradition has it they were based on the large drums brought to Ireland by King William III’s army during the Glorious Revolution.

Indeed, folklore points to the involvement of a wren and a robin as part of the creation of an Orange drumming tradition. It is said that on the morning of 1 July 1690 these two birds alighted on a drum while the Williamite army were still sleeping. The noise they made on the drum woke a young drummer boy who in turn raised the alarm that the Jacobites were planning to attack.

As Orange tradition has it, the thunder of drums was such that it ‘drove a king out of three kingdoms’.

‘Rhythm & Time – the history and heritage of the Lambeg drum’ will take place at the Museum of Orange Heritage on 14, 21, and 28 January 2017 between 11am and 2pm.

Pre-booking is required, please ring 028 9070 1122 for more information.

Museum exhibition puts the Somme ‘in focus’

A photographic exhibition marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme has been unveiled at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

‘Somme 100: Commemorating the Battle’ incorporates a gallery of images taken from the museum’s ongoing Lily and the Poppy exhibition, alongside scenes of commemoration and remembrance by members of the Orange Institution throughout 2016.

Appropriately, the exhibition will be launched on the 100th anniversary of the ending of the seminal battle which epitomised the sacrifice of the First World War (18 November).

It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Orangemen from across the world served during the Great War, with many thousands seeing action at the Somme.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said: “As this centenary year of the Battle of the Somme enters its twilight weeks, we as an Institution wanted to put on public view imagery which exemplified the significance of remembrance to the Orange fraternity.

“The picture gallery highlights, very poignantly, how the Somme is engrained within the psyche of Orangeism. It underlines the selfless and remarkable contribution of our forefathers to the cause of liberty 100 years ago, as well as capturing how the Institution of today publicly marked their sacrifice.

“This exhibition is a fitting tribute to all those who fought and served on our behalf.”

The photographic display follows on from an earlier exhibition marking the 90th birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.

‘Somme 100’ at the Museum of Orange Heritage is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

The Lily and the Poppy exhibition, commemorating the contribution of Orangemen who fought at the Battle of the Somme, runs until 19 December 2016.

Education Minister visits Museum of Orange Heritage

Stormont minister Peter Weir has endorsed the educational outreach of the Orange Institution during a visit to the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

The education minister commended the museum on its collection of informative resources, including a series of school workbooks and handling boxes.

The schoolbooks, aimed specifically at pupils at Key Stage 2 and 3 level, and community groups, provide detailed information on the Loyal Institution itself and seminal historical events, including the Glorious Revolution, the Great War and World War Two.

As well as personally viewing the workbooks and handling boxes, containing materials relating to Orangeism, the minister also enjoyed a guided tour of the museum, incorporating the interactive educational zone which facilitates school group visits.

Mr Weir said: “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Orange Heritage today and to view the facilities and educational resources on offer. I commend the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland on the educational outreach work that they are involved in. School groups, through their specific programmes, will gain an understanding of the history of the Orange Order, as well as historical events such as World War One and World War Two.”

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “We were delighted to welcome Minister Weir to the Museum of Orange Heritage so he could witness for himself first-hand how education is fundamental to our many outreach initiatives.

“We trust the minister will have been impressed, not only by the museum as an educational resource, but also by our extensive literature and materials which are key components of our ongoing engagement with schools. Reaching out to pupils on a cross-community basis is serving to foster a greater understanding of Orangeism and its place within wider society.”

He added: “The Museum of Orange Heritage offers visitors, including school groups, the opportunity to learn and engage with a rich, vibrant and evolving tradition that has played a significant role in Irish, British and world history. We want to encourage everyone to visit the facility and engage with our programmes.”

For more information, or to obtain copies of the educational material, please contact the Museum of Orange Heritage on 028 9070 1122 or email

Boyne Obelisk stones go on display at Belfast Museum

Part of a monument erected to commemorate King William’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne is now on permanent display in Belfast, courtesy of the Museum of Orange Heritage.

Three granite stones from the iconic Boyne obelisk, built in 1736 at the site of one of the seminal events in the history of the British Isles, have been donated to the outreach facility for public viewing.

The monument, which stood on the grassy slopes of the Boyne River, was destroyed in an explosion in May 1923. It is believed the structure was blown up by republicans, using dynamite removed from an Irish army camp.

The Institution has long-held aspirations to one day see the memorial restored to its former glory at its original site.

The stones, located within the grounds of the Cregagh Road museum, were donated by the officers and members of Boyne Obelisk LOL 1690. They were formally dedicated during a short service, led by Assistant Grand Master and Grand Chaplain, Rev Mervyn Gibson.

Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “The obelisk stones are a wonderful addition to our cultural resource, and will enhance the significant number of artefacts already in our possession in relation to the Glorious Revolution. Their uniqueness and authenticity is further enriched by the fact they are surrounded by grass which emanates from the Boyne.

“This unveiling has been long in the planning and we are indebted to the officers and members of the Boyne lodge for their generosity and foresight in facilitating this worthy process.”

He added: “This donation further underlines the museum’s status as an established repository for all Orange related history. It is extremely important such significant items are preserved for future generations, so that everyone can understand the narrative of our shared history.”

Worshipful Master of Boyne Obelisk LOL 1690, Jim Wilson, said: “We are delighted to donate these original stones to the Museum of Orange Heritage, and in so doing ensure another piece of our history is preserved for posterity.

“The stones once formed a small part of the large obelisk which stood 174 foot high at the Boyne as a memorial to the battle and the fallen. It was for a time the largest structure of its kind in Europe. All that remains today is the base and a few scattered stones of the obelisk.

“The ultimate aim of the lodge remains to restore the original obelisk and we will strive to achieve our goal, as a lasting tribute for future generations.”

The Belfast museum, which officially opened last summer, displays a wealth of items and artefacts relating to Orange history across the world. A sister facility, focusing on the origins of Orangeism, is located at Sloan’s House in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

An exhibition commemorating the sacrifice of Orangemen who fought at the Battle of the Somme is currently ongoing at the Institution’s headquarters.

The Museum of Orange Heritage is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For group bookings, please contact 028 9070 1122.

Somme Exhibition opens at Museum of Orange Heritage

An exhibition commemorating the valour and sacrifice of members of the Orange Institution who fought at the Battle of the Somme has opened in Belfast.

‘The Lily and the Poppy’ at the Museum of Orange Heritage marks the centenary of the seminal battle during the First World War and chronicles the contribution of thousands of Orangemen on the front line.

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.

The exhibition was officially opened by John McAreavey, a veteran with the Irish Guards to the noise of a bugle, which sounded the advance at the Somme 100 years ago.

It is estimated 200,000 Orangemen from across the world served during the First World War, with thousands seeing action at the Somme. At least five Orangemen were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry, including Robert Quigg from Bushmills for his outstanding bravery on the battlefield.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said the Institution was “proud and honoured” to remember its fallen heroes of 1916.

He said: “The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of Orangeism, given the huge sacrifice by members of the Institution on the front line. In this centenary year we remember those Orangemen not only from Ulster, but across the Commonwealth, who selflessly volunteered and fought on the battlefields, and paid the supreme sacrifice on our behalf.

“It is well documented that many Orangemen went over the top in the heat of the battle proudly wearing their collarettes or Orange ribbons on their uniforms, and never returned. In this context, the lily and the poppy are poignantly symbolic as the flowers of a generation lost in battle.

“This exhibition is an educational 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 so valiantly at the Somme.”

Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “The contribution of Orangemen at the Somme cannot be overstated. It is important in this centenary year that we as an organisation not only pay tribute to all those who fought at the Somme, but particularly highlight the prominent role of Orangemen on the battlefield.”

‘The Lily and the Poppy’ runs at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Cregagh Road, Belfast until 19 December 2016. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For group bookings, please contact 028 9070 1122.



Items on display at the exhibition include –

Warrant of Military LOL 862, East Belfast Volunteers, formed by members of the 36th Ulster Division

A sash which belonged to a member of Churchill LOL 1951 found on the front line

The lodge membership certificate of Victoria Cross recipient, Robert Quigg

Engraved pocket watch belonging to Hugh Tanner, presented to him by an Orange lodge, and carried with him when he fought with the 109th Brigade at the Somme

Lodge minute books that account for their members serving or who lost their lives

Battlefield incidentals including rifles, flare shells and an assortment of cartridges found near Thiepval Wood

An Illustrated hospital diary associated with the Ulster Division

The Prince of Wales visits Museum of Orange Heritage

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has visited the birthplace of Orangeism in County Armagh.

During his tour of the Museum of Orange Heritage at Sloan’s House, Loughgall, The Prince entered the original parlour where the first warrants were signed in 1795, marking the formation of the Orange Institution.

As well as learning more about the early development of Orangeism, the Royal visitor was shown key artefacts from the period of the Glorious Revolution. These included a pair of King William III’s riding gauntlets and a letter penned by the sovereign prior to his arrival in Ireland in 1690, ahead of the Battle of the Boyne.

His Royal Highness also viewed the adjoining memorial garden, which remembers members of the Institution in Co Armagh who were killed during the Troubles. The Prince then planted an apple tree in the garden of remembrance.

The Prince of Wales was welcomed to the Loughgall museum by the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, and County Grand Master of County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge, Denis Watson.

Mr Stevenson said: “We were delighted and honoured to welcome His Royal Highness to the Museum of Orange Heritage in Loughgall.

“Since opening last summer, Sloan’s House is proving to be a popular cultural resource and attraction for the entire community. Complementing our larger museum in Belfast, visitors to both sites have the opportunity to learn and engage with a rich, vibrant and evolving tradition that has played a significant role in Irish, British and world history.

“The Orange Institution is very proud of our extensive and ongoing cross-community outreach. We are absolutely thrilled to receive a Royal visitor as we play our part in Northern Ireland society moving forward to an accepted and shared future for all.”

He added: “This was a special and momentous day which will live long in our memory and be cherished for many generations to come.”

Mr Watson: “We are immensely proud to have hosted The Prince of Wales at Sloan’s House.

“The roots of Orangeism, and its worldwide presence of today, emanated from within the confines of a modest Co Armagh dwelling following the Battle of the Diamond. It is wonderful that such a fascinating history could be shared with a present heir to the British throne.

“It was also very poignant His Royal Highness was able to pay his respects to those 68 local Orangemen, many of whom served in the security forces, who made the ultimate sacrifice. The memorial garden serves as a permanent reminder of the painful legacy which terrorism inflicted during the Troubles.”

To mark his visit to the outreach facility, His Royal Highness was invited to unveil a commemorative plaque. As well as signing the visitors’ book, the Prince of Wales was also presented with a painting by renowned Ulster artist, Ross Wilson.

Among the musicians to greet The Prince were Lambeg drummers and members of Drumderg Flute Band, who serenaded the Royal visitor with a repertoire of tunes, including ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales’.

In attendance at the special event were a number of dignitaries, including First Minister Arlene Foster and Heather Humphreys, Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht in the Republic. The senior politicians were joined by Orangemen, women and juniors from across Northern Ireland and the border counties, as well as representatives from both the maintained and controlled education sector.

Pupils from local primary schools were among the large crowds, outside the museum, who welcomed The Prince to the quaint Armagh village.

Museum exhibition puts Her Majesty ‘in the picture’

A photographic exhibition marking the Queen’s 90th birthday has been unveiled at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

‘Happy and Glorious’ features a snapshot of images relating to Her Majesty’s numerous visits to Northern Ireland, before and during her illustrious reign as Britain’s longest serving monarch.

Among the photos on display is then Princess Elizabeth’s first official engagement in the Province, reviewing the girl guides in Lisburn in 1945. Others depict the Queen’s regular visits to various parts of Northern Ireland during the 64 years of her sovereignty, and include celebrations for her Coronation and the Golden Jubilee.

Also given prominence is an archive photograph of Lambeg drummers greeting the Queen and Prince Philip at Hillsborough Castle in 1953.

Continuing the royal theme, cream teas will also be available to the public every Wednesday at the museum’s Piccolo cafe throughout the duration of the display, which runs until the end of June.

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said the outreach facility was delighted to host such an exhibition to publicly recognise the Queen’s personal milestone.

He said: “We are absolutely thrilled to mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday in such an innovative way, and have no doubt the impressive photographic display will become a focal point and matter of discussion for museum visitors.

“As well offering a snapshot of the Queen’s numerous visits to Northern Ireland over a period of 70 years, the exhibition also brings history to life through the presence of a shell of one of the original Lambeg drums which serenaded the Royal couple. We are grateful to Hillsborough District for the loan of this significant musical item.”

He added: “We are also indebted to the Belfast Telegraph for their cooperation and assistance in the provision of photographs for this special exhibition.”

The recognition of the Queen comes ahead of a major Battle of the Somme exhibition at the east Belfast museum later this year.

Since opening last summer, the Museum of Orange Heritage is proving popular with the wider public and tourists as the Loyal Institution aims to promote shared space and greater levels of reconciliation through education.

The state-of-the-art building at Schomberg House displays a wealth of items and artefacts relating to the history of Orangeism across the world. Another smaller museum, focusing on the origins of the Institution, is located at Sloan’s House in Loughgall, Co Armagh.

The Museum of Orange Heritage is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. The Cregagh Road facility is also open until 8pm every Thursday.

Easter fun at the Museums of Orange Heritage

Visitors to the Museum of Orange Heritage are ensured plenty of family fun this Easter.

As well as experiencing the cultural heritage and traditions of the Orange Institution – children’s crafts and art activities will also be available in the interactive learning zone at the east Belfast facility during the holiday weekend.

All art activities will be accessible to the public on Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday. The Cregagh Road museum is also open to the public on Good Friday and Easter Saturday.

The Institution’s other museum at Sloan’s House, Loughgall – focusing on the origins of Orangeism in Co Armagh – is open to the public on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Tuesday.

Food and refreshments are available in the on-site cafés at both venues.

For more information visit the museums’ website at, email or call 028 9070 1122 (Belfast) 028 3889 2048 (Loughgall).

The Belfast museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am–5pm and Loughgall is open from 10am–4pm.

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