Category Archives: History

Orangemen Return to Carleton Street Orange Hall 1944

Orangemen Return to Carleton Street Orange Hall 1944

Before Victory in Europe in 1945, the Orangemen and Orangewomen of Portadown could return to Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The Hall had been under military control to both the British and American Troops at different periods of time during the 2nd World War.

To mark the occasion a function was held in the Town Hall in 1944.

“The large and enthusiastic representative audience spoke volumes for the virility of the Order in the Portadown District and augurs well for its future progress here”.

 

The assembly room in the Town Hall was ‘attractively decorated’ with bunting, greenery and flowers.  This added a ‘welcome touch of warmth’.

“Everyone was in good spirits and keen to resume the good work of the order”.

Dr Dougan and the Orange Influence

In his opening address, District Master Dr George Dougan said that ‘they had a great deal for which to be thankful for.  They were grateful to get back again and it would make a great difference to the Order in the District’.

In his speech conclusion, Dr Dougan conveyed to the meeting a message of good wishes from sister Louisa Shillington, widow of the former District Master, Major David Graham Shillington.

Service

Parkmount Flute Band led the music entertainment, their conductor was Brother Albert Wilson.  Songs were performed by Brother Harold McAfee, Brother Leslie Hurst and Brother Jack Menaul.

Secretary of the Orange Hall Committee, Brother Herbert Whitten, who had been at the forefront of all negotiations with the British and American Military authorities regarding the Hall, gave an interesting survey of matters concerning the hall since its requisition by the military.

A number of speeches followed.

The Ladies

There was a short interval in the service and tea was served.  This was provided by two of the Women’s Orange Lodges, WLOL 62 and WLOL85. The District Mistress, Sister Dougan, organised the refreshments ‘with an efficiency that earned the praise of all present’.

With the interval over, Parkmount Flute Band once again took to the stage to provide musical entertainment.

Presentation

One surprise item came at the end of the evening.  Mr Callender Bullock made a presentation (on behalf of his wife) from the members of Portadown Women’s Unionist Association, to Dr George Dougan.  It was a ‘beautiful paper knife’.

The evening Concluded with the National Anthem.

 

 

Portadown Soldier’s Ordeal: Home for VE Celebrations after 5 years as a Prisoner of War

Portadown Soldier’s Ordeal: Home for VE Celebrations after 5 years as a Prisoner of War

After having spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in the hands of the Germans, Fusilier James Hughes of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers returned home in time to experience the VE Celebrations.

Fusilier Hughes returned to his home at 13 Fowlers Entry, Portadown. He was met at Watson Street Railway Station by Mr R J Magowan, Chairman of the Urban District Council, Mr Geo McGowan, Town Clerk, and Mr R Heathwood, B.E.M.

Fusilier Hughes’ widowed Mother, Mary, and other members of his family were of course overjoyed to see him.  Some of the younger members of the family had never met him.  Some of his younger siblings had only a handful of memories of him before the war and didn’t know what he looked like.

He was described as

“looking little the worse of his long period in German war prisoner compounds”.

First Visit

One of the first visits for Fusilier Hughes on his return was to the News Office.  There he requested a public thank you to be published to the local citizens for their support of the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund.

“these parcels reached us regularly, though the Germans had been ghoulish enough to open them and merely hand over about half of what was intended for the men to whom they were dispatched”.

Fusilier Hughes

He also acknowledged parcels sent by Mr George Hughes, 13 South Street.  Although he never personally received the packages.

The Parcels

One of the main contributors to the parcels for local men being held in German prisoner of war camps , was Portadown Women’s Orange District.  They worked alongside Portadown Women’s Unionist Association.

Sister Louisa Shillington, was one of the main organisers and a driving force behind donations for the appeal.  It was something close to her heart as she had lost her son, Tom Shillington, and nephew, Geoffrey Shillington Cather, in the First World War.  Her Husband, David Graham Shillington had sadly died in 1944 and never saw the war come to an end.

Louisa Shillington (Nee Collen)
Image courtesy of Shillington Family records

David Graham Shillington was MP for the area and was District Master of Portadown Orange District LOL No 1 right up until his death.  He had been a company commander in the local Ulster Volunteer Force during the Home Rule Crisis and went on to become a Major in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers during the First World War. He had also took over the family firm T A Shillington & Son (now Haldane and Fisher) after his father died suddenly when he was 16.

Enlistment

Fusilier Hughes, who in civilian life, had been employed by Mr Edward Cassells of Woodhouse Street, enlisted in 1936.

He was taken prisoner at Ypres, Belgium on 27th May 1940.  Some of the places he had been to in the course of his travels across Germany, some of them in forced marches, included Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Marienwerder and Danzig.

Dunkirk

Fusilier Hughes had been in Berlin when the Dunkirk Evacuation took place.  During his incarceration he had acquired a good understanding of the German language.

While a prisoner he was allowed one letter home per week, but since the Normandy Invasion correspondence ceased and at all times contact with German civilians was strictly  forbidden.

The bombing by the RAF and USAAF gave the Allied war prisoners cause for anxiety, as at times their camp had narrow escapes.

Experiences

Fusilier Hughes described the Germans as harsh. On one occasion he escaped from the camp and enjoyed four days of freedom.  He was caught by the Gestapo, taken to their headquarters and severely beaten.

He described the occasions of forced marches as gruelling.   The Supreme headquarters of the Allied Nations had dropped leaflets into Germany demanding more consideration to the welfare of their prisoners, but no improvement in camp conditions was noticed.

Liberation

Liberation came when the 8th American Army reached Hamburg.  The Russian Forces converged at the same time.  Another local man they set free was George McCarragher from Obins Street, Portadown.

Fusilier Hughes arrived by Lancaster at Croydon. There, liberated prisoners of war were met with crowds and fellow servicemen and women to welcome them back. James then continued to Stranraer and arrived back in Northern Ireland via Larne.

Home Thoughts

One thing that surprised Fusilier Hughes on his arrival home was the small extent of the damage by air raids.  In Germany, all the big cities he had passed through were completely flattened.

Fusilier Hughes was given 6 weeks leave with double rations which were to help towards his complete recovery from undernourishment.  He was to rejoin his unit on 28th June 1945.

His Father, the late Mr James Hughes Senior, had served in the 1st World War with The Royal Engineers and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Portadown Streets are decorated for VE Day 1945

Portadown Streets are decorated for VE Day 1945

The Portadown people rose to the occasion of the VE Celebrations as flags and bunting were displayed throughout the town.

“There was a splash of colour on every hand.  Most prominent, as might be expected was the Union Flag and this was closely followed by that of the USA and the USSR.  Of the other flags there was a good proportion of the national emblem of Belgium, whose troops are on local soil. It was a nice gesture on the part of so many of our citizens to lay more than usual emphasis on the exhibition of the Belgian flag”.

Extra lighting

The Northern Ireland Electricity Board had increased the available restricted lighting facilities in the Main Street. This was supplemented by illumination from several of the shops, the shop owners had allowed their lights to remain burning.

Shops were also decorated for the occasion.  Those given particular mention in the records are R Corbett & Sons and A J Eakins.  They are described as ‘exquisitely decorated’.

Well known buildings

The Town Hall facade was described as a “work of art and it looked very pretty in the reflection of the floodlights when darkness fell”.  The flags of the Union and many of the Allied countries were displayed on flag poles outside.  There was also boxes of flowers in the windows.

The Regal Cinema also had a similar display of flags and at night it was ‘brightly illuminated’.

Orange Halls

There was also an attractive display of flags and bunting at Carleton Street Orange Hall.  All the other Orange Halls throughout Portadown District also rose to the occasion.

“It is impossible to detail what was done in every street to signalise the spontaneous outpouring of joy and gratitude which found an outlet everywhere  in town”.

 

Mourneview Street

Mourneview Street is given particular mention in the archives.  ‘The Air Raid Shelter was painted red, white and blue and surmounted by ‘V’ signs’.  On top a loud speaker relayed the radio programmes.  The street is described as being “profusely decorated with bunting reaching across the roadway at every possible point and Union Jacks floating from the residences”.

Three residents donned ‘German’ clothing, one impersonating Hitler and the other two his guards.  Their appearance caused much laughter for the street and a collection from the residents was donated to the local nursing society.

One resident, Mrs Doak of 22 Mounrneview Street, caused quite a stir with her famous curtains in her sitting room.  They were made from red, white and blue material.  Mrs Doak had first put them up during the 1901 celebrations at the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.  The other occasion which they had made an appearance was during the Armistice period in 1918.

The same spark which animated the Mourneview Street residents was also to be found in all the other districts of the town.

Marley Street’s Unique Decorations

The local Roman Catholic communities had their premises and residences decorated with bunting and the flags of the Allied Nations during the celebrations. In Marley Street for example, a huge Union Jack hung right across the centre of the roadway, while other decorations included a blood-stained ensign brought home from Palestine by one of the many men from the vicinity serving in H.M Forces.

St Patrick’s Hall in Thomas Street was also decorated inside and outside, while St Patrick’s Recreation Club premises in Thomas Street was also decorated.

Post Office

The telephone operators at Portadown Exchange reported ‘a big increase in the number of calls being made, even the cross-channel lines being kept more busy’.  Nevertheless, at the GPO time was found to decorate the whole building before work began.

 

The Bonfires to Celebrate VE Day 1945

The Bonfires to Celebrate VE Day 1945

Bonfires have been used for centuries to celebrate and mark historical occasions.  The VE Celebrations were no different.

Organised Bonfires were set alight at several locations in the town.  The first one was ignited in High Street.

An effigy of Hitler was the source of entertainment when it was carried through the town. The effigy was hoisted on to scaffolding by locals with the help of Servicemen, including Belgian Soldiers, who were ‘delighted with the experience’ and the introduction to the Northern Ireland Bonfire Tradition.

The large collection of boxes and timber of all descriptions made up the bonfire.  It was set on fire and the crowds cheered as the effigy went up in flames.

Main Bonfire

The main Bonfire of the evening took place in the Fair Green.  The local Boy Scouts, under the guidance and leadership of Commissioner Cyril Abraham, had built the large structure.

A large crowd of people gathered to watch. The occasion was opened  by the band of the Salvation Army.  They played the hymns ‘O God our Help in ages past’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Dr George Dougan MP and District Master of Portadown Orange District LOL No 1 led the speeches.

“We are met here to celebrate  the greatest victory ever, this will become more apparent as we see the fruits of the success.  We are this evening honouring the Boy Scouts who have arranged this fire.  The future of this district in particular and the province in general, is in good hands when guided in any way by Boy Scouts who carry out work of great usefulness”.

Captain Ian Graham of the Royal Army Service Corps had connections with scouting in America.  In his speech he stated:

“I am greatly honoured at being asked to join the ceremony this evening. It would give American Scouts great pleasure if they knew an American Scout had been invited to the proceedings “.

Mr R J Magowan, Chairman of the Urban District Council, stated:

“Once again we see that where the Union Jack flies man is free.  Portadown has played a wonderful part in the waging of the war during the past 5 or 6 years.  Every section of service has had its share of the support of their people, the Armed Services, Shipyards, Factories, Civil Defence , Home Guard and the farms.  We all feel proud of the triumph which has been achieved and that our province is still attached to the British Empire”.

“Portadown is very proud of all of her Men and Women in H.M Services and it remains for those at home to make this a better place to which they will return”.

Speeches were also heard from Mr H Murray, President of the the British Legion and Mr W.A Mullen.

A Community Together

Mr T A Shillington, President of the Portadown and District Boy Scouts Association, placed a lighted torch to the bonfire. The Bonfire was a mass flame in a few short minutes and spread ‘light across the entire neighbourhood’.

As the fire burned the Band led the people in community singing. Mr Joshua Bell had led the proceedings with announcing those giving speeches.  He finished with the famous lines from Laurence Binyon’s poem in memory of the fallen ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’.  This was followed by ‘a short silence of respect to the gallant dead’.

The Lords prayer was recited by the Rev H W Plunkett.  The crowd sang the hymn ‘Abide with me’ and the National Anthem concluded the event.

Symbolic

The burning of the effigy of Hitler was described as:

“symbolic of the ending of the Nazi tyranny of mind and soul, and the lighting of the four torches symbolised the four freedoms and the rekindling of a new home of freedom, brotherhood and peace for mankind”.

Other Bonfires

Bonfires were set alight in several other locations in the town.  Some of those recorded in our archives are John Street, South Street and Meadow Lane. The Bonfires were described as a ‘magnificent event’.

Especially for the young children who experienced them for the first time.  The normality of Bonfires being built and set alight in July to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne had not happened for the duration of the 2nd World War.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rise of the Women’s Orange Institution in Portadown: 1923

The rise of the Women’s Orange Institution in Portadown: 1923

In 1923 the Unionist Women of Portadown and District became the leading force for Women joining the Loyal Orange Order in increasingly large numbers.

The first Portadown Lodge of the Women’s Orange Institution, WLOL 62, was formed in Carleton Street Orange Hall in 1921. By 1923 the town had three flourishing Women’s Lodges.  In the same year Women’s Lodges were also opened at Tamnificarbet and Bannfoot.

A special meeting of the officers of Portadown Women’s LOL No. 62 was held in Carleton Street Orange Hall in May 1923.  The purpose of the meeting was to install the first officers of Portadown Women’s District LOL No.3.

The Formation of Portadown District Women’s LOL No.3

The chair was occupied by Sister Martin, Grand Secretary, who acted as installing officer. Sister Martin was assisted by Sister Beatty, Deputy Worshipful Mistress, Antrim.  Also present at the meeting was the Worshipful Mistress and Officers of Clounagh Women’s LOL.   Brother W.H Wright and Brothers Hamilition, Patton, Bell and Jenkinson represented the Men’s District.

After the Installation, Sister Martin addressed the officers, congratulating them and Portadown on ‘being raised to the position of a District, and stating that Newtownhamilition Women’s LOL would also be attached to their District’.

The First Worshipful Mistress of Portadown District

The chair was then taken by Sister McDonald, Deputy Grand Mistress of Ireland, who thanked those present for unanimously electing her to the position of the first Worshipful Mistress of Portadown District.  In her speech she urged all to “live up to the high religious ideals for which the association was instituted”.

Brother Wright congratulated the Sisters on the success of the order in Portadown.  He said:

“the Women’s Loyal Orange Lodge was a good united sisterhood banded together in a religious order for the uplifting of the people”.

 

Formation of WLOL 101

It was during this meeting that the officers of the newly formed Women’s Lodge No.101 of Edenderry were also installed by Sister Martin:

Worshipful Mistress: Sister Jessie Collen

Deputy Mistress: Sister Morgan

Chaplin: Sister Hoy

Secretary: Sister Sullivan

Treasurer: Sister Campbell

Committee: Sister Haack

                      Sister McCrory

                      Sister Smith

                      Sister Taylor

                      Sister Allen

 

Influence of Women’s Orange Lodges

Brother John Patton and R.H Bell spoke in appreciative terms regarding the influence of Women’s Orange Lodges, ‘congratulating Sister Collen on her appointment as Worshipful Mistress’ and the Lodge on having made such a “splendid choice”.

Both Brethren felt assured that “the Lodge would prove a credit to both Edenderry and Killycomaine”. 

All present were afterwards entertained to tea by sisters of the newly formed Lodges.

Over the period of the next few years a number of other Women’s Orange Lodges were formed within Portadown District Women’s LOL.

‘Our Loyalty is Not for Barter’ Festival Success

‘Our Loyalty is Not for Barter’ Festival Success

‘Our Loyalty is Not For Barter’

Portadown Heritage Tours hosted a very successful Orange Heritage Week in Carleton Street Orange Hall with ‘Our Loyalty is Not for Barter’ Festival.  The name of the Festival was taken from a quote in a letter that Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Ward William Blacker sent to the men of Seagoe Parish in the town on 4th September 1914.  Edward Carson first used the quote during a speech in Belfast a few days before.  The festival of events explored the transition of the 4thPortadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force into the 9thBattalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and their journey from enlisting at Carleton Street Orange Hall to fighting for King and Country.

Service of Remembrance

The Festival was officially launched on Monday 23rdSeptember with a Drumhead Service of Remembrance.  A plaque was unveiled by Grand Master Edward Stevenson, in memory of the men of the 4thPortadown Battalion Ulster Volunteer Force who enlisted into the 9thBattalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in Carleton Street Orange Hall in September 1914.

 

Exhibitions on Display

Every room in Carleton Street Orange Hall was transformed into a different exhibition.  Exhibitions included a Recruitment Office, Field Hospital, The story of Portadown men on the Western Front; which included personal stories and letters that had been sent home, Memorials to Sacrifice, The Blacker and Shillington families of Portadown, Women and the First World War; including Portadown Women’s Unionist Association and the members who went on to form the first Women’s Orange Lodges in the town between 1921 and 1923, The Home Rule Crisis, Unionist Clubs, Formation of the Ulster and Irish Volunteers and the story of the 36thUlster Division and the 16thIrish Division together at Messines in 1917 and also Portadown’s Memorial Arches.

 

Talks and Presentations

It was a busy week with living history displays and talks also taking place.  Mrs Carol Walker from the Somme Association delivered an excellent presentation and talk on the suffragettes and the role of women in the First World War.  Also, local Historian, Richard Edgar delivered an equally excellent presentation and talk on Portadown’s role in the First World War and explained personal stories and experiences about local men who went to fight for King and Country.

Bringing History to Life

In the early planning stages of the festival, Portadown Heritage Tours had looked at the events that happened in the hall after the volunteers had enlisted, but before they left to train and fight.  These events included tea dances for the soldiers and their families.  So, on Friday 27thSeptember, Portadown Heritage Tours hosted a Ladies Night with a Tea Party for the ladies of the local Women’s Orange Institution.  A ladies night was chosen to pay tribute to the local women who contributed so much towards the Home Rule Crisis and the War Effort.

Success

The festival was concluded on Saturday 28thSeptember with a family fun day, a more modern twist on the family events that where held in 1914.

The festival proved very popular with an excellent number of visitors recorded.  Local Schools and Boys Brigade also enjoyed the festivities.

Special Thanks

Portadown Heritage Tours would like to express their gratitude of thanks to everyone involved in the festival.

Star of David Accordion Band, Edgarstown Accordion Band, Pride of the Birches Accordion Band, Portadown Defenders Flute Band, Hilhaven Flute Band, Corcrain Flute Band, Colour Party Portadown Ex Servicemen’s LOL 608 and RBP 326, Royal Irish Fusiliers Association Portadown Branch, Piper David Hogg, Rev Maurice Laverty, Grand Master GOLI Edward Stevenson, Drew Rowan, Ashley Forbes WW1 Exhibits, The ladies of  Carleton over 50’s, David Weir and Craigavon Museum Services, Carol Walker Somme Association, Northern Ireland Historical Airsoft Society, Richard Edgar, Carleton Street Community Development Association, Brilliant Trails, Museum of Orange Heritage Belfast, Lodges and Individuals who kindly loaned artefacts, the Ladies of the local Women’s Orange Institution, Castle Kings Bouncy Castle Hire, Friendly Faces, Portadown District LOL No.1 and all our volunteers for all the hard work putting the exhibition together.

Laying the Foundation Stone of Carleton Street Orange Hall

Laying the Foundation Stone of Carleton Street Orange Hall

The foundation stone of Carleton Street Orange Hall was laid on 1st July 1872.  This particular moment in history has led to nearly 150 years worth of local heritage in Carleton Street Orange Hall.

The weather was quite poor on that particular day but it did not affect the proceedings of the ceremony.  The ceremony was described as being “performed in a manner worthy of the occasion”.

Arrival

Just after noon, the ‘Country Lodges’ and spectators marched into Portadown.  The Orange Lodges had agreed to meet at 1:00pm ‘on the green’ where the hall would be built in Carleton Street.  From that hour until shortly before 3:00pm, processions of the Brethren were continuously arriving.

Below is a list of the Lodges and their Worshipful Masters who were present.

  • LOL 7 – R Ruddock
  • LOL 8- H Mercer
  • LOL 9- Thomas Hoy
  • LOL 10- B Donnelly
  • LOL 13- R Budd
  • LOL 20- William Dyner
  • LOL 25- George Sherman
  • LOL 31- J Cooke
  • LOL 40 – James Taylor
  • LOL 56 – W J Locke
  • LOL 58 – Albert Groabie
  • LOL 78- Thomas Wright
  • LOL 81- John Little
  • LOL 89- George Robinson
  • LOL 99- William G Dowey
  • LOL 107- Malcolmson Moffet
  • LOL 172- Rev C K Owen
  • LOL 417 – J Patton
  • LOL 1301- W J Sullivan

Platform

Each Lodge carried their banner.  The banners were described in local newspaper reports as ‘without exception of rich quality and chaste design’.  There was a platform set up at the site of the new hall.  A large union flag in the centre, and one in each corner, where flown from the tower of St Marks Parish Church.  During the early part of the afternoon the bells of the church were rung in honour of the occasion.

The platform party consisted of; Stewart Blacker Esq, Rev C K Irwin, Rev A J Are, Rev James Patton, Rev S Sullivan, Rev H W Left, Baroness Von Steglitz, Miss Belcher, Miss Stead, Mrs Sullivan, Miss McNally, Miss Crosslee, Miss Kate Carleton, Mr Thomas Carleton Esq, Dr Stuart W Hall Esq, Mr J Boyd Esq, R Pepper Esq, Mrs Pepper and  Brother James Ruddock (D.M).

Proceedings

The proceedings began with Stewart Blacker stating that “they always commenced their proceedings with prayer and in reading a portion of scripture”.  Reverend Irwin led the opening prayers while Reverend Patton read the 67th Psalm.

Stewart Blacker then began his speech.  He welcomed all those present and paid tribute to the occasion and all the Brethren of Portadown Orange District.

” There is no District in the whole Orange Institution that holds such a historical place as the good district of Portadown”

– Stewart Blacker

 

Major Stewart Blacker

Mr Blacker also paid tribute to the formation of the Orange Order and the first Grand Master. His uncle, Colonel William Blacker.  He was immensely proud of this.  Stewart Blacker then proceeded to show the crowd William Blacker’s Orange Sash. It had represented his position as Grand Master.  The sash was described as ‘rather worse for wear, and rather faded’ but he went on to say that “it was worn by an honest-hearted Protestant, and will always be held by true Protestants as a genuine relic”.  Stewart Blacker then produced an orange gown that had been worn by William Blacker’s wife, Anne.  This was well received with laughter and applause by the crowd and there was three cheers given for the ladies.

Stewart Blacker then continued his speech by stating his hopes and expectations of the Portadown Orange Hall.

“In a Hall of our own we can meet comfortably and well, and ask our friends to it and speak our sentiments, and hear our minister of the various evangelical denomination.  We can form a common platform of which Protestantism and the holy scriptures are the base of the foundations.  We have often been spoken against because the poor and the humble man goes to the public house, but every poor and humble man has not got a large and fashionable club to receive him, and when he has been toiling and working, he is obliged to go somewhere to get refreshment.  It is not the fault of of our institution; but by having an Orange Hall we can have a meeting place for men of all tastes for the principles of our Orange Lodges.”

– Stewart Blacker

The Belfast Newsletter 2nd July 1872

 

He finished his speech with the words;

“Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry”

Inspiration for an Orange Hall

The inspiration for building Carleton Street Orange Hall began in Canada. Stewart Blacker visited Canada in July 1870.  He was astonished and delighted by the Orange Order in Canada. They had beautiful halls and other buildings that were used for not just meetings but also large orange orphan institutions.

One particular building in Toronto used the main body for meetings, but it also had two great wings, referred to as ‘Orange Wings’.  Within those wings of the building there was the Orange Institutions aged members and those who were past work.  There was many advantages for the Orange Order in Toronto having this facility.  One of the main advantages was that it meant their members were kept out of the poor house.

 

Laying the Foundation Stone

The official laying of the foundation stone was initiated when The Portadown Protestant Brass Band played “The Protestant Boys”.  The Baroness Von Stieglitz was Called upon to officially lay the stone.  Mr J Boyd from Belfast was the architect of the hall and he presented the Baroness with a silver trowel for the purpose of the occasion.

The silver trowel was supplied by ‘Messrs, Trelford and Co’ from Donegall Place Belfast. It had the following inscription:

‘Presented by the Orangemen of the District of Portadown to the Baroness Von Stieglitz of Carrickblacker on the occasion of her laying the first stone of Portadown Orange Hall, July 1st 1872’

Rev W Lett, from Bessbrook, read the dedication prayer and then the stone was lowered into place. The Baroness tapped the stone and declared it ‘duly laid in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost’.  The foundation stone was a corner stone.

Who was Baroness Von Stieglitz?

 

Hester Anne Von Stieglitz (Nee Blacker)

Hester Anne Blacker was Stewart Blacker’s sister.  Hester Anne married Baron Fredrick Von Stieglitz.  He was a descendant of an aristocratic family from Pilsen, Bohemia.  The family had settled in Cookstown, County Tyrone in 1802.  The Baron emigrated from there to Australia where he married.  He returned to Ireland on the death of his first wife.  He married Hester Anne in 1859.

The Baron died in 1866 and the couple had no children.  Baroness Von Stieglitz then devoted much of her life to Seagoe Parish Church and took a keen interest in the local community and people.

The Baroness was instilled with a great interest in the Orange Order and she often attended the Twelfth demonstrations with her uncle, Colonel William Blacker.

This interest led Hester Anne to donate money for the building of Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The other major contributors towards the Orange Hall were Major Stewart Blacker and Miss Kate Carleton.

The Baroness also leased land at Seagoe for the building of an Orange Hall by Seagoe LOL 26.

 

 

 

 

 

Kids Trail at Carleton Street Orange Hall

Kids Trail at Carleton Street Orange Hall

Looking for something fun and local for the kids to do this summer?

Portadown Heritage Tours are launching a Kids Treasure Trail at Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The Trail is available on Tuesday 6th August, Thursday 8th August, Tuesday 13th August, Thursday 15th August and Tuesday 20th August.   The Trail will be open from 9:30am until 3:00pm.

Kids Treasure Trail

The Trail covers the ground floor of the Orange Hall.  Each room has a different activity to complete as part of the Trail.  The Trail is suitable for Primary School aged children and younger children will also enjoy it but they may need some help along the way. Parents and Guardians must stay with children at all times.

Educational

Activities on the trail also have an educational element.  The activities cover historical topics such as the Formation of the Orange Order, the First World War, The Orange Order in different Countries and Museum investigation.  Also we have added a unique element as part of the activities.  Portadown Heritage Tours have set up a mock Lodge meeting for the kids to get involved in. The mock Lodge meeting gives a small insight into the Orange Order without giving away trade secrets!

For parents who would like to get their children involved in the Junior Orange, this offers a small insight into a general Lodge Meeting and the Orange Institution as a whole.

Fun Continues

The Trail will take approximately an hour to complete.  After the Trail is completed Parents/Guardians can take the kids upstairs to the large function room.  There they are free to run about in a safe environment.  There is lots of games available for them to play.  There is also different arts, crafts and colouring activities available.

We also have refreshments available for kids and adults.  The trail is priced at £3 per child. To book the trail contact the Portadown Heritage Tours office on 38332010 or search ‘Portadown Heritage Tours’ on Facebook and send us a private message.

 

The Historical Significance of Bonfires

The Historical Significance of Bonfires

The Bonfire Tradition

Each year throughout Northern Ireland, hundreds of bonfires are lit and enjoyed in a safe manner by many people.  Although if they are not built properly, they can cause damage to property.

The tradition of building bonfires in Portadown goes right back to the 1830’s.  According to our archives, It was around this time that the first Arches also started to appear throughout the town.  The two traditions have developed together throughout the years.

Bonfires are lit around the world at different times of the year to celebrate many different occasions.

Timeline of the Bonfire

Bonfires have been around since the start of mankind.  In Ancient times, Bonfires were not only used for warmth, cooking and light, but they also became a centre of social activity and a religious and spiritual ritual.  In essence it became a tradition of remembrance and celebration.

When Christianity was brought to the Island of Ireland sometime before the 5th century,  it caused a shift in religious belief.  Instead of the ancient tradition of ‘fire worshipers’, a bonfire became significant on feast days and other religious holidays.  The whole community would come together around a bonfire and praise God.

Military use of a Bonfire

The military first started using Bonfires in the 1500’s.  Fire and light have always been used as a means of communicating and signalling.  The military would often use bonfires as a way of signalling that danger was approaching.

The Bonfire and Orangeism

William III Prince of Orange, landed at Torbay in England on 5th November 1688.  William came at the request of the people.  They wanted  King James II removed from the throne. The people also wanted  their rights restored as subjects. Their rights had been taken from them by James.  William agreed to a new Bill of Rights.  This became the foundation of modern day democracy.  When the people heard of William and Mary’s coronation, Bonfires were lit all over Ulster in Celebration.

In June 1690, William and his army landed at Carrickfergus .  As he marched into Belfast, Bonfires were once again lit to celebrate his arrival.

The 11th Night Tradition

Bonfires are lit on the 11th July night throughout Northern Ireland.  These bonfires are a commemoration of William III’s victory over James II at the Battle of The Boyne. The Bonfires are a tradition that represent the Bonfires lit in celebration of William’s coronation and also his landing at Carrickfergus.  But the Bonfires also represent the camp fires lit by William’s army the night before the Battle of The Boyne.  The Battle was fought on 1st July, but changes to the Christian calendar mean the anniversary is now celebrated on the 12th July.

Other Historical events in Northern Ireland

Bonfires were lit to celebrate the defeat of the First Home Rule Bill in 1886.  In 1945, to celebrate Victory in Europe day (VE), Bonfires were also lit throughout Northern Ireland.  They were a focal point of the celebrations as large street parties were also held throughout communities.

Bonfires Today

Bonfires in the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community are a means of maintaining tradition and are an expression of cultural heritage.  It is a tradition that is passed down the generations.  For the areas of Portadown that host Bonfires, it is a community event that brings together the generations.  It is around those fires on the 11th night that people come together to celebrate their history.  It is also an opportunity for the older generation to have a yarn and reminisce about the old days of building the bonfire.

The Stories are told of days gone by. The days of going out to collect the dead wood and trees before the days of wooden pallets being delivered by lorries!

What is not to be underestimated, is the time and effort that is given to building Bonfires.  This effort makes the continuation of tradition possible.  As Northern Ireland changes, aspects of the Bonfire will change.  It will develop and change as it has done throughout history.  What will not change for Northern Ireland Bonfires, is the heritage and history of tradition behind them.

 

 

Portadown Arches: Clounagh and Rectory

Portadown Arches: Clounagh and Rectory

The Clounagh Arch was a small steel construction.

“There was a fairly decent supply of flags in the town and on the line of route of the procession on Saturday.  One of the arches, perhaps the Edenderry one was the most admired by the visitors, but that at Clounagh corner also received a due share of praise.  A very neat arch was displayed at Clounagh Cottages on the Armagh Road.  The Inscription on one side was ‘Clounagh Welcomes you‘ and on the other ‘1690-Nuff Said-1916’.”

-Portadown Times

31st August 1923

 

Clounagh Arch and Sir William Allen pictured at the platform of RBP Parade.

Rectory Arch

In 1981 a committee was formed with the intention of erecting an Arch in Rectory Estate.  The Committee members collected weekly from the local residents and a new Arch was erected in time for the July celebrations in 1982.

 

The Arch in 1982 with Clounagh RBP 663 parading under it on 13th July.

After the Drumcree Stand off in 1995 and 1996, the committee decided to refurbish the Arch and incorporate Drumcree Parish Church into the design.

 

 

Platform Party at the opening of the Arch on 10th July 1997. Pictured on the right, 3rd person in, is Harold Gracey.

 

 

 

Rectory Arch 1997 with Star of David Accordion Band

 

 

Current Rectory Arch dedicated to the Memory of Harold Gracey.

 

Following the death of Worshipful District Master Harold Gracey, the decision was taken to include Harold’s picture on the Arch.

In 2016, the Arch was again refurbished and this time dedicated as the Harold Gracey Memorial Arch.

 

 

Harold Gracey

Harold joined Edenderry Junior LOL 51 at the age of seven.  He was greatly influenced by his uncle, Brother Albert Greenaway, who was a member of LOL 322 and a District Lecturer.

At the age of sixteen, Harold joined Wingfield Verners Crimson Star LOL 25 and in 1954 gained his Lecturers Certificate.  It was presented to him by Worshipful District Master, Dr George Dougan.  The following year he received his Royal Arch Purple Lecturers Certificate.  Harold first became a Lecturer in LOL 25 and a number of years later he was appointed District Lecturer for Portadown District LOL No 1.

When Brother Gracey was visiting Lodges he became well known and respected by all. In 1986 Harold became Worshipful District Master of Portadown LOL No.1 and was a popular choice of the Brethren.

Harold took over at an extremely difficult time for Portadown District due to the controversy over the Obins Street parades.  Harold did not flinch facing problems and brought calm to many difficult situations.

The Drumcree Church Parade by Portadown District LOL No.1 was first stopped in 1995 at Police lines.  There Harold famously said:

 

“The Brethren of Portadown will not be moving,  let it be hours, let it be days or weeks until they can walk the traditional route”.

 

 

 

Thousands of people flocked to Drumcree.  The support was not just for Portadown District but also for Harold Gracey.

In 1996, there was a further standoff, but again Harold Gracey stood firm.  The Church parade was given the go ahead in 1997, but worse was to come in 1998.  This time the Government did not back down, but neither did Harold.  Harold moved into a caravan at Drumcree during the Siege.

Harold was WDM of Portadown District from 1986 until his death in 2004.  He is not just one of the most famous Orangemen of the long history and heritage of the District, but he is regarded by Orangemen throughout Ireland and further afield, as one of the greatest Orangemen of the 20th Century.