The Twelfth of July 1870: Carrickblacker, Portadown
The 1870 Twelfth celebrations at Carrickblacker were described as:
“no demonstration ever held in Portadown surpassed this one in numbers, enthusiasm or respectability”.
At midnight the bells of St Mark’s, Drumcree and Seagoe Churches rang, and a few small bonfires were set alight in the streets.
“The cheering round the fires and the sound of the bells were heard far and wide in the calm night air”.
At 3:30am a large group of drummers mostly young men between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, paraded the town and continued playing the drums up and down the main streets until around 6:30am.
Between 9:00am and 10:00am the drumming resumed and continued until the afternoon. There were extra police brought in, as well as the soldiers who were stationed in the town. They patrolled the streets during the day but did not interfere in the celebrations.
The town and the railway station were very busy with people from 10:00am as visitors from Killylea, Richill, Armagh, Lurgan, Annaghmore, Scarva, Gilford and Tandragee came to join the celebrations.
“There was hardly walking room in the streets”
The majority of visitors’ destination was the Carrickblacker Estate, where a great open-air demonstration was held.
“The road between that place, and the railway station was literally impassable, so great were the crowds coming from and going to the place of meeting”.
The use of the estate was granted by Mr Stewart Blacker, although he was not there for the celebrations as he was in Canada visiting fellow Orangemen. We now know that from that visit came the inspiration for the building of Carleton Street Orange Hall.
“No site could possibly have been chosen better suited for an open-air meeting on such a large scale. The large meadow known as the ‘Barrow’ contains at least thirty acres and extends for a quarter of a mile or more, along the edge of the River Bann. It is well shaded with trees and the protection afforded by these, the absence of all dust, the splendid weather, and a fine cooling breeze off the water, combined to make the meeting go off more successfully”.
The following districts were present; Portadown, Armagh, Lurgan, Tandragee, Newtownhamilition, Keady, Killylea, part of Loughgall, Richill and part of Scarva. There was around 200 Private Orange Lodges all together. Most of the Lodges were from Co Armagh but many also came from Co Down and Co Tyrone.
There was a considerable number of flags along the route and in the estate. At the entrance to Carrickblacker Estate a very ‘handsome’ Triumphal Arch was erected, which was decorated with orange lilies and other flowers. From the centre an engraving of King William III crossing the Boyne was suspended.
A Platform covered with crimson cloth and two ‘beautiful flags’ was erected at the back of the mansion house.
Mrs Blacker, Mother of Stewart Blacker and the Baroness von Stieglitz (nee Hester Anne Blacker), took a keen interest in the meeting.
“At no time, however, could there have been more than 30,000 round Carrickblacker House; but at least an equal number lined the roads, and were scattered over the meadows. Altogether there could hardly have been less than 50,000 people in the town, at Carrickblacker and on the roads connecting the two”.
Everyone present wore orange rosettes and ‘Orange Sashes were very conspicuous’. At 3:00pm the meeting commenced. The crowds’ hand been entertained by Killylea Brass Band for a short period of time. ‘Out of compliment’ to Mrs Blacker and the Baroness von Stieglitz they played a series of tunes including ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘The Protestant Boys’. The Lurgan Brass Band also played on the grounds.
The Reverend Charles Waring lead the service and M Rogers, County Grand Secretary introduced the various speakers. There were a number of speakers present.