The Twelfth of July 1928: Sir John Lavery Painting
In 1928 the County Armagh demonstration was to be held in Lurgan. The Brethren of Portadown assembled at Carleton Street Orange Hall for their parade through the town to the railway station at Edenderry.
However, there ‘was quite a stir in the town’ as one of Ulster’s greatest artists, Sir John Lavery, was present. He had travelled to the town from Belfast on an early train and had set up his easel in rooms above the Classic Bar.
“During the day he sketched and painted the massed ranks of the Portadown Orange Lodges as they made their way through the town”.
The Heart of Orangeism
It was not a coincidence that Sir John Lavery selected Portadown as the setting for his painting. Although Belfast had a bigger procession he came to Portadown as it was and is the heart of the Orange Institution. He thoroughly enjoyed his time on the day and wrote about in an unpublished diary:
“I have seen many processions and exhibitions of intense feeling but nothing to quite equal the austere passion of the Twelfth in Portadown. The colour was more beautiful than anything I have seen in Morocco, black and orange predominating with every other colour except green adding to its beauty and the dozens of drums beaten with canes by drummers whose lives seemed to depend on the noise they were able to make, their coats off , their shirt sleeves rolled up, their wrists bleeding and a look in the eye that boded ill for any interference”.
Sir John Lavery was seventy-two and he was experiencing his first ever Orange Demonstration. In his famous painting, Lavery managed to ‘capture the solemn mood of the marchers as well as the associated pageantry of the men on horseback, the long line of banners and the group of Lambeg drummers’.
The original painting entitled ‘Twelfth of July, Portadown 1928’ was on display in the Ulster Museum.
A copy of the painting hangs in many Orange Halls throughout Portadown and County Armagh. In Carleton Street Orange Hall, it takes pride of place in the ‘Gracey Room’ where Portadown Orange District meetings are held by both the men and the women’s Institutions.