Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Orange Walk

An Orange parade at Shaftesbury Square in Belfast in the 1920s
Orange parades in Scotland are often referred to as 'Orange walks' and I wondered if that term was ever in general use in Ulster.

The thought was prompted by some words written by the Irish republican socialist James Connolly when he watched the Twelfth parade in Belfast in 1913.  He wrote:
The Anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is celebrated in Belfast by what is locally known as an Orange Walk.
That led me to look back at some old newspapers and it soon became clear that the term Orange Walk was once used more generally in Ulster.

The Northern Whig (8 June 1957) reported an Orange demonstration in England and this was headlined:
To-day is Orange walk day in Birmingham
A report in the Northern Whig (21 April 1954) about a Junior Orange demonstration in Bangor was headed:
Orange walk and car rally big attractions - EASTER 'DOUBLE' DREW CROWDS TO BANGOR
The Northern Whig (22 July 1927) contained a letter to the editor, which began:
No single phenomenon of our great 'Orange walk' has provoked more lively discussion than that unique instrument 'the big drum'.
Reference to an Orange walk in Castleblayney appeared in a report in the Northern Whig (17 July 1908):
What did Finnigan mean when he said, 'Let them alone until tomorrow?' - That meant he would be at the Orange walk in Castleblayney.
An earlier reference to an Orange walk appeared in the Northern Whig (13 July 1870):
There was, he said, present that day a lady who was at the first Orange walk in the County Down, when the Orangemen walked to Kilmegan Church with the Earl of Annesley at their head.
The Northern Whig (28 August 1868) reported a court case in which a witness said:
I never saw either a party riot or an Orange walk.  I was in this town on 1st July.
All the newspaper report above were from the Northern Whig but other newspapers used the term as well and this is from the Belfast Weekly News (26 July 1879), reporting on the Twelfth in Castlecaulfield:
So long as the law of the land sanctions processions they will have their Orange walk.
There seems to be overwhelming evidence of the widespread use of the term 'Orange Walk' here in Ulster as well as in Scotland. ... but any other references you may have would be appreciated ... perhaps from books, or songs or poems, as well as newspapers.


  1. I'm sure you're right. But maybe bear in mind that Connolly was born and raised in Edinburgh. He apparently spoke with a strong Scottish accent.

  2. I thought that might have been a factor and that's why I was so keen to check through the old newspapers. the word 'walk' was also used in Canada.


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