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Fraternal Organisation

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Above: Banners on parade.
Right: The banner of Banbridge Bible and Crown Defenders features Seapatrick Village Church.

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Read the banners on parade

By Rev. Mervyn Gibson

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words, a phrase that is particularly applicable to Orange Banners. The paintings, which contain symbols of our Faith, culture and identity are often a rich source of social history pertaining to the geographical home of the lodge or what binds them together as members. Therefore, I would encourage spectators, while enjoying the music and pageantry of the ‘Twelfth’ day parade, to take time to look up at the painted banners and see what you can learn about the Lodge and it’s members.
You will find the name of the Lodge and the District to which it belongs, allowing you to identify where in the Lodge is from and it’s name often giving a clue as to the purpose or origins of the Lodge. Lodges are initially formed by members sharing a common purpose; those who worshipped in the same church; who originated from the same townland, village or hamlet, those who worked for the same company; others in memory of individuals, both national and local, and in recent years those who were murdered by terrorists. The name of the Lodge is often reflected in the painting on the banner.
The most popular image on Orange banners is of course King William III, Prince of Orange, whose memory we were formed to perpetuate. The overwhelming majority depicting William on a white horse at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Other banners will depict him at various locations along the route as his army progressed from Carrickfergus to the River Boyne. 
There will be banners depicting other aspects of the Williamite campaign at Derry, Aughrim and Enniskillen. 
A close second must be the Battle of the Somme, which occurred on 1st July 1916, when the 36th Ulster Division emerged from their trenches to attack German lines in the first World War. These paintings of the Somme and other depictions of battles and remembrance, seek to articulate the loyalty of Orange Brethren and Sisters to the United Kingdom and their preparedness always to serve the Crown. These banners display the cost of freedom, defended and maintained by the sacrifice by many.
Other favourite banner painting topics include Biblical scenes: the Ulster Covenant; Protestant Martyrs, some simply displaying the Bible and Crown to represent the Orange Institution’s commitment to the Reformed Faith and the Monarch. 
In addition to the popular banner paintings, you will see everything from a Spitfire to the Titanic, from a lifeboat to a train adorn Orange banners. Scenes of historic occasions or reflecting everyday life are carried proudly, literally illustrating that the Institution’s members are involved in all aspects of society 
Remember there are two sides to a banner, so as the parade passes look at the painting on the reverse side as well. Your new found awareness of banners and ‘reading them’ will see you begin to understand more about the ethos and history of the Lodge on parade. 


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Above: Bro. Thomas Rowan Morrow, a Past Master of Drumlough Heroes LOL 153, features on a bannerette along with an image of the sinking of the Titanic.

Above left: Battle of the Somme.

Left: The banner of Great Northern True Blues featured a train.

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