‘People are not clubbable any more’: A South Yorkshire Orangeman speaks

You don’t often hear much these days from the Orange Order in England. It is there, though – there are lodges all over the country, and not just in Liverpool. There is even one in my native city of Sheffield: the John E Bingham Loyal Orange Lodge 844 (established 1913). Richard Harvey has been a member of the Lodge for 36 years, and is the Grand Orange Lodge of England’s Grand Chaplain. It was only with some difficulty that I was able to find the Peak District caravan site that he runs, in order to meet with him for a chat about the Order. At least I can say that his patience is much better than my skills at following directions…

As we sat at a table in the Derbyshire countryside on a cool July evening, Richard was keen to talk about the Institution in England:

The Order stands to protect the Williamite settlement of 1688 because we believe that only under that settlement can civil and religious liberty be guaranteed for all, and the experience of this nation is that whenever it wasn’t under that, civil and religious liberties were under threat.

We stand for old values: We stand for God, for Queen, for country, for patriotism – shall we say, the British system of democracy and liberty that we bequeathed to the world…

The Grand Chaplain was particularly keen to emphasise how the Order never used to be associated principally with Ireland. He insisted, moreover, that most of its roots were English:

They would tell you that the Orange Order came into being after the Battle of the Diamond in Loughgall, but really, it is a recognised fact that between 1688 and 1795 a number of unfederated societies existed under the broad umbrella term of the Orange Association. The first Orange Association was the Association of the Gentlemen of Devon, where, shortly after William of Orange landed, at Exeter Cathedral, all the nobles in the South West signed a document undertaking that they would support William until all threats to civil and religious liberties were completely defeated: we would regard that as the first Orange warrant.

Richard Harvey, Grand Chaplain of the Grand Orange Lodge of England, and member of LOL 844 in Sheffield

Richard Harvey, Grand Chaplain of the Grand Orange Lodge of England, and member of LOL 844 in Sheffield

As we chatted on, Richard talked about the Orange Order’s international dimension – in particular, its impact on Canada (He added that he was distantly related to Manitoba rebel Louis Riel (1844-85)):

In the Imperial Council Report for 1903 when Grand Lodge met in Dublin, that year, the Grand Lodge of England returned over 30,000 members, while Scotland returned around 29,500, and Canada returned more members than Ireland – people don’t realise, the Order was far more powerful and bigger in Canada than it ever was in Ireland. It absolutely ran Ontario…

As if more proof were needed about the Order’s Canadian influence, no fewer than four of Canada’s 22 prime ministers have been Orangemen – the most recent of them being John George Diefenbaker (Canada’s PM in 1957-63). Anyway, Richard continued, adding another little-known Orange fact:

There did use to be a Grand Lodge of South Africa, but the Grand Lodge there folded in the ’50s because they weren’t prepared to implement apartheid and sit in separate lodges…

This assumption that the Order is an Irish thing, certainly, I would say goes no further back than Home Rule and the Home Rule crises of the late 19th Century, but really more probably associated with the Troubles…

So who is attracted to joining the Order in England? Richard said that there are many reasons: some join up for the social side of things, others do so because their fathers were Orangemen. Increasingly, he added, they are appealing to conservative-minded people, and not just Protestants:

We live in an increasingly secular and liberal society – a society that isn’t governed by absolutes, where everything is situational: what was good and moral and proper 20 years ago isn’t now – it’s been changed completely. What was unacceptable and frowned upon 30 years ago, now is perfectly acceptable. In my view, it’s not just society, but many of the so-called Protestant Churches have compromised in that way, and accepted more liberal values, whereas in the Orange Order we believe now exactly what we believed when we were formed. We don’t change, and that is increasingly attractive to people, we find, because it gives them an anchor, really…

About seven years ago we had a Roman Catholic who wanted to join the Lodge. I met with him, and he might have been a good member, but obviously he couldn’t be a member, and he said to me ‘I don’t understand why I can’t join. Yes, I was born a Roman Catholic but I’m not a practising Catholic, but apart from that one thing, everything that you believe, everything that you stand for, I stand for, and I just feel I’d be amongst like-minded brethren.’ Unfortunately, we couldn’t admit him – although we do admit Roman Catholic converts: once a few years have elapsed and we are satisfied that the conversion is genuine, then yes, we’ll admit them.

So what kind of activities are LOL 844 involved in?

If there’s a particular piece of legislation going through that we’re not happy about then we might decide that individually we would lobby our MPs…

We might go out for a trip somewhere to a place of Protestant interest. Lord Frederick Cavendish (former Chief Secretary of Ireland in 1882, who was murdered in Phoenix Park) is buried near Chatsworth, in Edensor – there’s a private chapel to him there, and I’ll sometimes take groups down there, and talk them through it all. We have a Protestant Martyrs Memorial. We’re as far north as the Marian Martyrs came – the most northerly one was Joan Waste, a 21-year-old blind girl who was burned at Derby…

As he talked about the Sheffield Lodge’s activities, Richard suggested that their limited membership numbers may offer them some advantages:

In LOL 844 there are over 30 members. There were thirteen in it when we hosted Grand Lodge in 2006, but every other month or so we’re attracting members, though we do have a drop-out rate as well, but really we’re doing better than we’ve done for years….

If you’re in Liverpool, with a lot of lodges and bands and a lot of parades, it’s very easy to be an Orangeman, it’s a whole social life. If you’re joining it in somewhere like Sheffield or Doncaster you’re joining it because you’re seeking it out, and you’re joining it because you absolutely believe in those things, so I would say we have a very strong level of commitment from our people. That’s not to say we don’t have some join, and they’ll last a few months and say ‘Oh, it’s not for me’.

I moved on the conversation to the issue of parading. Yes, LOL 844 do hold parades, but they are very irregular events, and Richard explained why:

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold parades, though it’s difficult for all organisations, because of the health-and-safety requirements and insurance requirements. It’s difficult even for ex-servicemen in some places. If we parade in Sheffield we have to maintain £5 million public liability insurance – but that’s not uncommon, that’s the same across all cities, I think. Also, the police and the local authorities are stretched for money, so many councils will charge for road closures, or the police will charge, because they say ‘Oh, we have to put extra people on’, so it’s not cheap to hold a parade now…

The last time the Sheffield lodge held a parade in the city was two years ago, for the lodge’s centenary, but there was little media coverage of the event. I asked Richard whether it was because many people in England associate the Orange Order with Northern Ireland and the Troubles:

In the minds of the person in the street, certainly we’ve suffered, without a doubt [from that association], but I blame a hostile press. I regard the press as hostile, by and large, to the Orange Order. They weren’t the slightly bit interested in coming down in 2013, but I’m quite sure that if there had been any bother, the cameras would have been there, and it would have been flashed all across Yorkshire Television. It may have been because there was an English Defence League parade on the same day in Chapeltown near Barnsley, but I don’t think that’s the only reason. Whenever Grand Lodge issue a press release on anything, it’s never printed…

As the light started to fade, Richard concluded by conceding that the Orange Order’s relative decline in England (contrasted with its strength in Northern Ireland) was as much down to social changes in the country over the decades as it was to the problem of media coverage, and that ‘In many ways we never recovered from the First World War’:

We’re never going to get back to what we were before the First World War, because irrespective of numbers killed, people are not clubbable any more. In 1914, for example, there were 1.2 million Oddfellows, now there are 200,000, and less than a thousand meet in lodges. Fraternal societies everywhere are struggling, and they’re never going to get back to what they were, but I think we’re bucking the trend in the Orange, I do. We’re returning more every year – not massively more, but we are returning more every year, and in a time when people are not clubbable. I’m sure people would say we are anachronistic, in that we hold to the old values and loyalties that we do, but nevertheless we do hold to them. There’s so much change and so much situational ethics, and I think it’s part of the human spirit that it wants a degree of certainty – it wants to know that this that I was brought up to believe in, it’s still true.

After we finished our conversation, I thanked Richard Harvey for his time and patience, and made a mental note to invest in a decent Sat-Nav…


  • Simian Droog

    Seriously, who cares. I cannot be arsed reading the history of a bigoted, backward, sectarian and misogynist organisation. Champions of civil liberties? I don’t know where you grew up, I didn’t see much of that. So a few “decent people” were members? I’m sure the Klan claims the same.

  • james

    Very interesting post, defying the reductionism and sloganeering that some would wish to apply to paint a false picture of what the Orange Order stands for.

  • the rich get richer

    Do you have to be from a certain Sect to be allowed Access to the Cult ?

    Live and let Live I suppose but its a bit much to expect too much respect for a discriminatory Organisation.

    I suppose carry on your good works and Try to modernise………….

  • Bodkin Van Horn

    “I regard the press as hostile, by and large, to the Orange Order. They weren’t the slightly bit interested in coming down in 2013, but I’m quite sure that if there had been any bother, the cameras would have been there, and it would have been flashed all across Yorkshire Television.”

    Good to see there are some shared attitudes among the brethren in England and Northern Ireland.

  • TheBoyPhelan

    “I cannot be arsed reading the history of a bigoted, backward, sectarian and misogynist organisation”

    Well, there’s ironic.

  • Simian Droog

    I think you’ve gone all “Alanis Morisette” on me.

  • El_Commi

    What struck me was the stance on parades. Public liability insurance.. do they have that here?

  • Mirrorballman

    Nope! Though we should of course…

  • Yes.

  • Niall Chapman

    If he cant march and annoy people why is he in the Orange order :S

  • james

    Perhaps you should read the article.

  • Iain Elliott

    So if you cant bothered to read about it, why bother commenting on it?

  • Brian O’Neill

    Great article Dan. An enjoyable read.

  • George

    Really? As Mr Bingham himself says, “he Order stands to protect the Williamite settlement of 1688 because we believe that only under that settlement can civil and religious liberty be guaranteed for all, and the experience of this nation is that whenever it wasn’t under that, civil and religious liberties were under threat.”

    So the order is looking to protect the Williamite settlement, which had the following consequences:

    A bar on Catholics being members of the English parliament (1691-1829)
    Disenfranchised between 1728-1793
    Catholic and Presbyterian marriages not recognised
    Excluded from the legal profession and judiciary until 1793
    ban on foreign education until 1793
    The Book of Common Prayer compulsory in religious service

    That’s a strange understanding of the concept of civil and religious liberty for all. It’s the Henry Ford “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” kind of freedom of choice.

    In the spirit of fairness, maybe these aren’t Mr Bingham’s thoughts but he needs to say more than wolly comments about values, conservatism, and others have changed not us.

    What are these changes that he does not agree with? Women’s rights? Equal rights for homosexuals? Divorce? Immigration? Universal suffrage? Workers’ rights? The criminalisation of marital rape? Protection of children born outside of wedlock? Etc.

  • Nevin

    “I was born in Sheffield, have lived most of my life here”

    re.your knowledge of Sheffield, can you please email me at nalilblog at gmail dot com ?

  • Niall Chapman

    Twas a joke James, relax

  • Niall Chapman
  • MalcolmRedfellow

    From recent history, I can suggest a number of activities across South Yorkshire which are more antisocial than a semi-active Orange Lodge [Think on …]

    Last autumn, the weekend before the Scottish referendum, I was in Edinburgh. It was the Saturday of the Orange “No!” march. The OO was on its best behaviour, and put on its usual good show. I was not unimpressed.

    As with the original post, I was taken aback by the number of Lodges, from across the UK, that came out of the woodwork. And, yes, there were two or three from God’s Own County.

  • Simian Droog

    Ok lets me more specific, I can’t understand why anyone would want to publish such a banal history of a horrendous institution. May as well write up the Klans annual beach BBQ for all the relevance it would have.

  • chrisjones2

  • chrisjones2

    like SF?

    or the Hibernians?

    The Labour Party (No NI Prods allowed)?

  • james

    Right you are. My bad.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    You. too, are absolutely correct.

    The trouble for me is that any Slugger post on the OO becomes clickbait for the general.

    I strongly suspect any Hallamshire Orangemen are so staid, so up-their-own …, it is a yawnfest. I equally suspect, allow them onto the streets, and all kinds of knuckle-retreads would emerge from the lower depths. Rather like East Belfast, perhaps.

  • PeterBrown

    Well you know what, the OO may be a bunch of organised bigots who’s entire existence is predicated on being against Catholicism
    I thought we discussed this on another thread AI – that’s comparable to pick up your analogy to saying that everyone is Rotherham is a child abuser based on a not entirely representative sample from several hundred miles away

  • PeterBrown



    They actually ban members from participating not attending so as no action was taken in the case you link to my assumption has always been you can attend but not take the sacrament

    In the past I believe so but see above


    To quote Rick Warren “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

    I like to think that my catholic friends and colleagues do not think or worse still find I am a bigot just because I sincerely believe that they are wrong about some things in the same way that just because I sincerely believe you are wrong about that Orange Order does not mean that I am bigoted towards you. To assume that everyone in the Order is a bigot from these facts could arguably be an example of bigotry…

  • PeterBrown

    The point has been made before on this thread and elsewhere that all religious organisations and indeed any other organisation with any sort of membership criteria or ethos is by definition discriminatory – the oath is not relevant to the discrimination but it is rather like saying a football supporters club which requires members to support their team is discriminatory against supporters of all other teams.
    The same oath (qualification) also requires members to be ever abstaining from all uncharitable words, actions, or sentiments towards his Roman Catholic brethren and many members have catholic friends in the same way that many football supporters have friends who support other teams – that doesn’t mean they aren’t football supporters or in the case or members of the order Christians – hence why the Rev McCarthy’s call went unanswered?

  • PeterBrown

    Every organisation which limits membership has rules which are discriminatory and as I have explained it does not prevent us paying our respects – at the risk of repeating myself Rev McCarthy has the rules wrong, no action was taken on the basis of the complaint and therefore the whole foundation of your argument is thereby undermined unless you want to start again with a different premise? the only reason religion is an issue in NI is because it is the main thing after politics which distinguishes our communities but is secondary to our politics…

  • Roger


  • Roger

    I certainly learned something from reading it, whatever my thoughts on the OO.

  • Chingford Man

    A Simian indeed.

  • LordSummerisle

    Very interesting article, thank you for posting. I would like to add to the comments made by the GC. I do not believe that the First World War was the cause of fraternal decline. I have argued in another place that fraternal decline is a direct result of the introduction of the Welfare State. After the introduction of the WS friendly, fraternal, guilds etc.. lost their modus operandi. The link between the current incarnation of the Orange Institution and the original Williamite Societies is a bit of gamble. I would have asked the venerable gentlemen, “If that is the case then why has the Orange Order, as we now know it, bastardised the ritual of Freemasonry ( a far more ancient and illustrious order), if it simply a Williamite club ?

    I suppose it is possible to have a Williamite Club without the ritual and without the sectarianism. The thing is of course that myth must be perpetuated that Jacobites are Roman Catholic and Williamites are Protestant… utter tosh!

  • LordSummerisle

    As a resident of East Belfast I find your comments snobbish. How dare you! When you have finished spitting venom from your ivory tower, you may wish to come and visit my townland. I would only be to glad to give you the tour. Typical arrogance of the Saxon.

  • Simian Droog

    I’m guessing it’s hard to respond as a closeted Orangeman, rather attempt a lame insult. There’s no defense really?

  • Simian Droog

    Good stuff. Completely irrelevant. Bit like the Orange Order.

  • PeterBrown

    Every membership based organisation discriminates on particular grounds whether that be politics, sports team supported etc and then seeks to promote the common interest which defines its membership. The order’s main reason for existence is defending protestantism not opposition of catholicism to the extent that those are not the two sides of the same coin. As for the rules they are a matter of public record – it is not attendance at but participation in mass which is the issue (as a District and Lodge officer apparently I do know better than the Chaplain) and this case was actually a contradictory ruling…

  • PeterBrown

    In the order you have them
    Some organisations do (every church that I can think of) and in any event why is religious discrimination distinguishable form every other form of discrimination?

    Members do not commemorate murderers on banners nor do fellow marchers (recent examples please), the singing of songs and urinating are not defendable but infrequent and comparable to just about every football teams supporters you care to name. In fact this year the priest at St Patricks helped prevent the urination problem but letting them use his in the parochial house – perhaps he has a more charitable and accurate view than some of its critics?

    The Newsletter does not make any claims about the rules of the order but repeats the claim by Rev McCarthy that attendance at a funeral mass is in breach of the rules – no action has been taken on claims such as this for some time..

  • PeterBrown

    I think on your first point you need to bear in mind that the rules referred to date from the seventeenth century and are a mirror image of the catholic church’s attitude then and arguably now to Protestantism. All religions and religious organisations “discriminate” on religious grounds otherwise they would lose their identity – I have no desire to become a catholic priest, hindu monk or buddhist monk or muslim imam but if I did I would find it entirely reasonable for them to expect me to convert. That prerequisite is the only discrimination suffered, is entirely consistent with every other religion.
    The intruding into lives of others is peripheral and rare. The third paragraph refers to the rules and their historical nature but does not accept that Rev McCarthy is correct in his interpretation – nor apparently does the order’s leadership

  • PeterBrown

    Without wishing to digress further off topic two points – I believe I can say the same because as you yourself may appreciate ministers tend to speak to those who are there rather than those who are not. Secondly just because you did not hear it does not change the fact that it was and to a lesser extent perhaps remains the position of the respective wings of Christianity that the others side is a church in error and its progress must be halted and indeed reversed.

  • PeterBrown

    I think it is fair to say that the traditional orthodoxy of both wings is that the other side of the house may hit the bar but will not cross the line.
    Your idea of protestant requirements is somewhat wide of the mark (similar to many protestants view of catholic orthodoxy – what’s confession and the second chance of purgatory all about?) as those which you mention may be perceived by you and other catholics and indeed some nominal protestants to be adequate.

    However as we were reminded by the minister at my recent orange district service they are not sufficient – orangemen should be reminded of that at every meeting.