Category Archives: Traditions

The Historical Significance of Bonfires

The Historical Significance of Bonfires

The Bonfire Tradition

Each year throughout Northern Ireland, hundreds of bonfires are lit and enjoyed in a safe manner by many people.  Although if they are not built properly, they can cause damage to property.

The tradition of building bonfires in Portadown goes right back to the 1830’s.  According to our archives, It was around this time that the first Arches also started to appear throughout the town.  The two traditions have developed together throughout the years.

Bonfires are lit around the world at different times of the year to celebrate many different occasions.

Timeline of the Bonfire

Bonfires have been around since the start of mankind.  In Ancient times, Bonfires were not only used for warmth, cooking and light, but they also became a centre of social activity and a religious and spiritual ritual.  In essence it became a tradition of remembrance and celebration.

When Christianity was brought to the Island of Ireland sometime before the 5th century,  it caused a shift in religious belief.  Instead of the ancient tradition of ‘fire worshipers’, a bonfire became significant on feast days and other religious holidays.  The whole community would come together around a bonfire and praise God.

Military use of a Bonfire

The military first started using Bonfires in the 1500’s.  Fire and light have always been used as a means of communicating and signalling.  The military would often use bonfires as a way of signalling that danger was approaching.

The Bonfire and Orangeism

William III Prince of Orange, landed at Torbay in England on 5th November 1688.  William came at the request of the people.  They wanted  King James II removed from the throne. The people also wanted  their rights restored as subjects. Their rights had been taken from them by James.  William agreed to a new Bill of Rights.  This became the foundation of modern day democracy.  When the people heard of William and Mary’s coronation, Bonfires were lit all over Ulster in Celebration.

In June 1690, William and his army landed at Carrickfergus .  As he marched into Belfast, Bonfires were once again lit to celebrate his arrival.

The 11th Night Tradition

Bonfires are lit on the 11th July night throughout Northern Ireland.  These bonfires are a commemoration of William III’s victory over James II at the Battle of The Boyne. The Bonfires are a tradition that represent the Bonfires lit in celebration of William’s coronation and also his landing at Carrickfergus.  But the Bonfires also represent the camp fires lit by William’s army the night before the Battle of The Boyne.  The Battle was fought on 1st July, but changes to the Christian calendar mean the anniversary is now celebrated on the 12th July.

Other Historical events in Northern Ireland

Bonfires were lit to celebrate the defeat of the First Home Rule Bill in 1886.  In 1945, to celebrate Victory in Europe day (VE), Bonfires were also lit throughout Northern Ireland.  They were a focal point of the celebrations as large street parties were also held throughout communities.

Bonfires Today

Bonfires in the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community are a means of maintaining tradition and are an expression of cultural heritage.  It is a tradition that is passed down the generations.  For the areas of Portadown that host Bonfires, it is a community event that brings together the generations.  It is around those fires on the 11th night that people come together to celebrate their history.  It is also an opportunity for the older generation to have a yarn and reminisce about the old days of building the bonfire.

The Stories are told of days gone by. The days of going out to collect the dead wood and trees before the days of wooden pallets being delivered by lorries!

What is not to be underestimated, is the time and effort that is given to building Bonfires.  This effort makes the continuation of tradition possible.  As Northern Ireland changes, aspects of the Bonfire will change.  It will develop and change as it has done throughout history.  What will not change for Northern Ireland Bonfires, is the heritage and history of tradition behind them.

 

 

Portadown Arches: Clounagh and Rectory

Portadown Arches: Clounagh and Rectory

The Clounagh Arch was a small steel construction.

“There was a fairly decent supply of flags in the town and on the line of route of the procession on Saturday.  One of the arches, perhaps the Edenderry one was the most admired by the visitors, but that at Clounagh corner also received a due share of praise.  A very neat arch was displayed at Clounagh Cottages on the Armagh Road.  The Inscription on one side was ‘Clounagh Welcomes you‘ and on the other ‘1690-Nuff Said-1916’.”

-Portadown Times

31st August 1923

 

Clounagh Arch and Sir William Allen pictured at the platform of RBP Parade.

Rectory Arch

In 1981 a committee was formed with the intention of erecting an Arch in Rectory Estate.  The Committee members collected weekly from the local residents and a new Arch was erected in time for the July celebrations in 1982.

 

The Arch in 1982 with Clounagh RBP 663 parading under it on 13th July.

After the Drumcree Stand off in 1995 and 1996, the committee decided to refurbish the Arch and incorporate Drumcree Parish Church into the design.

 

 

Platform Party at the opening of the Arch on 10th July 1997. Pictured on the right, 3rd person in, is Harold Gracey.

 

 

 

Rectory Arch 1997 with Star of David Accordion Band

 

 

Current Rectory Arch dedicated to the Memory of Harold Gracey.

 

Following the death of Worshipful District Master Harold Gracey, the decision was taken to include Harold’s picture on the Arch.

In 2016, the Arch was again refurbished and this time dedicated as the Harold Gracey Memorial Arch.

 

 

Harold Gracey

Harold joined Edenderry Junior LOL 51 at the age of seven.  He was greatly influenced by his uncle, Brother Albert Greenaway, who was a member of LOL 322 and a District Lecturer.

At the age of sixteen, Harold joined Wingfield Verners Crimson Star LOL 25 and in 1954 gained his Lecturers Certificate.  It was presented to him by Worshipful District Master, Dr George Dougan.  The following year he received his Royal Arch Purple Lecturers Certificate.  Harold first became a Lecturer in LOL 25 and a number of years later he was appointed District Lecturer for Portadown District LOL No 1.

When Brother Gracey was visiting Lodges he became well known and respected by all. In 1986 Harold became Worshipful District Master of Portadown LOL No.1 and was a popular choice of the Brethren.

Harold took over at an extremely difficult time for Portadown District due to the controversy over the Obins Street parades.  Harold did not flinch facing problems and brought calm to many difficult situations.

The Drumcree Church Parade by Portadown District LOL No.1 was first stopped in 1995 at Police lines.  There Harold famously said:

 

“The Brethren of Portadown will not be moving,  let it be hours, let it be days or weeks until they can walk the traditional route”.

 

 

 

Thousands of people flocked to Drumcree.  The support was not just for Portadown District but also for Harold Gracey.

In 1996, there was a further standoff, but again Harold Gracey stood firm.  The Church parade was given the go ahead in 1997, but worse was to come in 1998.  This time the Government did not back down, but neither did Harold.  Harold moved into a caravan at Drumcree during the Siege.

Harold was WDM of Portadown District from 1986 until his death in 2004.  He is not just one of the most famous Orangemen of the long history and heritage of the District, but he is regarded by Orangemen throughout Ireland and further afield, as one of the greatest Orangemen of the 20th Century.

Portadown Arches: South Street

Portadown Arches: South Street

South Street Arch Unveiled

An Arch was unveiled in South Street on 11th August 1933.  Sir Knight and Brother R H Bell, District Master of Portadown Royal Black District Chapter, presided over the ceremony.  The Arch was described as “a beautiful piece of work carried out entirely by voluntary labour”.  The woodwork was made by Mr James R McCullough and the painting was completed by Mr John Rowe.  There was a team of volunteers who helped complete the Arch; Mr R Wright, Mr D Wright, Mr S Wright, (three brothers who served in the Great War), Mr James Flanagan, Mr Joshua Jones, Mr Sydney Black, Mr Alfred Hutchinson and Mr Albert Magee.

The Arch was painted to bear the words; ‘Death before submission: Derry, Aughrim, Enniskillen and The Boyne’ and ‘Fear God Honour the King.’

The Opening

The residents of South Street had decorated South Street and Hanover Street with flags and bunting.  A large crowd gathered around a platform which was beside the Arch.

A parade procession of Apprentice Boys, led by Corcrain Conservative Prize Band, marched from Carleton Street Orange Hall.  The parade was headed by Brother John Hughes (President of the Parent Club), Brother W J Johnston (President of the Mitchelbourne Club), Brother Thomas Shanks (President of the Browning Club), Brother R Barnes (Secretary of the Mitchelbourne Club), Brother W Wilson (Vice President of the Mitchelbourne Club) and Brother W J Cardwell (Past Master of Hamilton District, Ontario).

In a speech by Brother R Bell, he stated that the ‘Apprentice Boys were as determined as the men of 1688 to resist any attempt to put them under the rule of their enemies’ and he hoped ‘the younger generation would not be lacking when called to defend their father land, their faith and their king’.

The Arch was then unveiled by Brother W J Johnston, who was one of the oldest Apprentice Boys present. Brother Johnston congratulated the local people on the ‘Magnificent Arch’ and said he had ‘never seen anything more appropriate’.  Continuing his speech, he went on to say that; ‘The Arch is a credit to the District, and he greatly appreciated the honour they had done him in inviting him along that evening.  He hoped they would always have it to span that thoroughfare on each succeeding 12th August and 12th July’.

Act of Remembrance

The opening ceremony of the Arch was closed with the band playing the National Anthem.  The procession reformed and marched, via Thomas Street, to the War Memorial.  At the War Memorial a wreath was laid in memory of the fallen of the Great War.  It was laid by the Presidents of the three Apprentice Boys Clubs; Brother Hughes, Brother Johnston and Brother Shanks.

There was a large crowd present. An act of remembrance followed and Bugler R Wright, who had served with the Royal Irish Rifles in the Great War, sounded the Last Post and Reveille.  The band led the singing of the National Anthem.  The Bells of St Marks Church played ‘Abide With Me’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’.  The Crimson Banner of the Apprentice Boys of Derry flew from the tower of the church.

South Street Arch- Children of the Street with A Billy Lundy

 

Portadown Arches: Parkmount and Corcrain

Portadown Arches: Parkmount and Corcrain

An Arch to be proud of: Parkmount

It is believed an arch was first opened in Parkmount in the 1920’s, although it could have been earlier. It stood at the junction of Park Road and Water Street.

 

Parkmount Flute Band under the Arch in approximately the 1920’s

Parkmount Arch 1945

The second Parkmount Arch was opened in July 1945.  Many leading members of Portadown District LOL No. 1 were present including Brother Herbert Whitten who presided over the opening ceremony and Brother R J Magowan who acted as Chairman.  Brother George Dougan, who was a well respected Doctor of the town, as well as the Portadown District Master at the time, switched on the lights at the official ceremony.

Dr Dougan received acclamation during the opening ceremony of the arch on his recent election victory.  In turn he thanked the crowd and paid tribute to the members of Parkmount Flute Band who had rendered assistance during the campaign.  George Dougan was MP for central Armagh.  He was elected to Stormont in March 1941, replacing David Graham Shillington.

 

Parkmount Arch 

 

The Present Arch

The present Parkmount Arch has been refurbished and repainted many times as it has been attacked by republicans. The latest refurbishment took place in 2014, one side of the Arch reads ‘In memory of the Parkmount Community’ while the other side reads ‘In Memory of Bro Ivan Forbes’, who was a tireless worker for the Arch.

 

 

 

 

An Arch of the Past: Corcrain

The Corcrain Arch was officially opened in June 1937.  It was a magnificent structure of wood and steel, and the decorations were described as ‘artistic’.  The sixty foot span was comprised of three arch-ways which harmonised in colour and size.  The arch contained various symbols of the Orange and Black Orders.

The Arch was completed by Mr Fred Mccullough of Corcrain and Mr A Murphy carried out the painting.  Members of the Arch Committee were; Mr John Wright Junior, Mr Thomas Gilpin, Mr William Thompson, Mr David Hamill, Mr Robert Burns and Mr James Fleming.

Corcrain Arch

The Opening

A large parade of Orangemen, including the Junior Orange, were led by Corcrain Flute Band who provided the music throughout the ceremony. The opening was performed by Mrs Woods under the Chairmanship of Brother David Rock.

David Rock MBE JP held office in Portadown District LOL NO 1 and was a member of LOL 56.  He had been a District Commandant of the Ulster Special Constabulary in Portadown.

Portadown Arches: Mourneview Street and Queen Street

Portadown Arches: Mourneview Street and Queen Street

The Arches of Mouneview Street and Queen Street provide a great sense of pride and community to local residents.  One thing that has become clear through our journey of discovering the heritage of the local Arches, is the amount of time and effort local residents give to the Arches. The members of the different Arches committees’ throughout the town deserve a lot of recognition for maintaining this great tradition.

Mourneview Street Arch Official Opening

Mourneview Street Arch was unveiled in July 1939 by Sir Knight Alex Adair, District Master of Portadown Royal Black Chapter. The majority of the arch was designed and constructed by Mr Wilson Binks.  The old English lettering of the inscriptions and the glass panels were completed by Mr Joseph Wright.  During the speeches at the opening, both men where congratulated on their success.

The weather conditions were particularly poor for the opening ceremony.  But that did not dampen the spirits of over 1000 people who gathered to witness the official opening.

Portadown Pipe Band and Edgarstown Accordion Band provided the music for the evening. The proceedings of the evening was led by Sir Knight and Brother R J Magowan, Worshipful Master of Edenderry LOL 322.

“It’s Lovely!”

“Isn’t it nice!”

“The Colouring and lettering are beautiful”

‘These exclamations are typical of what a bystander heard at the unveiling of Mourneview Street Arch on Thursday evening last’.

Portadown Times 14th July 1939

 

It is interesting and very appropriate to note that no fewer than nine members of the committee had the first name William; William Baxter, William (Billy) Cooper, William (Billy) Whitten Junior, William Taylor, William (Billy) Magee, William Baxter Junior, William McKeown, William Power Senior and William Power Junior.

The other members of the committee were Teddy Grimason, Arthur Magee, George Whitten, George Hodgen and George Magee.

Queen Street Arch

In 1983, a few of the local residents on the street had the idea of erecting their own Arch at the Thomas Street entrance.  A Committee was formed and a collection was made in the neighbourhood.  Planning permission was requested and granted.

An arch shed was built to store the Arch throughout the year.  The building of the shed was done on a voluntary basis mainly by Mr Paul Trouton, Mr Trevor Bonis, Mr Brian Beattie and a few others.

The Arch was sourced from the Derryadd area; one that was no longer in use.  It was then adapted in size as the steel was too short.  The steel poles were made to measure locally. The wooden structure was built to suit by residents from the street; mainly Mr Paul Trouton and Mr Trevor Bonis.

It was then painted by local residents Mr Paul Trouton, Mr Trevor Bonis and Mr Brian Beattie.  The artwork was completed by Mr Neville Austin and the electric work was completed by Mr George Trouton.  The lettering was done by a local sign-writer Mr Bracken Anderson.

Official Opening

The Queen Street Arch was officially opened on 28th June 1985 by local MP Mr Harold McCusker and dedicated by the Reverend Tom Taylor.

Portadown Defenders Flute Band provided the music during the opening ceremony and a reception was held in the Trouton Household for the dignitaries.

Maintaining the Arch

The Arch was maintained for the first fifteen years by a collection from the residents of the street, but unfortunately due to the change in the population of the area this became unfeasible.

The Arch has been put up each year since with the goodwill of the Trouton family and friends and with the kind help of The Beattie family; who look after the shed and supply the electricity.  It has been refurbished a number of times during its almost thirty five year existence.

 

Portadown Arches: Derryanvil

Portadown Arches: Derryanvil

Derryanvil Arch is located under a mile from Drumcree Parish Church.  As it is in the countryside of Portadown, it is often forgot and overlooked when it comes to the Arches of Portadown.  But the local rural community in the area are very proud of “their wee arch”.

Original Arch

An early arch was originally erected near Derrycarne Orange Hall.  According to the older generation of the area, the last time it had been up, was sometime in the 1930’s.  The old arch had been a wooden structure and was originally stored in Mr George Robinson’s hay shed.

Derrycarne Orange Hall

“It’s time we had an arch again”

In the winter of 1962, Alex Hyde and William Dillworth had a conversation about the old arch.  It was decided they would paint and restore the old arch and put it up the next July. The decision was made that instead of putting it up at the old location on the Derrycarne Road , it would be moved 2 miles to the small community at Derryanvil Crescent.  In July 1962 it was erected at the new location.  It was very much a community effort with Mr Tom Troughton and neighbours all involved.

New Arch

The Following year, in 1963, the community decided they would invest in a new metal frame arch as the old wooden arch was falling in to disrepair. Mr Tom Troughton made a new frame from box metal.  Mr William Dillworth was a great artist and he was able to draw the symbols needed for the arch.  William knew of a gentleman named Albert Drummond who was skilled at cutting figures out of sheet metal.  Once the symbols were cut, they went back to William who painted them in preparation for going on the Arch.

Opening of the New Arch

The new arch was opened on 2nd July 1963 by Herbert Whitten.  Mr Whitten was a member of the Orange Order and Royal Black Institution.  He was Worshipful Master of Portadown District LOL NO.1 from 1968 until his death in 1981.  He also held the office of Deputy Grand Master of Ireland and was Worshipful District Master of Portadown Royal Black District Chapter No.5 in the early 1960’s.

Mr Whiitten was elected to Portadown Borough Council in 1968 and was MP for Central Armagh at Stormont from 1969 until 1972.  He held office of Mayor in Portadown Borough Council from 1968-1969 and was Mayor of Craigavon Borough Council from 1977 until 1978.  He was a founding member of Portadown Housing Association and was Managing Director of T A Shillington and Sons from 1955 until his retirement in 1979.

The music for the opening of the arch was provided by Pride of the Birches Accordion Band.  The refreshments were served by the ladies of Derryanvil Crescent who had all come together to make and provide sandwiches, cakes, buns and tea.

Continuing Tradition

The Arch was improved each year by adding new metal symbols from Albert Drummond and William Dillworth.  A bonfire was originally part of the celebrations on the 11th night.  It was located in a nearby field until new bungalows were built.  The Bonfire was then moved  to the rear of Derryanvil Crescent in the 1980’s.

Unfortunately, with Derryanvill Crescent being located under a mile from Drumcree Parish Church, the annual bonfire had to be stopped in 1996 due to the stand off at Drumcree.

Drumcree Parish Church

The arch was unable to go up for two years during the early 2000’s this was due to insurance issues.  This was overcome when Derrycarne Bible and Crown Defenders LOL 78 stepped in and provided the insurance costs.

The final metal attachment was made by Albert Drummond.  It is the Bible and Crown located in the centre of the arch. It was painted by William Dillworth.  Sadly, Mr Drummond died shortly after making the Bible and Crown.

The Arch is erected every year at Derryanvil Crescent.  There is a strong unionist and Orange community in the local area including; Derryanvil, Derrycarne and Derrymacfall.  That community is very proud to have the arch displayed as a long standing tradition of their beliefs and culture.