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.

 

 

Summer Tour Bookings: All you need to know

Summer Tour Bookings: All you need to know

All you need to know about our Summer Tour Bookings.

Bookings for our summer season of tours are now starting to come in.  Since Portadown Heritage Tours was launched in 2017 we have had some great visitors from across the world with genelogical links to the town.

This year is no different.  We are already working on some genealogical research for visitors coming to the town this summer to research their family roots.  A lot of them have had family members in early generations who were in the Loyal Orders.  The family members may not have much knowledge on the Loyal Orders.  We take them on a historical journey and provide as much information as we can.

Tours available to book this summer.

We provide three main tours.  The tour of Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre, Portadown Town Walking Tour and The Siege of Drumcree Tour.  The Siege of Drumcree Tour and Carleton Street Orange Hall Tour are proving popular this year.  For the summer months only, we are offering these two tours as a package tour.  Within this package we provide refreshments to visitors.  We do recommend small bookings of up to four people to get the best experience.

The Portadown Town Walking Tour is a great experience to learn about the development of the town from the plantation years.  The tour follows the story of the ‘Hub of the North’ and the great industrial heritage that led to the town earning that title. Once again we do recommend small groups for the best experience.

General Information and bookings

We are finding that a lot of visitors now are booking all three tours together.  This is great to see although if you are doing that we recommend spreading the tours over a couple of days.  There is quite a lot to take in on the tours and it can be quite intense to do all three in one day.  Although if you thoroughly enjoy history some visitors may not mind this!

There are some dates throughout the summer that the tours are not available. This is due to cultural celebrations within the Loyal Orders.  Those dates are listed below:

  • Saturday 8th June
  • Thursday 11th July – Monday 15th July
  • Saturday 10th August
  • Saturday 21st September-Saturday 28th September

Portadown Heritage Tours operate through donations.  We do have set prices in place for refreshments provided. We have recommended donations for each tour.  For bookings and more information contact our office on 38332010 or book online at www.portadownheritagetours.co.uk.

Launching a new twist to the town tour for families.

In June we will also be launching a Family Fun Town Trail.  This will take the theme of a treasure trail and will be available on certain days throughout the summer.

 

 

Raise Money for your Lodge, Preceptory or Band

Raise Money for your Lodge, Preceptory or Band

Need help organising an event to raise funds for your organisation?

Organising an event can take a lot of time and effort on top of everyday jobs and family life.  Portadown Heritage Tours offer FREE help to any local Loyal Orders or Bands who would like to put on an event to raise money for their organisation.

How Can We Help Raise Money?

With most Loyal Order Organisations only meeting once a month, this can prove difficult when it comes to finalising plans, we are here to make the process a lot easier.  We can take you through the process of planning the event.  There is a wide range of events to choose from with small event ideas right through to larger ones.  We can help in a range of ways, from something as small as producing fundraising sheets to following up on bookings for larger events.  This is a FREE service we offer, so all money raised will go to your organisation.

Event Ideas and Organising

We offer a range of services to help organise your event.  These services include event ideas, idea consultation with your organisation, free design and print of marketing material, social media marketing campaign, full organisation of the event, voluntary services to help run the event and even something as simple as producing fund-raising sheets.

Fundraising information packs are available from the Portadown Heritage Tours Office.  Within these packs there are a range of event ideas, so even if you don’t need our help directly they can still offer some assistance for ideas.

Contact us

If you would like a pack then you can contact the office on 028 38332010, email shout@portadownheritagetours.co.uk or search ‘Portadown Heritage Tours’ on Facebook and send us a private message.

Our priority will be Lodges etc within Portadown District, but if your Lodge etc is within County Armagh then we will also certainly help.

 

Portadown Community Remembers 100 Years On

Portadown Community Remembers 100 Years On

The community of Portadown have come together to mark the Centenary of the 1st World War.

The end of October and the start of November has seen lots of events by the community of Portadown.  They have come together to mark the end of the Great War 100 years on.  Events have took place in Churches, Community Halls and Orange Halls throughout the town.  The rededication of the towns War Memorial has led the way.

Carleton Street Orange Hall

At Carleton Street Orange Hall Portadown Heritage Tours took a different approach. We have displayed an outside exhibition of flags of the countries of the the British Commonwealth along with Poppies and silhouettes of Soldiers in the windows.  Lights were added to give a night time feature.  On Sunday 11th November at 5:30pm there will be a short act of remembrance outside the hall.  The Last Post will be played by a Bugler from the top window. Then a silence will follow and the Pipers Lament.  We welcome everyone to join us.

Carleton Street Orange Hall

An excellent exhibition was also displayed inside the hall and hosted by RBP 25.  On Friday 2nd November the Dance Hall was transformed into a pop up museum by Lisbellaw and South Fermanagh World War One Society.  They were displaying lots of items of great significance from trenches and uniforms to badges and medical equipment.  An act of Remembrance and a wreath laying ceremony was also held in the Bell Room on the night by Portadown Royal Black District Chapter No.5.

Display in the Dance Hall at Carleton Street

Edenderry Orange Hall

Edenderry Community Development Association hosted a great evening in Edenderry Orange Hall on Friday 2nd November.  There was a World War 1 display, Children’s entertainment, war-time songs and a tea party.  The evening also included the presentation of ‘There But Not There Tommy’s to Seagoe Church Of Ireland, Edenderry 1st Presbyterian Church and Edenderry Memorial Methodist Church.

The evening was an absolute credit to the organisers and volunteers of Edenderry Community Development Association and was very well supported.  As a community group they have organised and gained funding for some excellent events throughout the years and continue to work very hard for their local area.

Members of Portadown Ex Servicemen’s LOL 608 and RBP 326 with members of the wartime re-enactment group who supplied the 1st World War display at Edenderry Orange Hall.

An evening enjoyed by everyone at Edenderry Orange Hall

It was a family gathering for the Partridge’s and Branyan’s at Edenderry on the night.

St Colomba’s Parish Church

St Columba’s Church have also held a series of events throughout the week to mark the Centenary of the 1st World War. A community day was held on Saturday 3rd November.  This was followed by a ‘Reflections Musical Evening’ then on Tuesday 6th, ‘Keep the home fires burning’ fashion show and entertainment also on Wednesday 7th, an ‘Air and Graces Musical Evening’ on Thursday 8th November at 7:30pm.  This will include music by Ballymoughan Purple Guards and Flute Band Church. Local WWI Historian Richard Edgar is also Speaking.

The Exhibition at the Church is open to Saturday 10th November at 5pm.  It is well worth a visit.  There has been lot of hard work and organising that has went into the exhibition and events. Well done to all involved.

A very unique part of the Exhibition in St Columba’s Church, Portadown.

Remaining events at St Columba’s Church

Thomas Street Methodist Church

Thomas Street Methodist Church are hosting a series of events ‘A Time to Remember and Reflect’.  The Church will be open for prayer and reflection on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th November, from 10:00am to 3:00pm. There are displays of memorabilia which will be in place around the Church to aid your Remembrance and Reflection.

On Friday 9th November, Wesley Hall in Portmore Street will be hosting an evening of music and song.  This will feature the SWING GALS and the Ormeau Concert Band. Talks by Richard Edgar and Denver Pearson.  Refreshments will be provided on the night.

 

Remembrance Day

The Remembrance Day Parade on Sunday 11th November will be leaving Thomas Street at 10:30am. It will proceed to Market Street, West Street and High Street.  Parade will return up Market Street and to the town’s war memorial for the wreath laying ceremony.  Thomas Street Methodist Church will host the civic Remembrance Service on Sunday at 11:45am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WorldHost trained Community Tour Guides

WorldHost trained Community Tour Guides

WorldHost Training

Portadown Heritage Tours community tour guides received their WorldHost certificates this week from Stephen Bill of Tourism NI.  This was part of an 18 month training programme which was done under the guidance and mentoring of Ballymena based company Brilliant Trails.  http://www.brillianttrails.com

Our WorldHost training was provided by the team at Customer Sense Training and Consultancy, a locally based company in Craigavon. http://www.customersensetraining.co.uk

The Tours

Portadown Heritage Tours officially launched in August 2017. This has led to the development of a number of tours around the local Portadown area. Inncluding the Portadown Town Walking Tour, Tour of Carleton Street Orange Hall and the Siege of Drumcree Tour.  We have more in development.  We aim to boost local historical education and bring tourism to the local area.  At the minute our community tour guides are all members of the Loyal Orders, we welcome everyone onboard.  As an organisation we are keen to promote cross community and new community relations.

We have all grew up in the local Portadown area and along the tour routes you’ll hear lots of stories from days of yore in the town, including a bit of folklore that has been passed down the generations and offers a bit of craic along the way.

We are publishing an event programme in the near future. Book a tour online at www.portadownheritagetours.co.uk