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.

 

 

Apprentice Boys of Derry Exhibition

Apprentice Boys of Derry Exhibition

Apprentice Boys of Derry Exhibition

A new Exhibition has arrived at Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre.  The pop up exhibition explores the history of the formation of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.  The Exhibition is kindly on loan from the Siege Museum, based in Londonderry.

The Siege Museum

The Siege Museum was officially opened in March 2016 and is dedicated to commemorating the history of the Siege of Londonderry 1688-89 and the cultural heritage of the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry. There is tours available of the Siege Museum.  It contains three modern galleries which are packed with exciting stories of endurance, defiance, adventure and the legendary bravery of the 13 young apprentice boys!

Apprentice Boys Portadown

Carleton Street Orange Hall is home to the Apprentice Boys of Derry Portadown Branch Club.  The exhibition is a chance to explore memorabilia of the Apprentice Boys and also discover the history behind their formation. Along the way there is also the opportunity to explore the history of the Siege of Londonderry.

Opening Times

The Exhibition is open at Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre for the month of March.  It is open Monday to Thursday 9:00-16:15, Friday 9:00-13:15 and Tuesday evening 19:30-20:30. This is a family friendly exhibition with activities for the kids also available. Exhibition booklets are also available, free of charge.

Tours of Carleton Street Orange Hall and Heritage Centre

Our usual daily tours of the Orange Hall are also available during the exhibition. Guided tours or audio tours are both available.  This tour is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the history and heritage of Orangeism in Portadown.  Carleton Street Orange Hall has been at the heart of Portadown since 1875.  For more information contact shout@portadownheritagetours.co.uk or call the office on 028 38332010.

A Successful Orange Heritage Week 2018 in Portadown

A Successful Orange Heritage Week 2018 in Portadown

We Brought Orange Heritage Home to the Orange Citadel!

Futures Bright for Orange Heritage

Orange Heritage Week saw the release of our audio tours, using i-Beacon technology, the first of its kind in any tourist building in Northern Ireland.

 

The kids treasure trail was a big success and proved that Orange Heritage Week can be enjoyed by all ages.  The kids were given free rain of the hall and they throughly enjoyed their time exploring it and discovering a little bit of history along the way.  They enjoyed finding the treasure and their party afterwards with juice and treats.

Release of our Exhibitions

We had three Exhibitions open during Orange Heritage Week.  These included Portadown Orangemen on the Western Front, Orange & Industry and Drumcree: 20 Years on.  The exhibitions displayed local history and its connections to Orange Heritage within the town. Love it or hate it, theres no doubt about it, Orange Heritage runs deep into the history of Portadown.  The exhibitions took a while to get through, with visitors coming back over a couple of days to explore them.

 

Band Performances & Public Talks

We would like to say a big thank you to Star of David Accordion band for their open concert they performed on the Monday night.  It showcased the week nicely, highlighting the importance of music throughout Orange Heritage.  Also a big thank you to Historian Robert Wallace for his two very interesting talks on ‘The Williamite Wars in the European Context’ and ‘The Palaces of William and Mary’.  Both proved a very good insight into the beginnings of the Orange Culture and history.  Link Below for a short video of the bands performance.

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Spooky Times Ahead..

We have Ghost Tours running throughout October! To kick those of we had our first Ghost Tour of the season during Orange Heritage Week.  This proved very popular and we hope everyone had a good time, there was a few laughs along the way as well as the scary bits!

Finishing on a high!

To finish the festival off we had our MacMillan Cancer Support Coffee Morning! We are happy to announce we raised a total of £295.  We are delighted with the total and we have our visitors support to thank for that.

 

Its a Thank You from us!

We would like to thank everyone who supported us for our festival of events for Orange Heritage Week.  To all our visitors who attended your support is very much appreciated.

 

 

 

 

The Lambeg Drum

The Lambeg Drum

Few other instruments can match the Lambeg drum for size and sheer volume.  This Impressive percussion instrument is unique to the province of Ulster, and its not made anywhere else.  It is in fact the largest double-sided rope tension drum in the world, and is thought to be the loudest folk instrument on the planet! The Lambeg drum is perhaps most usually associated with the Orange tradition, where it is often used to accompany marchers on parade.  However drumming matches and competitions are held independently by drumming clubs the length and breadth of the province.

The true origin of the Lambeg drum remains unknown, as there is very little historical evidence documenting this instrument.  However, the mystery surrounding its creation has given rise to many different folklores, which have become as much a part of the Lambeg drumming tradition as the music itself.

There are several different theories surrounding the origins of the Lambeg drum, one such theory explains the title ‘Lambeg’ suggests the drum was first built in the village of Lambeg, near Lisburn.  Another popular theory is that the drums were first beaten with canes at a meeting in Lambeg in the 1870’s.  Some argue that the drum was first introduced by continental Williamite soldiers in the summer of 1690, and that the drum was played by these troops whilst camped at Lambeg enrolee from Carrickfergus to the Battle of the Boyne.

Another prominent story in Lambeg folklore connected to the Battle of the Boyne explains the uniquee rhythms that are traditionally played on the drum.  Legend has it that King William’s drummer boy had fallen asleep after eating a supper consisting of bread.  An opportunist Wren flew down and began to peck at the crumbs lying on the drum head.  The noise caused the boy to wake form his sleep just in time to discover the camp was under attack.  He was then able to raise the alarm in time to prevent defeat.

Goat skins from female ‘nanny’ goats are preferred for drum heads, as they tend to be lighter and cleaner skin, making them easier to work with than a male or ‘Billy’ goat hide.

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Cider for King William III’s Army

Cider for King William III’s Army

Portadown provided cider for King William’s army during its campaign which ended in victory over James II and his men at the Boyne.  Records show that the Rev. William Brooke who was rector of Drumcree from 1679 until his death in 1700, wrote an account of the barony in 1682, from which it was learned that good cider was available in Portadown at thirty shillings a hogshead.

From the same source it was gathered that the farmers of Portadown district were compelled by their leases to plant apple trees proportionate to the quality of their land.  In 1690, King William’s cider maker Paul Le Harper was sent to Portadown with the necessary equipment to make cider for the Williamite Army.  Harper was a Huguenot, a member of the Protestant faith in France who were persecuted for their religion and forced to emigrate to other countries.

Lord Drogheda, who commanded a Williamite regiment stationed at Tandragee, part of which was quartered in Portadown had recorded that there was much cider there in the spring of 1690.  It is remarkable that so many apple trees in North Armagh had escaped the ravages of the 1641 rebellion, when farm houses and houses of English Protestant settlers were being destroyed.

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