BYGONE DAYS OF YORE: 1845 -‘Very mention of Twelfth helps make the heart beat faster’

The News Letter in July 1845 noted that it was their duty as a newspaper to be “faithful chroniclers of passing events” and the editor of the paper had been “anxious to glean, from all quarters, the particulars of the celebration of the July anniversary”.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 8:55 am
The Regal Band from east Belfast. Picture courtesy of Laura Cassidy
The Regal Band from east Belfast. Picture courtesy of Laura Cassidy

Indeed they noted: “It must be satisfactory to our readers to notice, that in no place, except one, Armagh, did anything occur to mar the general festivity. The day was everywhere one of brilliant sunshine.”

They added: “Happy groups, without number, enjoyed in the balmy air of country scenes hours of peaceful relaxation and invigorating exercise. If the remark of the sage woman lately, that all failures in the potato fields began with the cessation of the July processions, be deemed true, there will, this year, be no scant or want among these delights of every man’s table, for certainly the ‘walking’ appears to have been pretty universal.”


George Cassidy from Hyndford Street in east Belfast playing the saxaphone during a Twelfth. Picture courtesy of Laura Cassidy

The district of Newtownards met on Saturday, July 12, 1845 in Bangor to commemorate the glorious anniversary of Aughrim. The Orangemen of Newtownards, seven lodges in number, assembled in the town at ten o’clock, and proceeded with banners, music and emblems, “in a most orderly manner to Ballygrainey” and joined the other lodges. They then proceeded to Rathgael, the residence of James Rose Cleland, Esq, DL, County of Down, who received them at his house. He delivered a most impressive address to the body. Mr Cleland, in his address, reminded those who had gathered that the Duke Schomberg had landed the troops of King William just one mile from Bangor.

When the procession arrived at Bangor the brethren proceeded to the church, where the service was read by the Reverend M Johnston. The Reverend W Watters preached “a most truly eloquent discourse” to the assembled multitude, noted the News Letter’s correspondent that day.

After the sermon was concluded, the Newtownards Orangemen proceeded home, “every man being perfectly sober”.

The News Letter’s correspondent commented: “Their conduct throughout the day elicited the approbation of all. There was not the smallest riot or quarrel with any person. There appeared a general feeling of gratification to see such a large and respectable procession, by persons of all grades in the town.”

The Regal Band for east Belfast was formed on June 10 1949. The founding members included F Kelly Snr, T Martin, M McKeown, F Kelly Jnr, H McCrum, J Berry, J Walker, D Cook and W Cahoon. The first parade was the Battle of the Somme commemoration in Belfast on July 1 that year. Picture courtesy of Laura Cassidy

They continued: “There never was such a procession; and what the people attributed it to was - that no man should bow down to the arbitrary injunction of their landlords.

“About eight hundred Orangemen were in the town of Newtownards; and it is said, that before the next twelfth, their numbers will be 2,000.”

spirit-stirring music of the fifes and drums

The following report was received by the News Letter from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, which detailed the Twelfth in that town in 1845.

The colour party of Albertbridge Accordion Band

The wrote: “The Orangemen mustered here in thousands this day. Their procession was more imposing than any we recollect, and it was remarkable for its order, strength, and respectability.

“The first party entered the town about eleven o’clock, and passed on to join their brethren at Killyman, it having been previously arranged that several lodges should assemble there at twelve o’clock. About three o’clock a very numerous party from Pomeroy, Castlecaulfield, Mullinagore, gave notice of their approach by the sound of their drums and the waving of their flags. They soon after entered the town, beating time to the strains of ‘No Surrender’, and other loyal tunes, played in succession.”

The report from Dungannon continued: “In about an hour after, and while they were yet in the town, another party, equally numerous, marched in from the Killyman side - (but not one-fourth, it is said, of those who had assembled at Killyman, the others having gone in a different direction.)

“The town now presented a very animated appearance. The spirit-stirring music of the fifes and drums, and other musical accompaniments, the multitude of men respectably dressed, and decorated in the vivid colours emblematic of their principles, the windows crowded with spectators, amongst whom were some ladies and children whose dress was studiously suited to the occasion; those circumstances, together with the independent and peaceable deportment of the procession, were enlivening in a high degree.

Bill Gibson's father Tommy Gibson, date unknown.Picture: Anne Gillespie

“The parties fired a good deal of blank cartridges, especially when passing the floral arches of which there were two in the town; one tastefully wrought over the church gate, and the other suspended across the south-eastern entrance of Church-street.

“In the Diamond they played ‘God Save The Queen’ and gave three cheers for the Protestants of Ireland.”

The News Letter’s correspondent concluded: “No offensive expressions were used towards the Roman Catholics; and it is but justice to mention that the Roman Catholics, or Repealers, exhibited most peaceable conduct.

“One act of the loyalists is deserving of particular remark. When they came to Donaghmore, they were informed that the priest there was lying sick, and, in consequence of this information, ‘Not a drum was heard’ until the party had left the village.

“About half past five o’clock they commenced marching out of Dungannon, in the direction of the several districts. Sobriety was the order of the day; and by the real members of the society the rule was strictly observed.”


Bill Gibson, now living in America, date unknown.Picture: Anne Gillespie

“The ever-memorable Twelfth of July – a day enshrined in the memories of all loyal men, and the very mention of which make the heart of the ‘true man’ beat warmer and quicker, as he calls up before him the glorious deeds of his ancestors, when they so manfully and so effectually resisted an attack of the foe, and earned for him that freedom which is his greatest boast – this day of glorious memory, in the revolving of the annual cycle, has once more returned, and has near passed away,” reported the News Letter’s correspondent from Monaghan.

They told how the sight of the Twelfth of July in 1845 in Co Monaghan had never been witnessed before.

There was reportedly about 120 Orange lodges, “walking together, in procession, making, with the numerous friends who accompanied them”...indeed it was estimated that there had been more than 30,000 men in attendance that year.

The News Letter’s correspondent noted: “They were strong in number, but they were stronger in loyalty of heart and in firmness of resolve.”

Notwithstanding the largeness of the assembly it was noted that there had not been a single event which happened during the entire day, “at all calculated to dim the honour of the Orangemen of this county”.

The morning was most auspicious, having all the loveliness and calm beauty of a summer’s day. Early in the morning the various bodies of Orangemen met at their respective lodges, from where they proceeded to the place of general rendezvous, which was in a large meadow of J C Campbell, Esq, near Smithborough.

About fifty lodges passed through Monaghan, on their way to Smithborough, with colours flying and the drums and fifes playing the tunes the loyal hearts loved best.

The News Letter reported: “The flags were most beautiful, and they all bore the picture of King William, and were thus far alike, except in the variety of colours, the majority being orange and blue.”

The masters of the lodges walked at the head of the separate bodies, bearing the various insignia of office.

“The order and discipline which all the bodies observed, during the entire march, were most worthy of remark,” noted the News Letter’s correspondent.

On arriving at the place of meeting, speeches were delivered by the Grand Master, H G Johnston, Esq, the Reverend Mr Reed, and others; after which, nearly all the Orangemen returned “in a most quiet and becoming manner to their lodge rooms”, where they intended to spend the evening “in the enjoyment of brotherly communion and in brotherly love”.

“The conduct of the Roman Catholic party was most exemplary here,” declared the News Letter’s correspondent. “They never betrayed the slightest feeling of displeasure or annoyance at the display of the Orangemen. The only accident that occurred during the day, was the wounding of a female in the shoulder, by a bullet from a pistol, accidentally discharged, by a boy, at the place of meeting.”

Meanwhile close by at Emyvale, in Co Monaghan, it was reported: “In this locality everything went off quietly, although a large meeting was held, there being somewhere about 20,000 persons assembled.”


At Coleraine the Twelfth in 1845 passed “with perfect quietness”. Upwards of twenty lodges met in town, walked through the principal streets and crossed the river, “by the new and handsome bridge” and proceeded through Killowen, then through the demesne of Laurel-hill, returned again through the town, and marched in a body to Portrush, “about five miles distant”, where they were joined by other lodges. The Orangemen numbered upwards of 1,000. The spectators were noted as numerous. At Portrush the Orangemen spent “a very agreeable day” on the hill overlooking the town and harbour. The News Letter’s correspondent in the town noted that the day had been “remarkably fine”, and that the vast body of men, as they marched through the streets, had been “a most imposing effect”. All was peace and harmony - “not a shout, nor noise of any kind was heard, save the cheering tones of the musical instruments”. The only party tune played was the ‘Boyne Water’. The seven lodges belonging to the town returned in the evening, shortly after nine o’clock, and at once retired to their respective lodge rooms. The News Letter’s correspondent noted: “Sobriety, order, and loyalty, appeared to be the regulating principles, and one universal smile of joy animated every countenance. It being market day vast numbers of country people thronged the streets, and their peaceable demeanour spoke trumpet-tongued as to the loyalty of this district. Many of the flags and banners were new, the robes of the respective masters exceedingly good, and many persons of high respectability were seen in the ranks of the Orangemen.”