It’s not easy being Orange


It’s getting late, but I can’t let this day pass without noting July 12 is the date that commemorates the Battle of the Boyne, and the victory in 1690 of a Protestant army led by William of Orange over A Roman Catholic one led by James II, the deposed English king.

James had been deposed by Parliament in 1688. His daughter Mary, and her Protestant husband William, who was also her cousin and related to James, were invited to take over the throne. The battle, fought in Ireland, actually took place on July 11. It was James’ major effort to regain the throne. Its outcome would also determine if Protestant ascendancy over Ireland continued.

William’s victory sealed Catholic Ireland’s bitter, divided fate for the better part of three centuries.

Through much of that time the Orange Lodge, an extreme anti-Catholic organization rooted among the Scots-Irish, Protestant culture of Northern Ireland wielded considerable and often provocative power. Scots-Irish immigrants to English Canada, notably Upper Canada, now Ontario, brought their Orange loyalties, and anti-Catholic attitudes with them. The Orange Lodge became politically powerful in many parts of Ontario, especially Toronto. Well into the 20th Century it was virtually impossible for anyone who wasn’t a member of the Orange Lodge to get elected to city council. The annual Orange Day parade was one of the biggest public events in the predominantly “white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP)” city of the time.

My own maternal great, grandfather, Tom Thompson, was a life-long, high-ranking member of the Orange Lodge, to the extent that city mayors felt it necessary to pay him a courtesy call at the modest Thompson family home on Melville Avenue on the big day.

Among other things, my great, grandfather was a skillful gardener. I still have fond, childhood memories of the beautiful garden he created in the backyard of 50 Melville. And out front, facing the street, he had planted a profusion of Orange lilies bearing witness to his stern, Protestant loyalties.

(His brother Richard, by the way, was the head gardener at Toronto’s famous Casa Loma, when it was being built and lived in by Sir Henry Pellatt, and afterwards, when it was taken over by the city, after Sir Henry went broke and could no longer pay the taxes. Casa Loma is still renowned for its gardens.)

Meanwhile, in many areas of the Ontario countryside where the Orange Lodge was predominant it was understood Roman Catholics were not welcome to take up residence. The planting of Orange lilies in front of one’s property, displayed a family’s Protestant/Orange Lodge status, like flags. To this day Orange lilies abound here in Hope Ness, as elsewhere on the Bruce Peninsula.

fleur de lis

I find it ironic that the original builders and owners of my house were French-Canadian, or Quebecois, loggers, and quite likely Roman Catholic. I have stripped many layers of wallpaper down to the original, and found the distinctive fleur de lis pattern. I wonder what their story was, and why they left. I doubt they planted all those Orange lilies around my front door, though “lis” is the French word for lily.

They are a lovely flower, after all, despite the history that goes with them, as you can see.

And maybe it all comes together in the end.

I certainly wouldn’t want anyone who comes to my house as a guest to be put off by anything with political or religious overtones growing around my home. But I might, for interest’s sake, tell them my little Orange story especially if the lilies are in bloom.


2 thoughts on “It’s not easy being Orange

  1. Fascinating! As a ‘lapsed’ R.C. I took particular interest … “Up with King Billy and down with the Pope” and all that. Also enjoyed your post on Joan of Arc movie and eco-friendly Francis.
    Now, should I head out and uproot the Orange lilies? No, I think not. They are quite innocent of this historical association.


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