“I don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest, because you’ve got that community and that support.”
10 JUL 2022
The Liverpool headquarters of the Orange Order faced “row upon row” of terraced houses when it was built.
Now Everton Park sits where those terraces were, and the communities who fuelled the Order’s membership now live on the city’s fringes. Those still active in the fraternal order – formed in Northern Ireland to support the union, Protestantism and the monarchy – are mostly older, and they struggle to entice a new generation into their ranks.
Liverpool was once the main hub of the Order in Great Britain. A member since she was a child, Joyce Tickle, 74, remembers when Netherfield Road was full of Union Jacks and bunting, and doors were adorned with crepe paper roses for the annual July 12 parade. Vivien Cawley, 77, said the atmosphere was “absolutely amazing”, but “the whole community disappeared”.
The Orange Order, founded in 1795, is a controversial organisation whose marches, and the debates around their routes, sometimes spark violence in Northern Ireland. Although Liverpool’s members are mostly not of Irish origin, the city has seen its own sectarian tensions between Protestants and Catholics.
A Liverpool Protestant Party, formed amid fear of a rising Catholic population in Liverpool in the 20th century, once had seats on the city council, and it fought against plans for a Catholic cathedral here. At times, Protestants and Catholics clashed in the street, and bystanders would shout abuse at Orange Order members passing in parades.
Even in 2017, two arrests were made after a fight erupted outside The Liffey pub on Renshaw Street as a march – believed to be organised by the Apprentice Boys of Derry – passed by. The Provincial Grand Orange Lodge, which wasn’t involved in the march, condemned the violence. Such tensions have dwindled in recent years, although abuse is sometimes still shouted at them during parades, but Joyce and Vivien brush this off.
The Order also been accused of being a “white supremacist” organisation, but Steve Kingston, the Liverpool’s provincial grand master, said it has lodges in countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, and its defence of the position of Protestantism isn’t “because we’ve got any great problem with people of other persuasions”.
They “see it as quite important that the country remains Protestant with a Protestant monarchy”, according to Steve. The 63-year-old said this stems from the role co-monarchs William III, from the Netherlands, and Mary II played in embedding Protestant dominance and constitutional monarchy in Britain and Ireland more than 300 years ago.
Young members of Liverpool’s Orange Order go to Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland for the Royal Landing, an annual festival to celebrate the arrival of King William III, known as William of Orange, in the town on June 14, 1690, after sailing from Hoylake. He then marched his forces south and defeated the army of deposed Catholic king James II, who subsequently fled to France.
Symbols of monarchy and religion – like a portrait of the Queen overlooking the Provincial Club’s bar, and orange collarettes with images of a bible, crown, and King William on a horse – are as important as ever for the Order, with Vivien saying “it’s our national heritage, not just our heritage”.
Despite once being the main hub of the Order in Great Britain, even Liverpool’s membership has steadily declined since the “heyday” of the 1950s and 1960s, when the Order absorbed men returning from the army, and new lodges sprung up during the influx of Catholic migrants from Ireland. Now there are roughly 1,500 members across the 100 lodges of Liverpool and the neighbouring district of Bootle, 20 fewer lodges than there were nine years ago.
The slum clearances of the 1960s saw many of Everton’s residents moved to the outskirts of Liverpool, and the Orange lodges once based in this part of Liverpool went with them. Joyce’s lodge used to be in a house just down the road from the Provincial Club on Everton Road, but her family then moved to Norris Green. Steve lived down the road before moving to a council estate six miles outside the city centre.
But they stayed with the Order. Vivien, who now lives in Widnes, said: “It’s always been an important part of who I am. I was in my late teens when I actually joined, and then married somebody who was already in the Order. So I’ve always been heavily involved, and I don’t know what I’d do without it, to be honest, because you’ve got that community and that support.”
Members regularly get together for parades. Some lodges still do almost weekly Sunday marches through the streets on the way to church, including around Toxteth and Dingle. They have larger parades almost monthly, for events like St George’s Day and the October Harvest festival.
Now they’re in the middle of marching season, with a parade through Liverpool on June 4, and one in London for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations on June 18, building up to the July 12 parade in Southport. The parades are smaller than when she was a child, but Joyce still feels a sense of “magic” about them, with her eyes glistening as she remembered entering the grand facade of Exchange Station, now home to offices, before catching the train to Southport for the July 12 celebration of King William and the Glorious Revolution.
This is their first time back since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, during which “the institution took a hit”, according to Joyce. Meetings were cancelled, social clubs were closed, and they were unable to give an ‘Orange funeral’ – with prayers and a procession – to the 38 Liverpool members who died. Some of its aging membership are still too wary to attend events in person.
With fewer young members joining the Order, and members of its youth section not staying, its membership is gradually dwindling. Vivien said: “It is a problem, because when the kids get to a certain age, they’re going to go off to university, and unless there’s something that will keep them interested at university, there’s nothing for them to do.
“It’s good for the children that they do the scripture exams and they do colouring competitions, and the junior movement organises all kinds for them to do. But if there’s an option to either play on a game, they’d probably sooner have the technology.”
Society is changing, and the issues that once galvanised its members are less powerful motivators than they once were. Steve still sees the monarchy as a “stable force” to oversee the country even as the ruling political party changes, and he said people have “a genuine love and affection” for the Queen. Every time he got a news alert on his phone when she was ill, he “was panicking that it was going to be bad news, the way I would if it was a family member”.
But he’s aware this warmth for the reigning monarch may not always exist. He said: “Once, unfortunately, that changes, it’s like anything – you don’t have to feel the same about someone to respect the position. Prince Charles may or may not be as popular, but in our eyes, that doesn’t really matter, because it’s not about Prince Charles or Prince William. It’s about the monarchy.”
Source: Liverpool Echo