The July 12th Orange Lodge parade commemorating the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland in 1690 will be held in Carleton Place, as part of the ongoing rotation that sees the parade return to the town every other year. Last year, it was held in Smiths Falls.
“We haven’t had a parade in Smiths Falls for some time and we just got the royal treatment down there,” said Alan Currie, a member of the No. 48 Loyal Orange Lodge in Carleton Place, while sitting in one of his trademark wooden sheds at the family business, Clearview Lumber, just outside of Franktown on the Richmond Road.
“I don’t remember that I had any important reasons to join other than my dad belonged to it,” said Currie, remembering the first Orange meeting he attended as a teenager on July 12, 1949. “I was born into a pretty strong Orange circle of family. I used to hear them (my parents) talk about the Orange Lodge growing up…Some things they couldn’t discuss with me until I joined and if I never joined, I’d never have known about.”
Some of the pillars of the Orange Lodge involve promoting and protecting the Protestant faith, support for the monarchy, military and public school system, as well as the English language.
“You don’t know about all those things until you join the Lodge,” said Currie.
He admits that many people are still unaware, or have misconceptions, over what the Lodge is really all about.
“A lot of people think that the Orange Lodge is bigoted toward the Catholic faith,” said Currie. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In fact, one of his sons married a Roman Catholic girl.
“I loved her dearly,” said Currie. “Some of my best friends are Roman Catholic.”
He noted that the Lodge is never shy about telling the government of the day what it feels about important issues, especially as they pertain to the monarchy.
“Maintaining the monarchy is top of the list,” he said. “There are so many people out there who want to get rid of the monarchy. They’d climb the wall to get rid of the monarchy. We’d beat them to the wall to keep it.”
But rather than keeping any languages or faiths down, Currie stresses that the Lodge wants an equal playing field. He points to the banner hanging in the Carleton Place Orange Lodge on Industrial Avenue, which proudly proclaims an Orange motto: “Equal rights to all, and special privileges to none.”
Across the waters, in the birthplace of the Orange Lodge, things are changing in Northern Ireland. That very day, June 27, Queen Elizabeth II shook hands for the first time ever with Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. This was significant because it is the first time a member of McGuinness Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party has shaken hands with a British monarch, but also the first time Her Majesty has shaken hands with a member of his party, or a former member of the Irish Republican Army. McGuinness was a former IRA commander in the 1970s, during the Bloody Sunday incident in 1972 in Derry City, and the Queen’s cousin, Lord Mountbatten, was killed by an IRA bomb on board his boat off the coast of County Sligo in 1979.
“I don’t think I could sit here and say I would be in favour of it,” said Currie of the Queen meeting McGuinness. “I certainly would not look down on the Queen because she did that. I know a lot will…(But) she is a class act.”
He admitted that Orange Lodge members must agree not to marry a Catholic or become Catholics themselves, but that he and his Orange brothers bear no ill will to Catholics.
“When we all go to our final resting place, they are not going to ask you if you were a Protestant or a Catholic,” he said, adding that some fellow Protestants “wouldn’t have a lot good to say about Orangemen. I know that for a fact.”
The parade commemorates the victory of the Dutch Protestant King William III of Orange who defeated Catholic forces on the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath in what is now the Republic of Ireland. Across Northern Ireland, upwards of half a million people – in a province of just over two million people – attend about 18 Orange Order parades each year.
A worship service will be held at the Carleton Place arena, 75 Neelin Ave., at 3 p.m., a ceremony which includes a wreath laying. The Protestant service will be followed by a roast beef dinner at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person, $10 for children 12 and under. The line-up for the parade will begin to muster in the parking lot of the arena at 6:30 p.m., and the parade takes off down Neelin at 7 p.m. The parade goes past the Carleton Place and District Memorial Hospital and turns right on to Lake Avenue, before turning right onto Bridge Street at the old Heritage Inn. After heading past St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the post office, the parade will hang a right onto Albert Street – which becomes Sussex Street – over the old railway tracks, before heading back to the arena. Free entertainment, with music and dancing, will follow the parade at 8 p.m. in the upstairs lounge of the arena.
The service will be conducted by Rev. Martin Dunn, the former Anglican minister for the churches in Clayton, Franktown and Innisville.
“He’s right from the old sod in Ireland where the original fighting took place,” said Currie of Dunn, who was born and raised just outside of Belfast. “He told me when he came to our parish here that he still had all of his (Orange Lodge) regalia from home.”
Currie still plays a drum in the parade each year. The drum is so old that it still bears the markings of the now-defunct Loyal Orange Lodge No. 381 in Franktown, which he joined very shortly after his 16th birthday in 1949. In fact, it is the same drum his maternal uncle played in the parade for years before him. In his 63 years as an Orangeman, he has only ever missed two parades.
Not surprisingly, his father was in the Lodge, as was his mother, maternal grandfather and his five siblings. His oldest son Randy is also still in the Lodge.