By Brian McConnell
The War Memorial in Sydney's Wentworth Park is impressive and unique, commemorating men killed in the First and Second World Wards who belonged to the Loyal Orange Lodge of Cape Breton.
War Memorials are located in communities around Nova Scotia, but none are like the one in Wentworth Park in Sydney, Cape Breton. The monument is very impressive, standing well over three metres high, and is inscribed with the names of 61 Nova Scotians killed in the First and Second World Wars. These men were all members of Orange Lodges in Cape Breton County.
The Loyal Orange Lodge (L.O.L.) traces back to Ireland. The first Orange Lodges took their name from William, Prince of Orange. William became King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1689-1702, and defeated a Catholic King, James II, at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The Orange Lodge was brought to Nova Scotia by British soldiers. Membership to the Orange Lodge in Nova Scotia was open to all Protestant adult males who took an oath of loyalty to the British Crown and pledged to maintain the Order’s historical connections with Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The first Nova Scotian meeting was held in Halifax in 1799 and was for military members only. A first non-military lodge was established in 1845 in Halifax and was called the Roden Lodge. The Grand Orange Lodge of Nova Scotia was established in 1849 and by 1850, there were eight lodges in the province. The Order experienced steady growth: by 1862 there were 21 lodges including one in Bermuda, which at that time was under the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia. In 1892, there were six county, five district, and 53 primary lodges in Nova Scotia with a total of 1973 members. Membership continued to increase, and by 1914, there were 10 county, seven district, and 127 primary lodges from Yarmouth to Glace Bay with a total of 4303 members. Lodges varied in size from 30 members to 200. In addition to the men’s lodges, in later years there were lodges for women and youth.
On July 12 in a different town each year, Orangemen held a large parade to celebrate of the Battle of the Boyne. Members were outfitted in sashes and regalia and attended a special religious service to mark the occasion. Prominent Nova Scotian Orangemen included Angus Walters, Captain of the famous Bluenose fishing and sailing schooner, who belonged to Loyal Orange Lodge 63 in Lunenburg. Reverend F.C. Ward, Rector of the Anglican Church in Lunenburg, was also a member. The first Mayor of Westville, George Munroe, belonged to Acadia L.O.L. 45. Major J. Harrison, Justice of the Peace, belonged to L.O.L. 23 in Maccan and was elected Grand Master in 1908.
The loyalty of Orange members to England meant Orangemen enlisted in the First World War in much greater numbers than the rest of the population. Over 55,000 Canadian Orangemen fought overseas, of which more than 8,000 were killed and many others injured. In March 1918 at the annual meeting held at the Orange Hall in Truro, James Forsythe, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Nova Scotia, stated:
I am sure that I voice the feelings of all here assembled, that we are proud, and justly so, of the showing our Canadian boys have made, accomplishing at the time what seemed impossible, many times saving the day for the Allies. I am glad too, that such a high percentage of our members have enlisted to serve the Empire in the great cause for justice, that we may never be found behind in upholding the principles of freedom and honor, for which our institution stands. Though many have paid the supreme sacrifice and today lie in unmarked graves on the battle fields of Flanders, we shall never forget their unselfish and unwritten history of honor.
On February 11, 1919, at a meeting in the Orange Hall in Glace Bay, Dan McDougall, Master of the Orange Lodge, proposed that they erect a monument in memory of Orangemen from Cape Breton County who lost their lives in the First World War. They canvassed other primary Lodges in the province and with their support, the Glace Bay Lodge erected a monument in Wentworth Park, Sydney, in 1921. The following year, the Grand Orange Lodge of Nova Scotia began holding annual services at Wentworth Park in memory of Nova Scotian Orangemen who lost their lives in the First World War.
Following the Second World War, the Grand Lodge placed a new frontispiece on the monument to commemorate Orangemen from Cape Breton County who lost their lives in the both the First and Second World Wars. The updated monument was unveiled on July 7, 1946.
Brian McConnell, “The Orangemen War Memorial in Wentworth Park, Sydney,” Historic Nova Scotia, accessed November 9, 2019, https://historicnovascotia.ca/items/show/153.