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“Fear God, Honor the King” – Wingham’s Loyal Orange Lodge

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On December 4, 1856 – two years after the plan of the town of Wingham was surveyed – Wingham Orange Lodge #794 was chartered.

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The controversial Loyal Orange Order was the most powerful fraternal society in Canadian history. Its motto, “Fear God and Honor the King”, perfectly encapsulates the order’s devotion to the Protestant faith and the British crown. For more than a century, the Wingham Pavilion has played a key role in the social and political development of the city.

As a fraternal order, the Orange Lodge provided much-needed assistance to fellow Protestants adjusting to the New World and providing sickness and death benefits to members and their families in distress.

The order brought together the disparate elements of Celtic Protestantism ranging from Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians to High Church Anglicans.

They supported free public education as a means of teaching the Bible and promoting loyalty to Crown and country.

However, in the early years they also brought their deep hostility to Roman Catholicism.

At Wingham, Loyal Orange #794 has thrived for almost a century. In 1873 a hall was erected on Edward Street on land donated by the widowed Mrs. John Cornyn, on the understanding that it would always be used as an Orange Lodge.

Aptly dedicated on November 5, Guy Fawkes Day, the packed room was consecrated by some of Wingham’s most distinguished citizens. Among them were Dr JE Tamblyn, Justice of the Peace, Thomas Holmes and clergy of several denominations.

The evening dance was, no doubt, accompanied by the ritual burning of Fawkes in effigy.

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At the center of the Orange Calendar was the July 12 Orange Parade to celebrate King William III’s victory over King James II’s forces on the River Boyne in Ireland. One of Wingham’s first Orange Marches in 1886 drew what local historian John Pattison called “the biggest and hungriest crowd ever assembled” in town. Indeed, in a town of less than 2,000 people, the town’s resources were taxed to the extreme since the Queen’s Hotel fed 1,300 people, the Central Hotel 1,100, the Brunswick 800 and the Exchange and Dinsley House served 700 guests each. Other restaurants handled 50 to 200 people each. Even larger Orange protests in Wingham in the decades that followed.

In 1889, The Wingham Times reported that the lodge “prospered wonderfully” because over the past year membership in the Wingham lodge had “nearly doubled” with new members joining at every meeting. In November 1890, a Ladies’ True Blues lodge was organized. This female-dominated branch of the Orange Order raised funds for Protestant orphanages in Ontario and other charitable causes. When Wingham Town Hall opened on March 24, 1891, the True Blues staged the opening concert.

With one of the finest fife and drum bands in Western Ontario, the Wingham Pavilion numbered well over 100 members in the parades of the quarter century before the Great War. More than fortnightly meetings, lodge members formed their own society. In addition to “march season” parades, the lodge held dances, picnics, benefit concerts, and fielded its own sports teams.

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Beginning in 1895, Wingham Lodge families made an annual three-day excursion, usually in August, to places like Sarnia and Detroit with special rail fares for members.

In July 1899, the railways set up special wagons to bring thousands of people to the Wingham orange demonstration. The banners of more than 50 lodges marched behind the fifes and drums of several bands through the streets of Wingham. At the head of the parade was the master of the local lodge who carried a sword and rode a white horse depicting ‘King Billy’ on the Boyne. Local newspapers complimented Wingham’s lodge for their silk hats and tailed jackets during the parade.

Five cedar arches spanned Josephine Street adorned with flags and slogans. Local shops and businesses decorated their windows with flags and streamers for the occasion. A carousel at the ice rink entertained the hordes of children present.

More than 9,000 people gathered at Victoria Park to hear speeches, music competitions and sporting events. The Wingham Times said the town had a “royal celebration” of the Boyne that day.

Conference Council of the Orange Lodge of Canada.  Wikipedia
Conference Council of the Orange Lodge of Canada. Wikipedia

Wingham’s dedication to the cause of Orange was rewarded by hosting the 44th Annual Meeting of the Grand Orange Lodge of Canada West in March 1903. Business did booming business and hotels were filled for the event three-day event that brought together hundreds of delegates representing hundreds of lodges in Canada West.

The Wingham Orange Lodge grew stronger in the years leading up to the Great War. In March 1908, the lodge launched a record 21 members. In 1905 a Wingham chapter of the Order of Young Britons, the youth wing of the Order, was established. In July 1915, Wingham organized the first wartime Orange Walk. An “orderly crowd” of 34 boxes and five bands marched past 10,000 spectators, according to the Wingham Advance.

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Speakers from the Orders characterized the war as a struggle for British freedoms and civilisation. Lodge members who served overseas were pardoned from their dues for the duration of the war. The North Huron Lodge purchased a Lewis Gun for the 33rd Huron Regiment in 1915, while the Lady True Blues raised funds for the Red Cross.

In the interwar period, the Orange Lodge continued to be a powerful force in rural Ontario. The Wingham Lodge continued to initiate new members. The annual Orange Decorating Day drew hundreds to the service at Wingham Cemetery’s Orange Mound to lay flowers for deceased members and their families.

During World War II, 15,000 people and 70 lodges attended Wingham’s Orange Parade in July 1943. A speaker gave the old Orange Order cry ‘No Surrender’ and called on the crowd to continue to fight against fascist tyranny.

The year 1943 was perhaps the high point of Orangeism in Wingham. In the aftermath of the World Wars, Orange lodges suffered a rapid decline in numbers, as their strident militarism, staunch devotion to the British Empire and religious bigotry had no place in post-war Canada. war.

When Wingham held its first post-war parade in July 1952, an impressive 29 lodges and 600 marchers paraded past thousands of onlookers. But that was a far cry from previous protests. By the early 1950s, the True Blues and the Wingham Order of Young Britons had become inactive and lodge membership had fallen to around 40.

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The lodge enjoyed a brief resurgence when Wingham Chief Constable Bert Platt revived the Young Britons. In August 1959, Wingham organized the Derry Day Parade, the second most important date on the Orange calendar. An estimated 5,000 people visited the town for the event, however, Wingham’s resurgence of orders was brief.

In July 1965, Wingham again hosted the Orange Parade. Kid’s Halfway, Chicken BBQ and Barn Dance with “well-known” radio stars drew a respectable crowd of 6,000, but the number of aging members was dwindling.

In 1976 the lodge died out, ending 120 years of Orangeism at Wingham.

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