Orangemen parading in Bangor on 12 July 2010
|Also called||Orangemen's Day,
|Observed by||Orange Order|
|Significance||celebration of the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne (1690)|
|Celebrations||parading, Lambeg drumming contests, erecting flags and bunting|
|Related to||The Eleventh Night|
The Twelfth (also called The Glorious Twelfth or Orangemen's Day) is a yearly Protestant celebration held on 12 July. It originated in Ireland during the 18th century. It celebrates the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690). Members of the Orange Order and Protestant marching bands hold large parades throughout Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, in other parts of the world where Orange lodges have been set up. Streets are also decorated with British flags and bunting. The Twelfth is a public holiday in Northern Ireland. While it is a Protestant celebration, not all Northern Irish Protestants celebrate it, whether due to political or cultural reasons or indifference.
In Ulster, where roughly half the population is Protestant and half Catholic, The Twelfth has been accompanied by violence since its beginning. Many Catholics and Irish nationalists see the Orange Order and its marches as sectarian, triumphalist and supremacist. The Order's political links to unionism has also caused tension around Twelfth celebrations. Violence related to The Twelfth in Northern Ireland worsened during the 30-year ethno-political conflict known as The Troubles. The Drumcree conflict is perhaps the most well-known dispute involving Orange marches. However, attempts have recently been made to downplay the political aspects of the marches and present the Twelfth as a cultural, family-friendly event at which tourists are welcome. In Belfast, for example, it has been re-branded as Orangefest.
Orangemen commemorated several events from the 17th century onwards, celebrating the survival and triumph of their community during the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Williamite-Jacobite War (1689–91). The first such commemoration was the anniversary of the 1641 rebellion on 23 October, an attempted coup d'état by Irish Catholic gentry who tried to seize control of the English administration in Ireland. The second major day was the birthday of William of Orange, Protestant victor of the Williamite war in the 1690s on 4 November. Both of these anniversaries faded in popularity by the end of the 18th century.
The Twelfth itself originated as a celebration of the Battle of Aughrim, which took place on 12 July 1691 in the Julian calendar. Aughrim was the decisive battle of the Williamite war, in which the predominantly Irish Catholic Jacobite army was destroyed and the remainder capitulated at Limerick. The Twelfth in the early 18th century was a popular commemoration of this battle, featuring bonfires and parades. The Battle of the Boyne (fought on 1 July 1690) was commemorated with smaller parades on 1 July. However, the two events were combined in the late 18th century. The first reason for this was the British switch to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, which re-positioned the Battle of the Boyne to 11 July in the new calendar, the eve of the Battle of Aughrim, on 12 July in the old calendar. The second reason was the foundation of the Orange Order in 1795. The Order preferred the Boyne, due to William of Orange's presence there. It has also been suggested that in the 1790s (a time of Roman Catholic resurgence) the Boyne, where the Jacobites were routed, was more appealing to the Order than Aughrim, where they had fought hard and died in great numbers.
The final decade of the eighteenth century was a time of political ferment in Ireland, as elsewhere in Europe, not least because of the radical republican ideals of the French Revolution. In Ireland these ideas were mixed with deeper rooted sectarian feelings and bands of Defenders and Ribbon Boys were formed on the Catholic side as well as the Orange Order on the Protestant side. Both sets of religiously motivated militant groupings were larger than the non-sectarian, republican, United Irishmen which at the time enjoyed support from prominent radical Presbyterians (who were excluded from society in much the same way as Catholics) in Ulster.
The Order's first ever marches took place on 12 July 1796 in Portadown, Lurgan and Waringstown. The Twelfth parades of the early 19th century often led to public disorder, so much so that the Orange Order and The Twelfth were banned in the 1830s and 40s (see below).
Lead-up to the Twelfth 
Northern Ireland's "marching season" begins at Easter. From then until the Twelfth the Orange Order and Protestant marching bands hold numerous parades. The most common of these are lodge parades, in which one Orange lodge marches with one band. Others, such as the "mini-Twelfth" at the start of July, involve several lodges.
From June to August, Protestant, unionist and loyalist areas of Northern Ireland are decorated in a 'loyal' style. Streets and houses are bedecked with bunting and flags (mainly the Union Flag and Ulster Banner). The bunting and flags are usually flown from lamp-posts. Kerbstones may be painted red, white and blue and murals may be made. Wooden arches, bedecked with flags and Orange symbolism, are raised over certain streets.
The raising of flags and arches near Irish Catholic and nationalist areas, or in "neutral" areas, had led to many violent clashes. Flying the flags of illegal loyalist paramilitaries, such as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA), is especially contentious when deliberately erected outside Catholic churches and schools.
Eleventh Night 
On the night before The Twelfth—the "Eleventh Night"—huge bonfires are lit in many Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist areas of Northern Ireland. In many Protestant communities the bonfires are seen as family-friendly community celebrations. However, not all Protestants attend the bonfires and people from the Irish Catholic community avoid them. Some Eleventh Night bonfires involve sectarian and loyalist paramilitary displays. Symbols of Irish nationalism/republicanism (such as the Irish tricolour) and symbols of Catholicism are sometimes burnt on the fires. Loyalist paramilitaries have also used the event to hold "shows of strength" – which often involve masked gunmen firing volleys of shots into the air. Another issue that has been raised is drunkenness and violence amongst those attending. More recently, there has been criticism that most of what is burnt causes serious environmental pollution. However, in recent years, there have been attempts to make the bonfires more family-friendly and environmentally-friendly.
Main events 
The main way in which the Twelfth is celebrated is through large parades involving Orangemen and supporting bands. Most of the parades are in Northern Ireland, though Orange lodges elsewhere often hold parades too. The parade usually begins at an Orange Hall, proceeds through the town and out to a large field where the marchers, their friends and family, and the general public gather to eat, drink and listen to speeches by clergymen, politicians and senior members of the Order. In the past the Twelfth has been a major venue for discussion of the political issues of the day. A church service will also be held and sometimes band prizes will be awarded. Within Northern Ireland, each District Lodge usually organises its own parade. In rural districts the parade will rotate around various towns, sometimes favouring those in which there is less likely to be trouble, but in other years choosing those in which it is felt the 'right to march' needs to be defended.
In Northern Ireland, there is a long tradition of Protestant and loyalist marching bands, which can be found in most towns. The Orangemen hire these bands to march with them on the Twelfth. The bands have a reputation as being less respectable than the Orangemen, although they are seen by many as serving the useful purpose of keeping young men from working class areas out of trouble. An instrument almost unique to these marches is the Lambeg drum. Popular songs include "The Sash" and "Derry's Walls". Explicitly violent songs such as "Billy Boys" may also be played.
The vast majority of marchers are men, but there are some all-women bands and a few mixed bands. Some all-male bands have female flag or banner carriers. There are also some Women's Orange Lodges who take part in the parades. Orangewomen have paraded on the Twelfth in some rural areas since at least the mid-20th century, but were banned from the Belfast parades until the 1990s.
Orangemen on parade typically wear a dark suit, an Orange sash, white gloves and a bowler hat. Certain Orangemen carry a ceremonial sword. In hot weather, many lodges will parade in short-sleeved shirts. Orangewomen have not developed a standard dress code, but usually dress formally. The supporting bands each have their own uniforms and colours. Both the Orangemen and bands carry elaborate banners depicting Orange heroes, historic or Biblical scenes, and/or political symbols and slogans. The most popular image is that of King William of Orange crossing the River Boyne during the famous battle.
At the field, some lodges and bands don humorous outfits or accessories and make the return journey in them, and the mood is generally more mellow, although in times of tension it can also be more aggressive.
The Northern Ireland parades are given extensive local TV and press coverage and the BBC program 'The Twelfth' is the longest running outside broadcast program in Northern Ireland.
Controversies and violence 
In Northern Ireland, where almost half the population is from an Irish Catholic background, The Twelfth is a tense time. Many Irish Catholics and Irish nationalists see the Orange Order and its marches as sectarian, triumphalist, supremacist, and an assertion of Protestant dominance in Northern Ireland. The Order's political links to unionism has also caused tension around Twelfth celebrations. Marchers insist that they have the right to celebrate their culture and walk on public streets, particularly along their 'traditional routes', even if these routes take them through or past what are predominantly nationalist areas. Nationalists see this as a deliberate territorial affront. In a 2011 survey of Orangemen throughout Northern Ireland, 58% of Orangemen said they should be allowed to march through nationalist areas with no restrictions; 20% said they should negotiate with residents first. Some have argued that members of both communities once participated in the event; although it has always been a Protestant affair and many Catholics opposed the marches.
Violence has accompanied Twelfth marches since their beginning.
- On 12 July 1797, eight Catholic members of the County Kerry Militia died in a clash with Orangemen and local yeomanry in Stewartstown.
- Clashes broke out between Orange marchers and nationalists in Belfast on 12 July 1813. Several Orangemen opened-fire on the crowd in Hercules Street, killing two Protestants and wounding four other people.
- On 12 July 1829, eight people were killed during Orange marches in Enniskillen, seven were killed in Clones and one was killed in Stewartstown. In Maghera, several Catholic homes were burnt down, prompting the intervention of the military. There was also trouble at marches in Armagh, Portadown, Bellaghy, Comber, Greyabbey, Glenoe and Strabane.
- Five Catholics were reportedly shot dead in Rathfriland and three or four were drowned in the river near Katesbridge after Twelfth marches in 1831. The following August, the Party Processions Act came into force. This Act was to be enforced for 5 years, until August 1837. It banned all Twelfth parades.
- The military used six pieces of artillery to help quell trouble at a Twelfth gathering at Scarva in 1836.
- A gun battle broke out on the Twelfth in 1849, when Orangemen marched through the rural Catholic community of Dolly's Brae near Castlewellan. Orangemen clashed with Catholic Ribbonmen, leaving a number of Catholics and Ribbonmen dead. This became known as the "Battle of Dolly's Brae". As a result of the clashes, the Party Processions Act was renewed the following year.
- Following the 1857 Twelfth marches in Belfast, sectarian rioting erupted in the city and lasted for ten days.
- The Portadown News reported that 16 Catholics were shot by Orangemen in Derrymacash on 12 July 1860. One died of his wounds. Stone-throwing had broken out when the Orangemen tried to march past the Catholic chapel. Outnumbered, some of the Orangemen opened-fire on the Catholics and retreated. This led to the passing of the Party Emblems Act in August that year, which forbade the carrying of weapons and the wearing of party colours in procession.
- There were clashes two years in a row during Twelfth marches in New York City. In 1870, eight people died in the clashes. In 1871, over 60 civilians (mostly Irish Catholics) and three Guardsmen lost their lives and over 150 were wounded.
- Throughout the summer of 1886, there were a string of riots in Belfast. Violence was particularly fierce during and after the Twelfth. By September, an estimated 31 people had been killed.
- In 1935 the Twelfth led to the worst violence in Belfast since the foundation of Northern Ireland in 1922. The violence allegedly began when Orangemen tried to enter the Catholic enclave of Lancaster Street. Nine people were killed. 514 Catholic families, comprising 2,241 people, were forced to flee their homes.
During the Troubles (late 1960s to late 1990s), the Twelfth was often accompanied by riots and paramilitary violence. In 1972, three people were shot dead on the Twelfth in Portadown. On the Twelfth in 1998, during the Drumcree standoff, three young boys were killed when loyalists firebombed their house in Ballymoney. The boys' mother was a Catholic, and their home was in a mainly-Protestant housing estate. The killings provoked widespread anger from both sides of the community.
Since the Troubles began, some bands hired to appear at Twelfth marches have openly shown support for loyalist paramilitary groups, either by carrying paramilitary flags and banners or sporting paramilitary names and emblems. During the Troubles, a number of prominent loyalist militants were Orangemen and took part in their marches. In February 1992, the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) shot dead five Catholic civilians in a betting shop in Belfast. When Orangemen marched past the shop that 12 July, some marchers held up five fingers in mockery of the five dead. The Secretary of State, Patrick Mayhew, said that they "would have disgraced a tribe of cannibals".
Every Twelfth between 1970 and 2005, British Army soldiers were deployed in Belfast to help police the parades. Due to improved policing, dialog between marchers and residents, and the Northern Ireland peace process, recent parades have been more peaceful. The Parades Commission was set up in 1998 to deal with contentious parades.
During the Troubles some Irish Catholic and nationalist areas organised festivals to keep their children away from the parades, where they might come into conflict with Protestant children, and to make the Twelfth more enjoyable for their communities.
The Twelfth outside Northern Ireland 
Although mostly a Northern Ireland event, the Twelfth is also celebrated in other countries with strong links to Ulster or a history of settlement by Irish Protestants. Outside of Northern Ireland, The Twelfth is widely commemorated in Scotland. In England and Wales Orange marches are uncommon and Orange Order membership is found primarily in the Merseyside region, though numbers are still small. Marches here tend to be held a week or so before the Twelfth, due to the number of bands and lodges who travel to Northern Ireland to march there. The Liverpool lodges parade both in the city and in the seaside resort of Southport on the 12th July.
There are also Twelfth marches in Canada and Australia. As the longest consecutively held parade in North America (starting in 1821), the Twelfth March was the largest parade in Toronto until the 1970s when thousands of Orangemen would march in front of tens of thousands of spectators. At the time, the Orange Order held such sway that membership in the Orange Order was an unspoken pre-requisite for holding civic office. However, the march's popularity has drastically diminished in recent years, as only about 500 people participate in modern Orange parades, making its size a mere fraction of other parades in Toronto such as Carnival, Khalsa Day, and Gay Pride. Twelfth parades were also common in Eastern Ontario and the Niagara region, which were heavily populated by descendants of Loyalists from the American colonies who fled after American independence. 'Orangemen's Day' is still a significant holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where it is an official provincial paid-holiday. Parades were also formerly held in New Zealand on the Twelfth.
Until the Partition of Ireland, the Twelfth was celebrated by Protestants in many parts of Ireland, but the shrinking of the Protestant population in what is now the Republic of Ireland has greatly lessened the number held. The only remaining yearly parade is in Rossnowlagh and was held on the Twelfth until the 1970s, when it was moved to the weekend before.
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 12 July in Northern Ireland|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Orange Order|
- Bank holidays NI Direct
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