Orangemen on the march in Wexford

Quincey Dougan speaking at a museum in County Armagh about Donegal Orangeism

Tomorrow night (Thursday) the largely forgotten story of County Wexford Orangeism will once again see the light of day. Organised by the North Wexford Historical Society, the presentation will be given by County Armagh historian Quincey Dougan, a highly regarded Orange historian who has travelled the length and breadth of Ireland speaking on local Orange heritage. He has been researching County Wexford for some time, in the process liaising with several well-known local historians.

Speaking on the subject Quincey, himself an Orangeman, explained that whilst Wexford Orangeism once covered almost the entirety of the County, it was always particularly contentious because of the legacy of the 1798 Rebellion, ‘Wexford Orangemen played a significant role in engaging the United Irishmen in Wexford, and because of that several figures have passed into local folklore, some becoming infamous. The most notorious is undoubtedly Hunter Gowan of Mount Nebo near Gorey who, even though a man of over 70 years of age, has as leader of a Yeomanry troop been attributed as responsible for a long litany of outrages.’

First Wexford Orange Grand Master George Ogle MP

‘The first County Grand Master was Wexford MP George Ogle, who by virtue of his opposition to the Act of Union, was elected on the 12th of July 1801 to the supreme position in Orangeism, the Grand Master of Ireland.’ One of the most fascinating discoveries made by Quincey is a long-forgotten Orange ritual never practised outside the County, ‘The local Orange affinity with the defeat of the 1798 Rebellion was manifest for almost 40 years by an Orange parade in Enniscorthy. Each year on the 21st of June Wexford Orangemen gathered in the town to celebrate the victory over rebels at Vinegar Hill by burning a symbolic ‘Tree of Liberty’!’

‘At its peak in the 1830’s a County Grand Lodge of Wexford consisted of three districts in Enniscorthy, Gorey and Wexford, overseeing 20 private lodges and over 2,000 Orangemen. Before the end of the 19th century the most well-known Orange centres were Gorey in the north of the County, and Wexford town in the south. Both places had their own dedicated Orange halls. The Gorey premises is now a private dwelling, while the Wexford Hall in the towns Abbey Street has long since been demolished. Wexford Orangeism survived well into the 20th century as part of a combined Wicklow and Wexford County Grand Orange Lodge.’

The presentation is at 7pm in Gorey Civic Centre.

Quincey would welcome contact from anyone with any anecdotes, information or artefacts related to the forgotten Orange heritage of Wexford, or indeed across Ireland.

For further information, you can contact Quincey at qdougan01@qub.ac.uk

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