THE SASH CANADA WORE _ _ _ A REVIEW – THE GLOBE 1980
The Orange Order from liquid socializing to business to a major force in politics and neighborhoods
Review by J.L.Granatstein
These days, as the author’s of the Orange Order’s spread and decline point out, an Orange parade is more likely to be thought of as a citrus festival or as part of a New Year’s Day football game than as a demonstration of militant Protestantism. The Orange Order is but a shadow of its former self, a decaying and aging fragment of the once militant and powerful Protestant and British majority.
It was not always so. As recently as the years around the turn of the century, the Orange Order was the power in Toronto and in Ontario, in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland. Its members were major forces in politics, in the social life of communities and neighborhoods, and even in business, although the bulk of Orange members were of the working class. And as Houston and Smyth point out in their interesting study, to be Orange in Canada it was not even necessary to be Irish. All that was required was Protestantism and a devotion to the British tie, requirements that allowed Orangemen to embrace an Italian Protestant lodge ( named after Garibaldi ) in Toronto, and the “No Surrender” lodge in Mahone Bay,N.S., most of whose members were distinctly non-Irish – Zwicker, Zink, Smeltzer, Strum, and Buzgozic.
Clearly, Orangism had more appeal to Canadians than we had hitherto been led to believe. Of course it was Irish in its origins and militantly anti-Catholic in its practices and politics, but the Orange Order grew and developed with the country as it carried its mysteries and ritual and a propensity for liquid socializing into areas where there was little else to do after hours of back-breaking toil, in such places to be Orange was to be entertained and to have fun, and the Orange lodges’ membership, the authors suggest, varied more with the economic state of the country ( and members ability to pay their dues ) than it did with political/religious questions that exercised the press of the day and historians ever since.
That is an important insight, of one many in this book. The authors, both historical geographers, have filled their book with maps and charts. That frightens some readers off automatically but it needn’t. All are clear, all are readily comprehensible, and all add point to their story, letting us trace how the Orange Order spread with the settlement of the land and now how it has declined.
Seventy or 80 years ago the Orange Order controlled Toronto and “ its parade were the expression of the power and control of a self-convinced charter group whose perceived duty it was to preserve and defend the very foundations of the state. The Orange community.” Houston and Smyth demonstrate “was largely indistinguishable from the rest of the Protestant city. “ Even 25 years ago the Orange parade went down Yonge Street past packed sidewalks, and Leslie Saunders, the personification of Orange ideas was a power at City Hall.
But today, nothing. The parades are a travesty and membership slips into old age, and no one cares.
At its peak Orangism was inflammatory, bigoted, and dangerous, stirring up trouble between Protestants and Catholics, railing against non-British immigrants and denouncing every move toward tolerance.
But one early lodge had something. Temperance Loyal Orange Lodge No301 in Toronto ordained that its business had to end by 10 p.m. If the Master exceeded that deadline, he was fined one shilling and three pence for the first 15 minutes and double that sum for each succeeding 15 minutes. Any organization that could have such a by-law in its constitution couldn’t be all bad.
Submitted by John Wells – County Secretary – Sept 10th, 2009
From article in the Globe Dec 20th, 1980
A review of the Book “The Sash Canada Wore” A Historical Geography of the Orange Order in Canada, by Cecil J. Houston and William J. Smyth, University of Toronto Press
Review by J.L.Granatstein teacher of Canadian history at York University