‘Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth’. The witness of the Independent Orange Order in Scotland, past and present.

The Early days of the Independent Orange Order in Scotland and England

Although Thomas Sloan had become a founder member of the Independent Orange Order in 1903 following an unsuccessful appeal against his suspension from the County Grand Lodge of Belfast, he retained his membership of Strand L.O.L 407, a London based Lodge.

At the Grand Lodge of Ireland meeting in Dublin on 6th December 1905, there was a resolution passed that the Grand Lodge of England and Scotland should both be informed that he had been expelled by the Grand Lodge of Ireland. In his speech from the Twelfth platform in 1906 Thomas Sloan claimed that the Orangemen of the Metropolitan Provincial Grand Orange Lodge were outraged that the Tory Party had used the Grand Orange Lodge of England for their own political purposes.

Following this move to have him expelled Thomas Sloan was subjected to the ignominy of expulsion from the Loyal Orange Institution of England in 1906, the choice of venue for their Grand Lodge seasons was controversial as it was held in Douglas on the Isle of Man, a location that would have been costly and difficult for many of the working class delegates to travel to and register their support for Sloan and protest against his dismissal.

For many mainland Protestants and Orangemen Thomas Sloan MP, with his connections to the Protestant Alliance, was viewed as a champion of the Protestant cause within the House of Commons, he persuaded Henry Fowler, the secretary of the Protestant Alliance, to become a member of the I.O.O. Independent Lodges were established in Merseyside after the General Election in 1906 by Orangemen that had been expelled from the English Orange Institution for favouring Protestant liberals or Independents over Conservative candidates. A small number of independent Orange Lodges were also established in Scotland at this time according to historian Patrick Maune.

Recent Developments in Scotland

Regrettably in recent years the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has taken an increasingly softer approach towards the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, with some senior figures within the Institution calling for changes to the rule book, the Qualifications of an Orangeman to remove anything that may appear antiquated or appear offensive towards the Roman Catholic church or liberal Protestants.

These changes were deemed necessary for the modernisation of the Old Order for the 21st Century. A small minority of traditionalists exist within the Old Order and they have objected to these changes. A past Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge of England has also reiterated the need for the institution to remain true to the Old Paths and not go along the same route of compromise as his Scottish brethren.

Thankfully, the lodges of the Independent Orange Institution that are based in Scotland have a great deal more clarity and knowledge regarding the Biblical objections to religious ceremonies that are contrary to the Word of God. It was with great sadness that we learned that the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland has departed from its traditional Protestant witness and made provisions for its membership to attend Roman Catholic services such as Requiem Masses, baptisms and weddings without fear of censure for countenancing these services and ceremonies with their presence. It appears that this lamentable departure from the ancient landmarks of True Orangeism and most importantly, those of Evangelical Protestantism, were primarily grounded upon a fear of what the critics of the Orange Order think rather than a clear Scriptural approach.

While the G.O.L.S may have softened its approach to Roman Catholicism the Traditional Order in Scotland still refuses to recognise the right of the Independent Orange Order to exist.

Founding Principles of Independent Orangeism

Those familiar with the history of the I.O.O will be aware that the first public demonstration of the new Order took place at Knock on 12th July 1903 and was attended by over 2000 Orangemen. Among the speakers on the platform that day was Bro. Rev. DD Boyle of St. James Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney, County Antrim. His only act on that day was to offer up prayer to the Most High. For his actions he was unjustly expelled by the County Grand Lodge of Antrim on the charge that he had attended and read a prayer at a meeting not having the sanction of the Grand Lodge of Belfast. This was unjustly deemed to be behaviour unbecoming of an Orangeman.

Thankfully relationships between the Old and the New Order in Northern Ireland have improved greatly in recent decades, the attitude towards the brethren in the I.O.O on the Mainland has changed little in these past 120 years since the formation of our loyal order and any member of the G.O.L.S that participated in an Independent Orange Order demonstration or religious service would face suspension or expulsion in a similar manner to Rev. Boyle’s unjust treatment. Perhaps in the future there will be a greater level of mutual respect and tolerance between the G.O.L.S and those that have chosen to throw in their lot with the Independent Orange Institution in Scotland but there is little indication that this will occur any time soon.
Whilst putting Protestantism first Thomas Sloan had been involved in awakening the interest of the Protestant working class in political issues. Historian Alvin Jackson argues that the mobilisation of the unionist people against Home Rule under Craig and Carson would not have been as easy had Sloan not first mobilised them in the earlier period. The members of the Independent Orange Institution in Scotland desire to see more of an engagement with working class members of the Protestant and loyalist communities with the political process, this is vital to secure the future of Scotland’s political Union with the rest of the United Kingdom. Above all, we would like to see a revival of the Evangelical Protestant religion in a country that was once known as the Land of the Book but has sadly largely departed from the ‘faith once delivered unto the saints’ and has become under the bondage of secular humanism. The Independent Orange Institution in Scotland would welcome any traditional Orangemen that have either left the Old Order or are currently members but are dissatisfied with the departure that it has made from the ideals expressed within the Qualifications of an Orangeman. Our lodges would also welcome those with a sincere faith in Jesus Christ that would like to join an Institution that is committed to promoting and preserving the Protestant religion.

Worshipful Master
I.L.OL No.1, Glasgow Covenanters