The People's Poet

The Life and Legacy of Thomas Carnduff, Independent Orangeman, Soldier, Worker, Poet, and Playwright

History Repeating Itself - The Need for the Orange

Many ask why we look back to the past, and hopefully as you explore our online Orange Heritage Museum You will see why it is important. One central reason is that we can learn from the past and hopefully ensure that mistakes and abuses of the past are prevented in the future. As we write there is an international movement based on the motto that ‘lives matter’. This movement looks back to historic issues like slavery and uses them to shape policy in the present day and change things for the future. This demonstrates the power of the past, and how you understand and tell it. History is all about story telling and while stories entertain and amuse us they also educate and prepare us.

As you explore our online exhibitions we hope that the right balance is struck between entertainment and education, between amusement and enlightenment and that we all understand and learn for the past. Therefore as we look at the events of the 1780s and the lead up to the fateful Battle of the Diamond in County Armagh, we must draw the very real parallels with events in that County in our own lifetime. The same sectarian violence, the same attempt to ethnically cleanse Protestants out of this area and the same type of terrorist tactics and atrocities happened not just in the 1780s and 90s but in the 1980s and 90s.

We do not need to look back over 200 years to understand the threats, and the intimidation which led men to unite and fight for their hearth and home, we see a direct parallel in our own time as once more Protestants faced a terrible enemy who stalked the fields and roads of County Armagh. The parallels between the two periods are clear and we give thanks that in the latter period the local Protestant population had the Orange Order as a bulwark against Roman Catholic terror. The ranks of the Ulster Defence Regiment were filled with Orangeman who realised that they must take up arms to defend themselves.

The Orange Spark

“As members of the Loyal Orders and in particular the Orange Institution we are often asked the question, where did it all start, what brought about the formation of Orange Lodges and all that is associated with our Orange Heritage. I will endeavour to give a brief overview of one event that is closely associated with the start of it all. – The Battle of the Diamond.

We are all familiar with the events of 1690, but what of 1790. Those were days of challenge, economically and socially with sectarian strife very prevalent particularly in County Armagh. 

Twenty years previous to 1790, there had emerged secret societies, such as the Oak Boys and the Hearts of Steel, who provided a voice for ordinary rural land workers, while at the start they were seen as advocates, their methods soon turned to be often violent.

County Armagh had its share of such societies. Regrettably however, there the rural disturbances took a more sinister and sectarian tone. The emergence of the Protestant “Peep O Day Boys” and the Roman Catholic “Defenders” resulted in intermittent clashes.

These tensions in Armagh were exacerbated by growing competition within the linen industry, with attacks on isolated farms and weaver’s cottages on the increase.

The 21st September 1795 saw a large crowd of Defenders gather near the Diamond a crossroads near Loughgall. Tensions were already high in the area for some weeks. The Defenders started to attack a small inn and a cottage belonging to the Winter Family. Local Protestants came to the assistance of Dan Winter the owner of the properties and a battle ensued.

The Defenders were beaten back and the Battle of the Diamond was to enter the history of Protestantism. It is said that after the Battle the Protestants linked arms and established a defensive organisation.  Not long after the first  warrant for No. 1 the Dyan would be issued.” 

Eye Witness Account

(This account is written in Joseph Atkinson’s hand on the rear of an account ledger commencing 1752 which, along with other Atkinson estate pages, was donated to Armagh County Museum in 1969 and is referred to as ARM126 1969. In addition there is another torn letter in copperplate handwriting in the ledger dated March 16 1825 giving a similar account.)

For several days prior to 21st September 1795 this neighbourhood was disturbed by riots of Defenders and on the 18th day of said month, they took possession of the gravel pit of Annaghmore, their position amounting I should suppose to about 500 men and having a white flag hoisted; on which the whole neighbourhood of good loyal Protestants became alarmed and assembled on the hill of Cranagil opposite to Annaghmore – on the morning of the said day a skirmish took place in the townland of Teaguy in which there was a man killed of the name McCan a Defender who had previously declared he would violate one of the prettiest Protestant girls in the Parish of Tartaraghan. Sometime on the day Archdale Cope, Robert C. Cope his brother, John Hardy, Counsellor Archdale with priests Tagart, McPartlin and Trainor came to my house [Crowhill] and we all went to the Protestants where they were stationed on Cranagil.

Archdale Cope and priest Tagart proposed to me to make the Protestants lay down their arms, whereupon I proposed that they should not do so until the Papists first lay down theirs, as I considered that the former were entitled to carry arms, whereas the others were not, on which Tagart spoke out and said they should fight it out to which I replied ‘with all my heart’ – we however then rode over to Papist party where an old woman shouted: ‘there is Atkinson the traitor’ and immediately one of the party levelled his gun at me when a tenant, a woman who lived on my land caught the gun and declared her Landlord should not be shot, on which we rode off and got round to my house when it was proposed that priest Tagart should secure the Papists and I would secure the Protestants in £500 each. The preliminaries were drawn up by Counsellor Archdale and signed and witnessed by me, the priest [Tagart?] this money was to be forfeited by either of the parties breaking the truce. This day I kept the priests to dine with me and at night they proposed staying at my house. I told them I had not beds for them, but said we might sit up all night, which we did and during the night several Protestants came to my house and declared the opposite party was firing on their houses. I said then in presence of the priests, not to fire a shot, as it would gain me £500, but if they should attack their houses then to put them to death if possible.

On Saturday they were skirmishing through the neighbourhood. No lives lost this day, on Sunday all was perfectly quiet and remained so all night.

I rose up on Monday 21st at about 5 o’clock and immediately after the firing commenced on the Protestant houses at the Diamond, this we did not expect, numbers came flying to my house. I gave out all the ammunition I had and set out immediately with my family for the Fort of Charlemont, as I was well aware that their great object was to destroy my house – on the road I heard that the Protestants were winning. I then made my family return. I went on to Charlemont myself. I got Capt. [Villiers?] and 60 invalids to accompany me and when we arrived at the Diamond the battle was over. The man who commanded was Captain McGarry from the White Cross above Armagh. There were about 300 of the Defenders well armed and all strangers. Quigly did not appear but I understand that he was the person who conducted them there. McGarry and about 16 were killed. Afterwards I heard there were a great many more – this ended the Diamond fight which is in Rudock’s Grange about a short [mile from my house?] and these are the facts that cannot be contradicted.

Transcribed by Jack Redmond and reviews by Trevor Geary and Sean Bardon at Armagh County Museum on 1st Feb 2012

Opening Up Orange Heritage

In recent years the Orange Order has received funding to develop an interpretative centre at Sloans House in Loughall where after the Battle founders of the Order met and the first warrants were drafted and issued. 

We welcome this investment in Orange Heritage and note that it was our own Deputy Imperial Grand Master Mervyn Storey MLA in his capacity as Stormont Minister for Social Development who was instrumental in supporting the project and opened the centre.

As an Institution we are busy developing our own online Museum and Interpretive Centre, to tell the story of Orangeism. There we explore the origins of the rural conflict which led to the Battle of the Diamond. 

From the attacks on the Protestant community such as the mutilation and murder of the Barclay family, a school master from Forkhill ,we see a pattern of terrorism not unlike that which the Protestant community of South Armagh experienced in the recent Troubles, as there was an attempt to drive them out. 

Then as now Protestants were forced to band together to defend their hearth and home and we see the heroes of our story such as Dan Winter doing just that. 

After a visit by the Institution organised by Bro McIlhatton, a number of members decided to look at a virtual museum which could work alongside the traditional museums being developed by the Orange Order. 

Here we will use technology to bring history to life inspiring future generations to learn and then to live out their beliefs through membership of the Order. 


Our Shared Orange Heritage

Dan Winters Cottage remains a very special place for every Orangeman and many make a pilgrimage there to pay tribute to their founding fathers. The Independent Loyal Orange Institution can trace its history back to 1795 and beyond to the first Orange Association of 1688. However 1795 gives us a common point of origin with the Orange Order, and despite the split of 1903 and over a Century of separation we can share this common Orange heritage. Indeed one historian has pointed out that there was very nearly an Independent Orange Order formed the very first day, as the Winter family and supporters felt that they and not James Wilson should have received warrant No. 1. This anecdote perhaps best explains that most Protestant of trains, the separation which we seen in churches, it is due to our democratic spirit and love of liberty which allows us to have the courage to go our own way. But like the Diamond demonstrates when we face a common enemy we are strong and united.

After one such return to the Diamond our own Institution poet Bro. James McIlhatton penned these words.

“The Battle of The Diamond”.

By Bro James McIlhatton 

John Knox ILOL No. 60


Come all loyal brethren and travel along,

To Armagh’s orchard county famed in story and song,

Portadown and the Diamond and also Loughgall,

where the brave sons of Ulster answered the call.


In the year ’95 one September night, 

In the fields of the Diamond by pale moonlight,

The Protestant Boys a minority small,

Defended our freedom, religion and all. 


At the Dan Winters’ cottage late on that night,

Those Protestant heroes defended our right. 

They were destined for slaughter so the story was told,

By their traditional enemies the Ribbonmen bold. 


James Sloan an innkeeper from Loughgall,

Assembled the brethren who pledged one and all,

To practice their faith and if need be to fight

And defend loyal subjects, their lives and their rights.


This was the first meeting of the first Orange Lodge,

For the welfare of man and the Glory of God,

To protect from oppression and shield all from fear

And keep God’s precious word which they held so dear.