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The Peep o' Day Boys was a Protestant secret association in 18th century Ireland, active in the 1780s and '90s and a precursor of the Orange Order.

Origins

The Peep-of-day Boys arose in the year 1784, in County Armagh, Ireland. Members of this secret association were also known as the " Protestant Boys", "Wreckers", Hearts of Steel, Oak Boys and, finally "Orangemen." According to John Mitchel, their members were all Protestants. Their grievances he writes were connected with landlord oppression and clerical exaction, in addition to alleged injustice of employers in manufacturing labour. The latter disturbances however were soon over, because he says, the grievances were not so deep-seated because the two sides being mainly of the same race and religion the enmity and exasperation was never so fierce.[1][2] However, Richard R. Madden suggests that the Peep-of-Day Boys were composed of both Protestants and Presbyterians while the Defenders originally consisted of Catholics. The Peep-of-Day Boys so-called on account of the nature of their attacks between dusk and dawn on the homes of their Catholic neighbours in search of arms. The title "Defenders" arose on account of the resistance of Catholics to these aggressions. From the search for arms the "privileged party" proceeded then to more general acts of plunder and outrage, perpetrated on most occasions with the most "scandalous impunity."[1]

Removing sectarian divisions

Through the efforts and exertions of both the Protestant and Presbyterian brethren who came forward to protest against the continuance of the disabilities under which the Catholic community laboured “throughout ages of injustice and unexampled oppression” brought about some redress between 1794 and 1795. Under the influence of the United Irishmen according to T. A. Jackson, political unity was replacing sectarian divisions in Ulster. This he says inspired "public-spirited zeal" in Catholic areas like County Armagh were the population had been evenly devivided and the scene of sporadic violence between the Peep O'Day Boys and Catholic Defenders for years dying down to nothing under the influence of the United Irish.[3] Henry Joy McCracken while attempting to unite the Peep O'Day Boys and Catholic Defenders was placed under surveillance and was later arrested in October, 1796, and sent to Dublin, being placed first in Newgate prison, and afterwards to Kilmainham Jail.[4]

Government reaction

The reaction of the English Whigs and the administration in Dublin Castle was to break up the popular unity, by stirring up disunity and disturance under the pretext of zeal for the Protestant religion. Richard R. Madden writes that "Popish plots and conspiracies" were fabricated with a, practical facility" by some "influential authorities" who he says "conceived it no degradation to stoop to." Alarming reports he says of "dark confederations were circulated" by these influential authorities with a restless assiduity.[3][5][6]

With the arrival of a new Viceroy, Earl Fitzwilliam the Peep of Day boys resumed their activity after a hiatus of nearly two years. Jackson suggests that it is impossible to miss the connection between this fact, and the lie propagated by the Clare-Beresford [7] faction that Fitzwilliam was there to replace the Protestant ascendancy with a Catholic one. With Defenders, again in action, he says, every successful defence against Peep of Day attack began to be portrayed as a "Catholic outrage." This "artificially worked-up pogrom" culminated in what came to be known as the Battle of the Diamond.[8]

Battle of the Diamond

The violence reached a pitch in 1795, when the two groups fought in the "Battle of the Diamond" in Loughall, County Armagh. However according to Mervyn Jess, the Protestant faction in the battle was not comprised only of Peep of Day Boys, with a large contingent from Co. Tyrone known as the Orange Boys. [9] These Protestant Peep of Day Boys and plundering banditti afterwards developed itself according to Mitchel into “the too-famous organisation of "Orangemen." [10][11] The Orange Society was founded in the aftermath of this "battle" which occurred on the 21 September 1795 , with the first Orange lodge established in Dyan, County Tyrone. Its first grand master was James Sloan of Loughgall, in whose inn the victory by the Peep O’Day Boys was celebrated. [12]

The Governor of Armagh, Lord Gosford, gave his opinion of the County Armagh disturbances which resulted from the "battle" at a meeting of magistrates on the 28 December, 1795: "It is no secret, that a persecution, accompanied with all circumstances of ferocious cruelty which have in all ages distinguished that dreadful calamity, is now raging in this county. Neither age nor sex, nor even acknowledged innocence as to any guilt in the late disturbances, is sufficient to excite mercy, much less to afford protection. The only crime which the wretched objects of this ruthless persecution are charged with, is a crime, indeed, of easy proof—it is simply a profession of the Roman Catholic faith, or an intimate connection with a person professing this faith. A lawless banditti have constituted themselves judges of this new species of delinquency, and the sentence they denounce is equally concise and terrible! It is nothing less than a confiscation of all property, and an immediate banishment." [13]

Aftermath

Throughout the 1790s up to 7,000 Catholics were expelled from their homes in central Ulster.[14] According to Edward Hay, the object of these Orangemen appears to have been, "not to suffer a Catholic to remain within the limits of their sphere of action." They posted on the doors of the Catholics he says, peremptory notices of departure; specifying the precise time, a week at the farthest, pretty nearly in the following words: "To hell or to Connaught with you, you bloody Papists! and if you are not gone by (mentioning the day) we will come and destroy yourselves and your properties. We all hate the Papists here." They were he concludes, generally as good as their words. [15] Former Grand Master of the Orange Order William Blacker, says he deplored these events but has suggested that no known wrecker or Peep of Day Boy was ever admitted to the Orange Institution.[16] Mervyn Jess however notes that some Peep of Day Boys might have “slipped through the net” but if so they found themselves in a vastly different organisation.[17]

In the Irish House of Commons, on the 20th of February, 1796, Henry Grattan observed, "that of these outrages he had received the most dreadful accounts. Their object was, the extermination of all the Catholics of that county". He described it as " a persecution conceived in the bitterness of bigotry—carried on with the most ferocious barbarity by a banditti, who, being of the religion of the state, had committed, with greater audacity and confidence the most horrid murders, and had proceeded from robbery and massacre to extermination! They had repealed by their own authority all the laws lately passed in favour of the Catholics had established in the place of those laws the inquisition of a mob, resembling Lord George Gordon's fanatics—equalling them in outrage, and surpassing them far in perseverance and success. These insurgents", he continued "call themselves Orange Boys, or Protestant Boys, that is, a banditti of murderers, committing massacre in the name of God, and exercising despotic power in the name of liberty".[18]

Orangemen and ex-Peep O'Day Boys were also involved in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 providing Yeomanry corps and supplementary loyalist militias to the service of the government. According to Jim Smyth "Later apologists rather implausibly deny any connection between the Peep O'Day Boys and the first Orangeman or, even less plausibly, between the Orangemen and the mass wrecking of Catholic cottages in Armagh in the months following the Diamond; all of them, however, acknowledge the movement's lower class origins." [19]

According to Ruth Dudley Edwards Orangemen were among the first to contribute to repair funds for Catholic property damaged in the violence.[20][21]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The United Irishmen: Their Lives and Times Vol 1, Richard R. Madden, James Duffy (Dublin 1857), Pg.98-99
  2. The History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time, John Mitchel, Cameron & Ferguson (Glasgow 1869), Pg.91
  3. 3.0 3.1 The United Irishmen: Their Lives and Times Vol 1, Richard R. Madden, James Duffy (Dublin 1857), Pg.99
  4. History of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, W. H. Maxwell, H. G. Bohn (London 1854), Pg. 20
  5. Ireland Her Own, T. A. Jackson, Lawrence & Wishart, Fp 1947, Rp 1991, ISBN 0 85315 735 9 pg. 142
  6. The History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time, John Mitchel, Cameron & Ferguson (Glasgow 1869), Pg.223
  7. John Claudius Beresford was a secretary to one of the first Orange Associations ever organized in Ireland, cite, Historical Sketches of O'Connell and His Friends, Thomas D McGee, Donahoe and Rohan (Boston 1845) Pg.84
  8. Ireland Her Own, T. A. Jackson, Lawrence & Wishart, Fp 1947, Rp 1991, ISBN 0 85315 735 9 pg. 142-5
  9. Mervyn Jess. The Orange Order, page 20. The O’Brian Press Ltd. Dublin, 2007
  10. The History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time, John Mitchel, Cameron & Ferguson (Glasgow 1869), Pg.172
  11. Robert Kee, Vol I, pg.71.
  12. A New Dictionary of Irish History from 1800, D.J. Hickey & J.E. Doherty, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin 2003, ISBN 0 7171 2520 3 pg375
  13. History of the Irish Insurrection of 1798, Edward Hay, John Kenedy (New York 1847) Pg.88, 402-403
  14. A Mr. Plowden, who according to John Mitchel was as hostile to the Defenders as any Orangeman, says from five to seven thousand. O'Connor, Emmet, and MacNeven, in their Memoirs of the Union, say, "seven thousand driven from their homes." The History of Ireland, from the Treaty of Limerick to the Present Time, John Mitchel, Cameron & Ferguson (Glasgow 1869), Pg.223
  15. History of the Irish Insurrection of 1798, Edward Hay, John Kenedy (New York 1847) Pg.87
  16. William Blacker, Robert Hugh Wallace, The formation of the Orange Order, 1795-1798: Education Committee of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, 1994 ISBN 0950144436, 9780950144436 Pg 19-20 and 126.
  17. Mervyn Jess. The Orange Order, Pg. 18, 20. The O’Brian Press Ltd. Dublin, 2007
  18. The United Irishmen: Their Lives and Times Vol 1, Richard R. Madden, James Duffy (Dublin 1857), Pg.101
  19. The Men of No Popery: The Origins of The Orange Order" (Jim Smyth, History Ireland Vol 3 No 3 Autumn 1995)
  20. Ruth Dudley Edwards: The Faithful Tribe, pages 236-237. Harper Collins, London, 2000.
  21. William Blacker, Robert Hugh Wallace, The formation of the Orange Order, 1795-1798: Education Committee of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, 1994 ISBN 0950144436, 9780950144436 Pg 139-140
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