BYGONE DAYS OF YORE: 1938 - Monster rally at Larne hears of ‘world war dangers’

A ‘monster’ demonstration was held at Sandy Bay near Larne, Co Antrim, on Saturday, August 27, 1938, under the auspices of Larne District Chapter and attended by preceptories comprising County Antrim Chapter.

By Darryl Armitage
Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 9:33 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 9:36 am
Members of Ahoghill RBP 173 taking part in the 2010 Last Saturday demonstration
Members of Ahoghill RBP 173 taking part in the 2010 Last Saturday demonstration

The County Grand Master (Brother David Bill), who presided, referring to the question of land annuities, said that he could see “no useful purpose or lasting benefit likely to be derived by upsetting the present agreement with the British Government”.

He remarked: “In fact it would be much more beneficial for the farming community if new markets could be found and the existing markets protected so that they could be assured of getting an economic price for the goods they produced.”

He added that he was of the opinion that a wages board was long overdue. He commented: “And another thing that should receive the attention of the government was the rate unemployment benefit paid. Why farm workers should be paid a lower late than others I cannot not understand.”

Members of Ahoghill RBP 173 enjoying the day in Larne, 2012. Picture: Peter Rippon/Ballymena Times


Sir Knight Sir Hugh O’Neill, MP, who proposed the first resolution, apologised for the absence of Sir Knight Sir Joseph McConnell, for whomhe was deputising. “It would,” he said, “be foolish to shut our eyes to the fact that a serious war in Europe was by no means impossible.”

Sir Hugh continued: “There are several danger spots, and great nations piling up more formidable weapons every hour. One thing, however, we do know, and that is that Britain is all for peace. This was illustrated by Lord Runciman’s mission to Czechoslovakia, and one can only pray that as a result of his advice calmer counsels might prevail and peaceful settlement be reached.

“In no part of his Majesty’s Dominions is the loyalty and devotion of the people more sincere than here in Ulster. It is tragic to think that not far removed from where we are the King was not honoured; in fact, the constitution of Southern Ireland is that of an Independent republic owing no official allegiance to the British Crown.

Henderson Memorial Pipe Band (later known as Ballynahinch Pipe Band) at Comber forThe Twelfth in 1930. First from right is T Gourley, third from left is John Duffield. Picture courtesy of Derek Duffield

“One effect of that is that it has increased the determination of the people of Ulster to maintain the position we have won as part of the United Kingdom and to emphasise the fact that we will never join forces with any government in southern Ireland, where disloyal principles prevailed.”


Brother Hugh Minford, MP, referred to a statement made by Mr Sean T O’Kelly, the Eire spokesman, at The Hague conference.

“Mr O’Kelly,” said Mr Minford, “was bold enough to state that Ulster people were ‘predominantly on for an All-Ireland Parliament,’ but when Ulster was put to the test February last and asked to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to Mr De Valera, there was as great a display of Ulster loyalty as ever I had seen.”

Members of Annaghmore LOL 2033. Picture courtesy of Ashley Dowie

Mr Minford declared: “And still they have the audacity in southern Ireland to try and cajole us into their Parliament, but we are determined to remain under the Union Jack.”

Meanwhile, the Right Honourable G C G Young, MBE, MP, said the Orange and Black Orders were “the best bulwarks against attacks on our liberty”.


Sir Knight the Reverend J L Donaghy criticised the Imperial Government’s unwillingness to give Northern Ireland a greater share of rearmament orders, the licensing of clubs to sell drink, and the recent speech by a member of the government in regard to land annuities.

Members of Steeple Veterans, Antrim, pose for the camera during the RBP parade in Ballymoney in August 2007. Picture: Antrim Times archives

He said: “I wonder if England realises the help Ulster has given her [England] in her time of need, and, if so, would they appear so unwilling to give this province a fair crack of the whip when arranging the allocation of rearmament work.

“We have received a share, but it was a poor share when one considered their qualifications for doing the work well and their moral right to at least treble the amount yet given.”

He added: “I know our Imperial Northern MPs have done a great deal in that respect, but if I were an MP I would imitate the widow in the Scriptures and cause the authorities to act fairly. But notwithstanding that we affirm our unfaltering determination to keep Northern Ireland as an Imperial Province, and we call upon all true loyalists to preserve a united front against any attack upon their heritage of liberty.”

The Rev Donaghy turned his attention to the need to “preserve a united front” at the polling booth when it came to the vote on the licensing of clubs to sell drink in Northern Ireland.

He remarked: “I do not understand the mentality of those who know what intemperance has done. And yet their authorities have licensed as many drinking clubs in Belfast as would make a good-sized town, and are ruining the bodies and souls of their young men for time and eternity.”

In conclusion, the Rev Donaghy urged the Northern Ireland Government “to kill drinking clubs, face the gambling question, and show they believed that righteousness alone exalteth a nation”. He concluded: “If they did that there would be no difficulty about ‘preserving a united front against any attack upon their heritage of liberty’.”

An Orangeman captures a photograph at the Twelfth in Donaghadee in 1996. An unpublished photograph from the News Letters archives


Many Loyalists from across the border joined with members of Royal Black Preceptories from places as far apart as Enniskillen and Belfast at the monster demonstration at Armagh which was held in the city on Saturday, August 27, 1938, but heavy rain continued throughout the day and spoiled what promised to be one of the most successful meetings held in connection with the Institution.

The Belfast contingent was the largest, over 25,000 brethren and their friends travelling to Armagh by 16 special trains run between 8am and 1.30pm. There were no speeches at ‘field’, but the growth and strength of the Order were referred to at a luncheon given in the Charlemont Arms Hotel, where the visiting office-bearers were the guests of the Primatial District.

Sir Knight and Brother Joseph Ballard, WDM, Primatial District Chapter No 4, who presided at the luncheon, said that it had been an inspiration to see the military appearance of the march through the Primatial City.

He remarked: “It shows those who differed from us religiously or politically that the Black Institution should be taken into consideration as a unit of the great bulwark that surrounded the British Commonwealth.”

On behalf of the Armagh District he extended “a very hearty welcome” to the visitors and apologised for the absence of Sir Knight and Brother Lieutentant-Colonel Sir William Allen, the Sovereign Grand Master, who had an engagement at the Larne demonstration.


Sir Knight and Brother Captain C N L Stronge, MC, of Tynan Abbey, Armagh, had accepted the invitation of the Mid-Armagh Unionist Association delegates to stand for Parliament in place of Sir Knight and Brother J C Davison, KC, MP, who had been appointed Recorder of Londonderry.

They wished Mr Davison long life and prosperity and they said that they they all hoped he would be “long spared to enjoy his new appointment”.

Captain Stronge remarked: “It is a grand thing to have the Black Institution at our back, and since the Orange Order threw their lot with the great Conservative Party in England, that party has always been a strong tower of defence against their enemies. The Order is the greatest bulwark which surrounded the Protestant Church, and I think we have lot of which to be proud.”

Sir Knight and Brother H Burdge, DGMI, County Grand Registrar of Belfast, returned sincere thanks on behalf of all the visitors for the welcome that had been extended to them. He stressed the importance of such visits: “Which are of great benefit to the Institution, and emphasises the need for strengthening the Order and increasing its membership.”

Large crowds lined the streets to welcome the brethren upon their return to Belfast despite the deplorable weather.

The local arrangements in connection with the demonstration were efficiently carried out Sir Knight Henry Burdge, Grand Registrar, and the Grand and District officers, including Sir Knight Joseph Anderson, GM, Sir Knight Robert Campbell, DGM, Sir Knight C W Maguire, GC, Sir Knight James McConnell, DGC, Sir Knight Edward E Bolton, GT, Sir Knight David J Griffith, DGR, Sir Knight George Hill, DGT, Sir Knight Hugh Dempster, GL, Sir Knight N G Rodgers, DGL, and Sir Knight E H Lennox 1st GSB.


The Ballymena Observer reported that during the weekend ahead of the Last Saturday demonstrations in 1938 an interesting ceremony had taken place in Ahoghill Orange Hall when Miss Young of Fenaghy, Cullybackey, who had graciously unfurled a beautiful new banner for the Ahoghill Royal Black Preceptory 173, of which Sir Knight John Keith was WM; Sir Knight John Gordon, DM; Sir Knight William Gordon, registrar, and Sir Knight Hugh McDonald, treasurer. The banner, which was of a striking design, bore a representation of the ‘Return of the Dove’ to Noah after the Flood, and on the obverse side a vivid picture of ‘Heroes of the Faith’, depicting Abraham about to slay his son Isaac. On the motion of Sir Knight Brother Kyle seconded by Sir Knight Kernohan, the chair was taken by Sir Knight the Right Honourable G C G Young, MBE, MP, PC. The Reverend H C Townsend, MC, opened the proceedings with prayer.

The chairman, who was cordially received, said that he was very pleased to come to Ahoghill that evening to join the members of Ahoghill Royal Black Preceptory 173 unfurling the new banner.

He said that he would like to take the opportunity when he was there to thank the loyalists of the district for “the great honour they have conferred on him last February” when they returned him for the second time to represent them in the UIster Parliament for the Bannside Division of the county. He said that he appreciated the honour “very highly”.

Mr Young said he believed the Orange Order and the Black Institution were “as necessary today as ever they were”.

He gave “a little bit of the history” of the Orange Order and the Black Institution, briefly outlining the formation and origin of the Orange Order after the Battle of the Diamond on September 21, 1725, in Co Armagh.

He said: “The Protestants of that time had been tormented with Roman Catholics raiding, pillaging and plundering them that they thought they would give them a right good lesson, and they did so by giving them a good smashing. The first Orange Lodge was formed after that, in 1825.

“For a time the Orange Order was being held in abeyance, but the Black Institution was still carrying on in barn lofts, in cellars and in woods, in the dark night, and although all private lodge warrants had been called in between 1839 and 1845, lodges still met without any authority.

“But at a meeting in Enniskillen a resolution was passed in 1845 that immediate steps be taken to reorganise the Orange Society, with certain modifications.”

He concluded by saying that the members of the Ahoghill Royal Black Preceptory deserved to be congratulated, for not only did they manage to get Miss Young to open their bazaar and sale of work in the spring to raise money for the purchase of their new banner, but they had been clever enough to persuade her to come along to unfurl it that evening.

“It is, I think, a very great compliment to the Preceptory that Miss Young has graced the ceremony today and I have great pleasure in calling upon her to unfurl the banner.”

Master Richard John Keith, the son of Sir Knight and Mrs Alexander G Keith then presented Miss Young with a silver pair of scissors with which to perform the ceremony.

The Twelfth parade in Coleraine in 1996. An unpublished photograph from the News Letters archives
A band taking part in the Belfast parade in July, 1996. An unpublished photograph from the News Letters archives
Upper Bann Fusiliers leading the Co Armagh Twelfth parade from Mourneview to Brownlow House in 2010. Picture: Portadown Times archive
George Greer and Tommy Johnston (LOL 81) take a break on the steps of Brownlow House in 2010. Picture: Gareth Irvine/Portadown Times