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My life as an Orangeman
I THINK BACK OFTEN, on the days when I first joined the Order. Was it something I wanted to do or something that my parents pushed me into? Kinda like going to church and bible school each week or going to the scouts on a Friday. Funny that the BB and Scouts were on the same night, and I went to the Scouts but played for the BB on a Saturday. Maybe that is why I went to Church. You couldnae play fur the team unless ye did.
My upbringing was Orange. From as long as I can remember. My faither was a Mason and never in the Orange but walked with me when I played in the Thornliebank Junior Accordion band. All my Uncles were in the Lodge in Pollockshaws, LOL 256, except one that is, the one who played drums in the Thornliebank Senior Accordion Band. I know I was in the Juveniles but frankly I don't remember much about it.
The Order and more importantly the Protestant Faith was always with me. In words that I was taught as a boy by my Mum; Faith, Hope and Charity. I don't know this to be true but I hazard a guess that these three words make me what I am. I live by them day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month.
When I joined the Senior Lodge it was after I had stopped playing in the bands, sure I still followed the Rangers and sure I went to Church each week. LOL 236 was my number, the Clark Bell Memorial, Livingston, Scotland. I have no idea why I joined, maybe all of my friends and I decided it was something we needed to do. We went through together and stayed together, a brotherhood in so many ways.
The morning of the big walks was always a great time. Getting dressed in the black suit, trying to find the white gloves and making sure that the shoes and collarette badges were shining brightly. A big breakfast and a hug from ma Mum, "Good Luck, son" Walking the streets of yer home town before joining the Districts to march Broxburn, Edinburgh, Glasgow and so it went on. I loved the music, still do.
Maybe the only sadness I had in those days was to see the hangers-on, drunk and disorderly, maybe those in the Order that saw the demonstrations as an excuse to drink or to see those that were not of our faith hide from something that gave them the freedom that all men and women must have, no matter what colour they are or what religion they profess to belong to.
Those early days made me as I said. They taught me humility and caring. They taught me that though I am what I am, I need to understand that others do not have what I have. It taught me that what I was doing was right, not just for me, but for the future of all. If there are regrets, it's not understanding that the cause is much more than burying black plastic bags in the woods, or shouting FTP at Rangers games, or collecting money for the Ulstermen that were fighting when I was walking. Or letting my convictions take me away from those not of my faith, to see that they also have goodness in their hearts.
I talk of the ordinary people of the streets and not politicians such as Martin McGuiness or Gerry Adams, who are terrorists first, no matter what they try to say now. People like them are not fighting or arguing for the good of this world, no matter what they say.
I guess the reality of life came to me when I was at college. I lived with a Catholic, who knew what I was and as I respected him he respected me for what we believed in. We never talked about our differences but each Sunday we walked down the street together, he to his church and I to mine. When another friend called me to tell me his mother died, I went with him to the funeral in a Chapel. The first time as a man, I had entered the place. The friend needed me so much to be there with him, that I began to reflect about what life was all about. I left the Order the next day, handed back my Orange and Black Collarettes to my Uncles and moved on with life. Or so I thought.
I guess the convictions of your faith, your cause always stay with you. Maybe if I am to admire the Republican movement it is in the fact that they have been able to bring people to their cause, from throughout the world on a dream, an ideal, maybe a lot of emotion. Their PR machine is second to none and if we are to learn it can be from them. But it also needs so much more. A way of helping people understand that our cause is good, it is not bigoted, it gives ultimate freedom to all no matter who they are.
And maybe that is why I came back into the Order. My time on the Loyalist lists had run its course. It wasn't moving me forward. It was time to show people that I stand for the freedom that our forefathers and mothers fought and died for. A great friend and a great Orangeman asked me every time I saw him, to come back. In time I always said, when I am ready. Well last year I was ready and at the November meeting of LOL 434 Boyne Defenders, Detroit my transfer from the Grand Lodge of Scotland and LOL 236 was read out. Maybe the proudest moment of my life. I was back.
I haven't walked for 24 years but I will do with my Brothers from LOL 221, Calton. Maybe that is all to the good that I haven't walked. Maybe it just allowed me to become more convicted about our Organisation and what it really stands for. Just maybe it has made me a better man. I often think about what ma two wee girls will do when I am gone. In all that I can do right now, it is to teach them the morals and teaching of an Organisation, I am so proud to be a part of.
My faith is renewed by all that I meet. I know now that my absence was for the good. I needed to understand in myself what the Orange is and needs to be for all of us in the future. No longer will we be seen as bigots. No longer will we stand by and let people take away our freedoms, but more importantly no longer can we let our own kind bring us down. What can I do from California? Maybe not much in the day-to-day lives of those in Scotland and Ulster, but rest assured I will do what I was brought up to do.
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