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The Orange and the Black.

Robert Pennefather. Orange and Black Publications, Toronto, Canada. 1984.  ISBN 0 9691691 0 8.  $5.00 Cdn

orang and black.jpg (24298 bytes)WHEN I visited Ulster in 1986, I had endeavoured to learn more about “the troubles”. At the time I was writing a series of articles on the Anglo-Irish Agreement for some North American periodicals. When I talked about my undertakings with a family friend, he then asked me with some condescension as to why I was so interested in Ulster affairs. My response was: “Who do you think settled Canada? Men from Mars, or women from Venus?”

The role played by Irish settlers, Protestant and Catholic, in settling the North American continent has long caught the interest of both scholars and popular writers on both sides of the pond. Certainly one institution which has attracted much interest is one of Ulster’s main exports abroad: the Orange Order. In Canada, and in my home province of Ontario in particular, the Order was once a major repository of political power and influence from its beginnings to the era after World War II. Robert Pennefather’s book covers these days when playing the “Orange card” could reap political dividends. This book is not a comprehensive chronology, but rather it is an anthology. The first part carries chapters with many themes (i.e.. The Orange Order and the Labour Unions, Orange Families), with the author’s presentation and comment. The chapters in Part II correspond to those in Part I, except these chapters carry first-hand quotations from official Orange publications, speeches, and excerpts from diaries, letters and other private papers. Pennefather has done a meticulous job in his research. In the forward, noted historian Hereward Senior writes that Pennefather has “offered us (readers) a feast.”

If you are a real Ulster history buff this book is for you, especially if you are keenly interested in the role of the Orange. Even if you are hostile to the Orange, this book could also interest you too. Robert Pennefather makes no effort to either glorify or demonise the Orange, and appears to allow the reader to make his own interpretation. As Bob wrote to me: “this is OUR history.” 

Copies of The Orange and the Black can be obtained for $5.00 (Cdn) by writing to: Robert Pennefather, 1608-720 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M52 2T9, Canada.

Alex Greer

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