The Orange and the Green
With the Snow in Between

by Hereward Senior

When the Irish came to Canada, they found the climate cold and older inhabitants cool towards them. A good deal had been said about the Irish, and the indigenous population was prepared to believe the worst. Given these prejudices, the Irish faced a problem in establishing themselves. There was no difficulty in living up to this reputation: they brought with them a tradition that most fights would take place on July 12, the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, with St. Patrick's Day as a second best. On such occasions, the Orangemen were considered to be the worst offenders-disliked by the Tories because they were a voluntary society organized by the lower orders and disliked by the Reformers because they were thought to be a secret weapon of the Tories.

The Orangemen first paraded in the town of York (Toronto) on 12 July, 1822, 100 coming in from the surrounding countryside. They dined at Phair's Tavern and were addressed by no less a person than the Anglican ArchDeacon John Strachan. This event was noticed by William Lyon Mackenzie's Catholic friend, William Bergin, who petitioned the Assembly to take action against this newly arrived threat to peace and tranquility. Strachan addressed the Orangemen again in 1823, but seems to have broken with them after that. The obvious explanation for this was that Orangemen George Duggan had the audacity to run against Strachan's most distingusihed pupil, Attorney-General John beverly Robinson, in the provincial election of 1824.

Mackenzie was against the Orangism on principle, but in spite of the protest of Bergin, he gave his support to Duggan. Mackenzie and the York Orangmen co-operated until the elections of 1836, but the Orange and the Green were still far apart. In the Assembly, anti-Orange bills became annual events, aponsored by Solicitor General Christopher Hagerman, but they resulted in nothing.

Meanwhile, hostilities continued between the Orange and the Green. There was a serious clash in Perth on the 23 April 1824. There was talk of sending for troops, but matters were settled by Adjunct-General James Fitzgibbon, a Gaelic speaking Irishman who had risen from the ranks. As Fitzgibbon was Masonic Provincial Grand Master, he apparently brought peace by shouting in Gaelic, accompanied by a judicious shaking of hands with his Masonic breathren. A year later the Orange and the Green clashed in Greenwich Village, New York, then an Irish suburb, and on the 12 July in 1827, there was a full scale riot in Kingston with shots exchanged, wounds inflicted and numerous arrests of both parties.

By 1830, it seemed that Irish quarrels had crossed the Atlantic and were here to stay. But this was only half the story: if the Orange and the Green were divided by religion, they had common problems as immigrants in what was still a strange land for most of them. The first to grasp this was Ogle R. Gowan, a Wexford Orangeman who came to Canada at the age of 26, with a household of nine, inclding 2 servants.