Hug an Orangeman 83

Back in 1979/80 I had an American girlfriend who I was taking to see Stirling when an Orange march (it was some kind of national Orange event) came through town. She had not the first idea what it was about, but she felt terrified and threatened and ended up in tears, despite being a Presbyterian from Illinois. I tell you that story because it is difficult to get over to people who have not experienced it, just how nasty the atmosphere of an Orange march is. The aggressive rattle of the drums, the fierce posturing and apoplectic faces of the participants, the plain enactment of an aggressive territorial possession ritual, and of course the drunken and swaggering followers walking on the pavements forcing people off them or into the shops.

The great John Stuart Mill made the point in On Liberty that it was a perfectly legitimate point of view to express that corn merchants were thieves who made fortunes out of the starving and misery of the poor. But to use precisely the same words shouted to a howling mob bearing torches, outside a corn merchants’ house in the middle of the night, was not legitimate. Even the apostle of liberty held that freedom of speech could not be absolute but must be linked to context and intent.

That Mill’s observation is followed in practice is well illustrated by the Northern Irish practice of restricting Orange marches away from Catholic areas and churches. But the whole question of Orange manifestations raises difficult questions of how to tolerate the intolerant and to deal with mass threat. There is not a simple right or wrong answer.

But what I do know is that it is very wrong indeed that in Scotland in 2015, I had to warn Nadira this morning to be extremely careful as she set off to go to Queens Street station and then on to a meeting in Glasgow Film City in Govan.

As to the legal position, Orange displays are very plainly illegal under the Public Order Act 1936. This has not been repealed or contradicted by subsequent legislation and it does apply to Scotland. It is not otiose – it has been used against striking miners and against Irish Republicans.

Section 1 (I)

Subject as hereinafter provided, any person
who in any public place or at any public meeting wears
uniform signifying his association with any political
organisation or with, the promotion of any political
object shall be guilty of an offence :

The Orange Order registered as a participant in the referendum campaign. It is therefore by definition an avowedly political organisation.

Without any need to get in to the fact it is the only remaining effective part of Scottish Labour and Gordon Matheson’s sole resource on the ground.

If section 1 is not enough for you, and you would have to be a dedicated sophist to claim it does not apply, let me refer you to Section 2b which bans “the display of physical force in promoting any political object”. No reasonable person who has ever seen an Orange march can deny that is precisely what it is. (I do not use their lying term of walk designed precisely to obscure this truth).

Whether Orange street events should be allowed is a difficult question. Whether they are illegal is an entirely different question. They are illegal, and the fact the law is not enforced takes us back again to the subject of the institutional corruption of the Scottish legal establishment. I guarantee you that if I suggested we walk down Sauchiehall Street all wearing black berets in support of independence, we would be in the pokey PDQ.

Anyway, my knowledge of Northern Ireland comes largely from Graham Norton. So anyone who comes across the Orangemen in Glasgow today, I suggest that you, if you are male, scream out at one:

“Oh Wow! Look at you! You look just Gorgeous! And Orange is SO your colour!!! I had no idea you could be so dominant. I can think of things we could do with that umbrella/flute/drumstick/furry cockade. Anyway I shan’t bother you now in front of your charming butch friends, but we really must do it again sometime. (Mime “phone me”).

If you are female, you can play too, but better use a lower voice and say this:

“Oh wow! You look great. I am so glad I ran into you again. Honestly, I have been wanting to see you to say please don’t worry, it happens to a lot of men. Especially your age. Maybe it would help you if you wore your uniform?”

Go on, hug an Orangeman.

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83 thoughts on “Hug an Orangeman

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  • craig Post author


    You are not going to believe this, but yes, they are the supporters of William of Orange.

  • Kmansfield

    This is homophobic and transphobic. The best thing you can do is don’t give them any attention. They want the spectacle.

  • craig Post author


    It can conceivably be interpreted as Graham Nortonphobic, I suppose, though it’s meant as a tribute. But I am baffled by the transphobic. Where does that come in? Anyway, you are quite entitled to your opinion and as I have never in the least pretended to be politically correct I don’t care.

    And possibly due to your total lack of sense of humour, you have failed to notice that it is not a serious suggestion. Certainly it is better to avoid them.

  • John McGuire

    As much as dislike the orange brigade, your article is utter mince. Clutching at straws.

  • craig Post author


    That is just an insult rather than an argument. Which part of the article is wrong and why?

  • Rotterboy Rab

    If you are not of a certain religious or sexual persuasion then this is not for you today. If your skin is slightly the wrong colour or you are wearing a colour on your clothing not suitable for this day then this is not for you today. If you speak the wrong language and perhaps even have the wrong colour of hair then this is not for you today. If you are displaying traits from all of the previous then please be careful. This is not our Glasgow.

  • Kmansfield

    You are suggesting to shame them by insinuating they are homosexuals.. There is nothing funny about this at all, and your attack on me is just a lazy ad adhom.

  • MJ

    Credit where credit’s due. We have none of this garbage in England. It does have its good points y’know.

  • Abe Rene

    I thought that Orangemen were restricted to Northern Ireland. What’s their connection to Stirling and Edinburgh?

  • craig Post author


    the attack is on Orangemen’s Neanderthal sexual attitudes, you are being deliberately obtuse. The humour is in picturing the Orangemen’s reaction to the undermining of their display of macho virility.

    It is a bit rich for you to accuse me of homophobia and transphobia, and then whine I am attacking you for saying you lack a sense of humour.

  • Ken

    I’ve seen a couple of Orange marches in Manchester over the years but they were very small scale affairs. The biggest one that came into my view was here in Edinburgh on the weekend before referendum day last year.

    I enjoyed it to be honest, and I ended up grabbing some video of the nicer talent that they had in their ranks. Afterwards every pub on the Royal Mile was jam-packed as the ties and collarettes came off and the drinking began. I joined in with that, rest assured.

    If you are the type who gets offended at the sight of the working class doing what it wants to do instead of what you think they should do then I am sure that there was plenty there to fuel your angst.

    I just enjoyed looking at the girls and drinking with the blokes afterwards.

  • Fi

    Orange Fest. I live in Glasgow. My family think it is appalling and ought to be banned. Like you Craig, I found it more difficult to agree as to what, if anything should be done, much as I dislike them. I come from a protestant background but not an Orange one, and like a lot of Scots today, I find this sectarianism embarrassing.

    I like to err on the side of social libertarianism though and I think that there needs to be a really good and compelling reason to ban anything.

    One good reason not to ban this is that apparently there are a minority of people of an Orange persuasion who want to let go of sectarianism but still reserve the right to keep alive their own history. We need to help them find a way to do this – to take the fangs out of Orangeness.

    The majority who are out and out bigots and really want to keep their fangs, like the lot we saw run amok in George Square after the referendum, have a lot of unpleasant friends in other far right organizations. One common denominator in their far right narrative is the claim that they are now under seige in the age of identity politics and, alone of all the groups, are denied freedom of expression etc. To ban them would ruin any chance of change for the minority and play into this victim story for the majority. I say go ahead and just police it properly so that no-one gets hurt. Fingers crossed.

  • Mark Golding

    ..The aggressive rattle of the drums, the fierce posturing and apoplectic faces of the participants, the plain enactment of an aggressive territorial possession ritual..

    A dash of torture and decollate might convert the Orange lodge KKK into an ‘Orange ISIS’ terrorist group.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    So they come knocking on my door at 7:00 am, just as I am about to go to bed. They say we’ve had a complaint sir, about this very strange loud noise…Is it you? I say..Yer What? This very loud screeching noise. Oh the dog…no its not ours..we haven’t got a dog…must be next doors..well but one…They said no its not a dog…I said…what…our cats?? it can’t be?..unless they have caught some more frogs…They said no..its a sexual sound..a human sexual sound…is it you?…I said don’t be fucking ridiculous..It is 7:00 am and I’ve got brewer’s wife is asleep with her rampant rabbit..and I didn’t hear a thing. You got the wrong number mate…I’m going to bed now. Goodnight.

    “Loud sex noises land woman in jail”
    “Gemma Wale, of Birmingham, is given a two-week prison sentence after annoying a neighbour with her ‘screaming and shouting whilst having sex'”

    I did tell you they were Fucking Mad…but I never thought it would come to this.


  • wilma hughes

    I always like your humour and insight Craig. Can I therefore suggest they ‘squeeze’ an Orangeman!

  • craig Post author


    Thanks – and I hope it may persuade you that things are not always what they seem, and I am much more related to Scottish working class culture than people realise. After a career in the foreign office I sound posh, but I am not. Entirely state educated and a full maintenance grant at university.

  • Becky Cohen

    I actually challenged someone whom I mistakenly thought was a far-right orange sash-wearing skinhead who was picking on my left-wing, gay Irish Catholic friend once. I actually got my head kicked in though, because he turned out to be a Buddhist monk with a black belt in Kung Fu:)

  • Mary

    Assuming that the death of Charles Kennedy brought the subject to the fore, the Scottish Parliament have a debate on ‘Scotland’s Relationship to Alcohol’.

    Is there a Scottish equivalent to Hansard? I watched some of the debate on the Parliament channel Freeview 131.

  • craig Post author


    Thank you – yes “Give an Orangeman a Squeeze” would have been a better title!

  • Vronsky

    “if I suggested we walk down Sauchiehall Street all wearing black berets in support of independence, we would be in the pokey PDQ.”

    I’m afraid this suggests all sorts of satirical possibilities. I may buy a black beret tomorrow, and phone a few friends…

  • OldMark

    ‘I’ve seen a couple of Orange marches in Manchester over the years but they were very small scale affairs.’

    My only direct encounter with the Order came in 1982 in London, when members from the North West demonstrated in Trafalgar Square against the impending visit of Pope John Paul 2. The demo had just broken up, and they were tipsily playing their squeezeboxes and singing ‘The Sash’. They were a good deal less menacing than the Scotland supporters who in 1977 turned the concourse at Euston station into a ‘no go’ area after their victory at Wembley that year.

    It’s worth adding that the only ‘Orange Walk’ held each year in the Republic is a relatively civilised affair, and in recent years has been promoted as a tourist attraction-

    In both England and the RoI the Orange Order is regarded as an anachronism, and is politically redundant- the ‘Protestant Party’, which once possessed clout in what were ‘interface’ areas of Liverpool, was dissolved over 40 years ago-

    In NI, and to a slightly lesser extent, Scotland, that isn’t the case, and the Orangemen there are correspondingly more pugnacious.

    I hope Nadira gets to Glasgow safely, avoiding any drunken catcalls from the Orange brethren.

  • Vronsky

    To be serious for a moment, it’s about stress. Rats are social, intelligent and mutually supportive in good times. But stress them, and that altruistic behaviour disappears. They focus on themselves, and will bite anything in order to survive.

    The Orangeists are products (deliberately so) of social stress. Affluence would remove them, or at least makes them distant voices heard only by a few loonies.

    But poverty is necessary for the protection of the elite, so Orangeism will flourish. I wonder what they’re using in England? (serious question, answers invited).

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