“The Battle of the Diamond”


"We men of the North" defeated a brand-wielding "lawless band" in a deadly battle on Diamond Hill. For the singer, that battle is the model for future encounters. "We have bided our time -- it is well nigh come! It will find us stern and steady"


OrangeLark: "The song itself is an account of a battle which was to have a profound effect on Irish history. It was between the Roman Catholic "Defenders" and the Protestant "Peep o' Day Boys." The Defenders who had some thirty men killed were frustrated in their intention to expel the Protestants from Co. Armagh. The Protestants defeated their enemies without loss of life. The victors, with joined hands pledged themselves to defend the Crown, the Country and the Reformed Religion. Shortly afterwards they founded the Loyal Orange Institution of Ireland."

For some background on Defenders and Peep o' Day Boys, see the notes to "Bold McDermott Roe" and "The Noble Ribbon Boys." For more on the Loyal Orange Institution see the notes to "Dialogue Between Orange and Croppy." - BS

According to Robert Kee, _The Most Distressful Country_ (being Volume I of _The Green Flag_), Penguin, 1972, 1989, p. 71, "The new outbreak of feuding in the North reached its cllimax in September 1795 at the so-called Battle of the Diamond, a piece of ground near the town of Armagh. A large party of Defenders attacked party of Peep o' Day Boys there and got the worst of it, leaving twenty or thirty corpses on the field. The incident, which by itself constituted nothing new, is a historical landmark since it led the Peep o' Day boys to reorganize under a name which was to play an increasingly significant role in the future of Ireland: the Orange Society -- the colour orange having long been a popular symbol with which to celebrate the victory of William of Orange over James II a century before."

Kee's assertion that the battle was "nothing new" is supported by Jim Smyth, _The Men of No Property_ (St. Martin's Press, 1992, 1998), pp. 110-111: "In December 1794, for example, Defenders and Peep O'Day Boys, 'young boys and idle journeymen weavers', clashed at a fair. After the twelfth of July celebrations the following year a group of Catholic were attacked near Portadown. The tenions which such incidents revealed culminated in the set-piece battle at the Diamond.... Although heavily reinforced by contingents from the neighbouring areas of Down, Derry, and, particularly, Tyrone, the Defenders were badly beaten, suffering between seventeen and forty-eight casualties. This rout was then followed by the mass expulsion of catholics. At least one church was burned down and catholic homes and property -- looms, webs, and yarn -- were destroyed.... Estimates of the number of refugee ran from 3,500 to 10,000.... The Defenders at the battle of Randalstown in 1798 carried a banner inscribed 'REMEMBER ARMAGH'."

R. F. Foster, in _Modern Ireland: 1600-1972_ (Penguin, 1988, 1989), p. 272, describes the aftermath: "Defenderism was in one sense a 'defence' against [Protestant aggresion]. By the mid-1790s, local _causes celebres_ like the battle of the Diamond near Loughgall, County Armagh, on 21 September 1795, which inaugurated the Orange Order, had taken a definitively sectarian tinge. Protestants wanted to ban Catholics from the local linen industry; Protestants were colonizing traditionally Catholic areas in the Ulster borderlands; and, most importantly, local Protestant gentry from the mid-1790s abandoned what one of them called 'the farce of impartiality between the parties' and openly supported the Orangemen. In these conditions, Defenderism rapidly became an 'anti-Protestant, anti-state ideology', it was also anti-English and capable of spectacular violence."

Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry, _A History of Ireland_ (Barnes & Noble, 1988, 1993), p. 194, note that in the aftermath "The Orangemen attacked Ulster Catholics with merciless brutality. They assaulted them, turned them out of their homes, or 'papered' them pinning notices on their doors telling them to go 'To hell -- or Connacht' [a reminiscence of Cromwell's ethnic cleansing of a century and a half earlier].... Poor catholic weavers had their looms broken, and labourers' houses were burned down; sometimes as many as a dozen houses would be burned in a night. At the end of 1795 the governor of Armagh wrote: 'No night passes that houses are not destroyed, and scarce a week that some dreaadful murders are not committed. Nothing can exceed the animosity between Protestant and Catholic at this moment in this country.'"

This was to have significant consequences during the 1798 rebellion, when religious differences badly hampered the Ulter rising; see e.g. the notes to "General Monroe." - RBW

Historical references

  • Sep 21, 1795 - The Battle of the Diamond [at Diamond Crossroads] between the Roman Catholic Defenders and the Protestants of the area (source: _The Orange Institution - The Early Years_ at Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland site.)

Cross references


  1. OrangeLark 11, "The Battle of the Diamond" (1 text)
  2. BI, OrLa011


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1987 (OrangeLark)