“The Grand Mystic Order”


The singer dreams of his initiation into the Orange Institution. He must answer that Joshua took the Israelites unto the Promised Land. His conductor knocks in code on a door. The path through the door is dangerous and he passes other tests.


"The Loyal Orange Institution was founded after the Battle of the Diamond [at Diamond Crossroads] on September 21, 1795. The 'skirmish' was between the Roman Catholic Defenders and the Protestants of the area.... At the beginning the membership was of the labouring and artisan classes.... In the Rebellion of 1798, the Orangemen were on the side of the Crown and had much to do with the defeat of the United Irishmen.... With the rebellion at an end the lodges were to be less fighting societies, and more political and fraternal clubs.... From 1815, the Institution had been seriously affected, by internal disputes. Many of them were about lodge ritual and the attempts to form higher orders." (source: _The Orange Institution - The Early Years_ at Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland site.)

Zimmermann p. 302: The initiation songs "evoke Moses' rod, the crossing of the Red Sea or the Jordan, and strange wanderings in darkness, barefooted, among terrifying noises, to final illumination." - BS

For the Battle of the Diamond, see the notes to "The Battle of the Diamond," "Bold McDermott Roe," and "The Boys of Wexford." Songs about the Orange Order are too numerous to list.

The statement that the Orangemen were on the side of the British in 1798 is far too simplistic; most of the rebel leadership in 1798 was Protestant -- including Henry Munro (for whom see "General Monroe") and the Presbyterian Henry Joy McCracken (for whom see "Henry Joy McCracken (I)"), who ended up in command of the Ulster rising.

What is true is that the Protestants in Ulster generally did not rise in 1798. Robert Kee, in _The Most Distressful Country_ (being Volume I of _The Green Flag_), pp. 130-131, discusses at length the reasons for this. Probably most important was the fact that they had largely been disarmed in 1797, and they didn't have any remaining organization. And they had been led to expect French intervention, and had so far been disappointed.

Plus they had reason to fear their Catholic colleagues. The United Irishmen, with their Protestant leaders, had tried to "paper over" the split, but the Wexford rebellion, which was more spontaneous, had shown extremely sharp sectarian divisions (note especially the much-discussed atrocity at Scullabogue, for which see e.g. "Kelly, the Boy from Killane"). Had the Ulster Protestants still had a military organization, they might have joined the Catholics -- but they couldn't really take part as individual rebels. So they fell back on particularism and groups like the Orange Order.

Hence this song. Joshua was, of course, the leader of the Israelites after the death of Moses, who was responsible for the conquest of Palestine. The Bible portrays him as leading a small army to defeat much larger local forces (though if the census figures in Numbers are correct, the Israelites probably outnumbered the whole population of Palestine at the time. Either Numbers is wrong, or the Israelites had overwhelming numeric superiority). Joshua also brought a new religion. He is an obvious symbol for any religious minority with militant intentions. - RBW

Cross references


  1. Zimmermann 97, "The Grand Mystic Order" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, Zimm097


Author: unknown
Earliest date: mid-19C (Zimmermann)
Keywords: dream ritual religious