The Loyal Orders In Liverpool

Although the Orange Order has never been as strong in England as in Northern Ireland and Scotland, it has played a significant role in the political culture of Liverpool. Like Orange parades in Northern Ireland parades in Liverpool have reflected changing social and political circumstances. In the 1930s concertina bands were prominent in the demonstrations, reflecting the strong maritime links in the city. Until the late 1960s sectarian divisions in the city were such that a Protestant Party was represented on the local council and up to 30,000 people would watch the Twelfth parades with more than one hundred lodges taking part. Members of the loyal orders recount clashes with Catholics in the London Road and Bullring area as recently as 1986. However, the inner city has changed dramatically as a result of slum clearance programmes and many communities have been dispersed to towns outside Liverpool. There are now less than seventy lodges, including women's lodges, in the district.

The Orange Order in the Liverpool and Southport area holds about eighteen parades a year, whilst the Black Institution has four and the Apprentice Boys hold three. All but four of the Orange and Black parades are Sunday church parades, as are two of the three Apprentice Boys parades. By far the largest event is the Twelfth of July in Southport. Three feeder parades take place in Liverpool before Orangemen go to Southport where they meet with other brethren from the north-west for a joint demonstration. There are return parades in Liverpool in the evening. It is customary for two children to be dressed as William and Mary for the day. Members of the Order see the Twelfth in Southport as a family day out.

There are twelve bands in the Liverpool North End area, with a mixture of flute, accordion, concertina and pipe bands and are directly connected to Orange lodges in the city. Unlike in Scotland or Northern Ireland members of bands taking part in an Orange parade must be members of the Orange Order but as in Scotland and Northern Ireland bands must follow certain conditions of engagement. These include requirements on types of uniform and the use of regulation marching steps. There are also clauses which requires bands not to play tunes 100 yards either side of a hospital, church or Cenotaph, banning the drinking of alcohol whilst in regalia, and a clause forbidding the playing of party tunes, including the Sash, on a Sunday.

There is also an Independent Orange Order, founded in 1986 after a dispute within the Orange Order over the right to carry 1912 UVF flags. The Independents have less than a dozen parades each year. There are also independent loyalist bands. These march with both the Apprentice Boys and the Independent Orange Order.

Policing the Parades

Public order legislation requires that seven days notice be given before any procession takes place. However, in Liverpool members of the Orange Order meet with the police as early as February or March to discuss any problems that arose at the previous year's parade and any changes that might be needed. The Order also provides the police with a full list of parades planned for the forthcoming year and a list of the lodges and bands expected at each event.

In general the police felt that problems over parades were being reduced, but they identified a number of issues that remained problematic. The Twelfth parade in Southport is not always easy because there are a lot of holiday makers in the town who know little about Orange parades and who sometimes cause problems if they walk through the ranks of the parade. The police felt that it was not always easy to find a balance between the rights of marchers and the rights of people to go about their business. As such, the police are keen that the Orangemen are aware of this and are patient with the general public. There are also a few problems on the return parades in Liverpool as a number of the people who gather to watch are often the worse for drink. While there is no need to close any roads in Liverpool for the morning processions, they do close two roads in the evening. Although the police like at least one steward for every 50 people, they would be nervous of having stewards deal with anyone not in the procession.

There have been no disputes with local residents since 1986 but the relationship between the Orange Order and Independent Orange Order is so poor that arrangements have to be made to keep the two events separate in both Liverpool and Southport. This means liaising to check that buses do not arrive in Southport at the same time. Also in recent years, there have been problems with fascist groups such as the National Front and Combat 18 attaching themselves to loyal order parades. There were incidents at a pub in Southport in 1996 requiring the use of the riot squad. However, senior members of the Orange Order made it clear that they would not tolerate members of Combat 18 in the Institution and the police believe that C18 just attaches itself to the event to raise its own profile.

In general the changing social circumstances have meant that there are fewer problems over Orange parades in Liverpool than there used to be and relations between the Orders and the police are now very good. In Liverpool many of the customary routes in the city are less populated than they would have been in the past and in Southport the main concerns are with the interests of tourists and local businesses.


As social and political circumstances change the environment in which events are policed can become quite different. In Northern Ireland the policing of Orange parades has become increasingly more problematic with political and residential changes. In Liverpool the events seem to be less tense than in the past and any problems are more to do with crowd control, the use of alcohol and the interests of tourists and businesses. The police were particularly appreciative of the co-operative attitude of the Orange Order in contacting them at the start of the year to make arrangements for forthcoming events.

The research for this report was funded by the Central Community Relations Unit and by the Community Relations Council under the European Union Peace and Reconciliation Programme. We would particularly like to thank Denis McCoy at CCRU and Mark Adair and Stella McDermott at CRC for their continuing help and support.

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