The annual celebration of the victory at the Battle of the Boyne was held in most Ontario communities in the 19th century, while every year one community was chosen to hold a major celebration with lodges from many communities invited to gather. In 1886, Hamilton was the city chosen to host Orange Lodges from many places, and the Hamilton Orangemen went to great efforts to ensure that the 1886 event would be very memorable:
“Yesterday was the day dearest to the hearts of Orangemen of all days in the year – the day which has been arbitrarily fixed as the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, which was fought on July 1, 1640. The event was celebrated with the usual enthusiasm and the accustomed pounding of drums, screaming of fifes, blares of brass bands and display of banners, regalia and Orange Lilies and all the paraphernalia of a first class Orange demonstration.1
1 “The Glorious Memory of Him Who Crossed Boyne Water.”
Hamilton Spectator. July 13, 1886.
The first event of the day was a street procession from the Gore along York street to Dundurn park:
“In the morning and until after the procession, the principal streets looked as if they had taken yellow fever. They were crowded and every other person wore a showy regalia or a bit of orange ribbon in his button hole, or orange lilies stuck in his hat or pinned on his coat. And the fresh-faced girls and matrons from the country who came to town to see the show – and there seemed to be thousands of them – all showed their colors.
“ From quite early in the morning, the lodges from a distance who were to assist in the demonstration began to arrive and continued to do so on every train, until the procession started. The procession was the same kind of Orange procession which Anglo-Saxon communities have been familiar with for over a century and a half, only it was on a somewhat larger scale than usual.”1
At the Dundurn, it was hard work to get into the park through the gates as the number of people who marched in the procession was so large:
“The crowd at Dundurn was enormous. It was hard work to get through the gates. The faintest of breezes was blowing and the shuffling of the thousands of feet stirred the dust. It rose in a dense cloud and stirred the air. It was better inside and it was a relief to get on the cool grass and beneath the shade of trees after the crush at the gates.”1
Once the crowd was completely in the park, three things went on simultaneously. A number of speakers addressed many people with addresses on the history of the Battle and the ongoing need to be vigilant in protecting the interests of Protestantism. The ball diamond was the location of a professional baseball which also attracted great interest, and there was an exhibition of fancy marching on the expansive lawn:
“While the speaking and baseball game were in progress, the uniformed knights had been giving an exhibition drill on the lawn. Bands were playing all over the grounds. The shrill treble of the fifes, the sturdy boom of the big drums and the rat-a-tat-tat of the little fellows, mingled with the sonorous blare from many brass instruments.
“When the ball game was over, most of the vast crowd disposed of itself in various ways outside the grounds. Avenues to the various railroad depots were thronged with the knights of the tiger lily, who sought early trains for home.”1
While many Orange lodge members from outside of Hamilton left, many stayed for the second procession and the evening events at Dundurn park:
“Despite the lessened numbers, however, it was a large procession that formed in the Gore in the evening, and, headed by the Thirteenth band, marched once more to the park.
“The grounds were brilliantly illuminated with electric light, and between the electricity and the moon, the enclosed space fronting the grandstand was as light as day when the three uniformed societies in connection with the Orange Order in this city – the Hamilton Pioneer Corps and the Crimson and Scarlet Knights – began to drill on the diamond. The exhibition was one of the best of the kind ever seen there, and elicited round after round from the thousands of spectators.
“The drilling over, the fireworks display was started. Prof. Hand and Co. laid themselves out in a special effort, and, as a consequence, the set pieces, the bombs, the mines, nests of fiery serpents and other things of that description were as near perfection as mere human pyrotechnists could get them. The Thirteenth band played the while, and people’s hands were sore applauding the music and the fireworks. Altogether, the day was one of the most successful that Hamilton Orangemen have ever engineered, and no small thanks are due the energetic committee for this eminently satisfactory state of affairs.”1