chapter  9
20 Pages

‘What Use Is It Here?’: Sociability and Benevolence in Wellington’s Orange Order 1870–1930

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Orange Order provided many Irish Protestant migrants with an important institutional apparatus through which they could maintain connections with their homeland and develop relationships in the new world. For those migrants who became members of the Order, it reinforced political motivation, cultural continuity and ethical certainty. Equally importantly, it afforded members an associational structure which allowed them to access opportunities for employment, sociability and mutual aid. Although these associational aspects of Orangeism have received some treatment with respect to Canada (Houston and Smith, 1978) and northern England (MacRaild, 2005b) they have been largely ignored within the New Zealand literature which has, understandably, focussed on political and sectarian issues. Sweetman’s exploratory essay on Orangeism in New Zealand (2006) is an exception to this trend, describing the institution’s appeal to Irish Protestants in the antipodes as being based on its ability to provide fraternalism, mutualism and, through its rituals and public activities, an ‘escape from the mundane’. Taking Sweetmen’s claims as a starting point this chapter looks to explore the social functions of Orangeism in New Zealand so as to illustrate the role which lodges played in the lives of the institution’s membership. Doing this augments our understanding of why and how Orangeism became popular in that country demonstrating that its attractiveness to potential members was not exclusively based on ideological concerns.