Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A senior Ballysillan Orangewoman - Minnie Turkington

The Belfast Telegraph (3 January 1939) reported the death of Mrs Mary A (Minnie) Turkington of Glenside Parade at Ballysillan.  She was the widow of James A Turkington and she died on 31 December 1938 in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

According to the report she was 'prominently identified with the Women's Orange Order for the past 21 years.'

The Orange Women's Association began in 1887 when a body of women with strong unionist views formed themselves into a body to work together for the promotion of Protestantism and the defence of the Union.  The founder was the wife of Colonel Edward Saunderson, the Conservative MP for North Armagh and himself a senior Orangeman.  The Association was authorised by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in December 1887 and it flourished for a time but eventually ceased to function.  Then in 1911, with the consent of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Mrs R H Johnston of Bawnboy House in county Cavan undertook to reissue warrants.  That new start marked the origin of the Women's Orange movement of today.

The event that prompted this re-formation of the women's movement was the promulgation in 1911 by the Roman Catholic Church of the Ne Temere decree.  This decree declared that a marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant was only valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church if it was performed by a Roman Catholic priest.  The decree became a matter of much public attention when a young Presbyterian girl in Belfast, who had married a Roman Catholic man named McCann, refused to be remarried in a Roman Catholic chapel.  The result was that her two children were kidnapped.  Protest meetings were held in Belfast and there was a very large meeting in the Presbyterian Assembly at which Bishop Crozier spoke.

Mrs Johnston read about the case in the newspapers and felt that a revived Women's Orange Association would be an influence against mixed marriages and the effects of Ne Temere.  She called a meeting in 12 Rutland Square, Dublin. in February 1912 and three warrants were issued.  The first went to Mrs W Bridgett to meet in Sandy Row Orange Hall, the second went to a lodge at Ballymacarrett and the third to a lodge in Kingstown, county Dublin.

The Ligoniel Women's LOL No 15 was formed in the summer of 1917 and Minnie Turkington was a foundation member.  She was a prominent member of the lodge and was WM for fourteen years.

Minnie Turkington was also Deputy Grand Mistress of the Grand Loyal Association of Orangewomen of Ireland, Deputy Grand Mistress of the City of Belfast and a Past District Mistress of No 4 District of the Association of Loyal Orangewomen of Ireland.  Minnie Turkington was also superintendent of the Association of Junior Orangewomen of Ireland, Lodge No 20.  Women's Orangeism, both senior and junior, was therefore a major part of her life.

Among the death notices at the time of her death was one from the management committee of Ligoniel Orange Hall, from John Sanderson (chairman) and John Porter (secretary).  John Sanderson was an overlooker who lived in Lavens Drive and John Porter was a clerk, who lived in Leroy Street.

A funeral service was held in St Mark's parish church on the evening of Monday 2 January 1939.

WLOL No 15 had its first meeting on 18 July 1917 and it was officially opened on 8 August 1917.  The officers elected were WM Ruby Kirkwood, DM Mrs Morrison, Secretary Leta Frazer, Treasurer Hester Mann, FC, Annie McCurley, Chaplain Nellie Wallace, Committee: Jean Moore, D Kirkwood, Annie Smyth, Annie Thompson, Cassie Adair, Tylers M J Shaw and Sadie Lynass.

Near the end of the year Sister Mrs Morrison, later Mrs Turkington, became W Mistress when the WM, Sister Ruby Kirkwood, went overseas.  She remained in the chair for fourteen years and her death at the end of 1938 was a great loss to the Orange community.

[The woman who revived the Women's Orange Association was Mrs R H Johnston of Bawnboy House in county Cavan and a Geraldine I M Johnston, of Bawnboy House, Cavan West, and Cor Le Grange, Gloucester, signed the Women's Declaration at Templeport Church and parochial hall in Bawnboy (Brackley) in 1912.  R H Johnston of Bawnboy House signed the Ulster Covenant at the same venue.]

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