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                    Sligo Champion. 11 May 1912

                         “Gideon’s Little Band.”

                        THE SLIGO ORANGEMEN

The visit of the Sligo Orangemen to Portadown has passed into literature. We have been sent a copy of a sheet headed with the badge of the Orange organisation and containing the following inspiring verses:—

                 Ulster’s Call. Sligo’s Reply.

When Ulster sent her war cry forth we heard it in the West
And then the gallant Colonel put our heroes to the test.
“Fall in”, he cried “And follow me, for the Union and the Crown”,
And he led the Sligo Orangemen that day to Portadown.

The welcome that they there received shall never be forgot,
The Colonel smiled and proudly said “Ye’re heroes, all the lot”
They struck up “The Boyne Water” with “No Surrender” last—
“Present Arms” was the order and the Connaughtmen marched past.

A splendid set of men they were when headed by their band,
The Colonel looked a hero and one born to command;
And the spirit that these heroes showed for ever may it last
“The West’s Awake,” the banner bore when marching through Belfast.

And the sight—it was a splendid one when the Sligo’s they marched by
One hundred strong, determined men Home Rule Bill defy
And if the call should come again the Sligo men will join
To meet John Redmond and his gang across the River Boyne.

Old 464 long may she live, and her memory never fade
For long she kept in slumber and her sons of the Old Brigade
But Wood-Martin, gallant Colonel, when once he took command
He brought us forth and proudly led Gideon’s little band.

So, now, here’s luck to Captain Craig, and likewise Bonar Law,
And we’ll not forget Sir Edward—he’s a credit to them a’;
With the fighting Colonel Wallace our forces we will join,
And hold what’s dear to all of us—the Victory of the Boyne.

                                                 Composed by L.O.L., 464.

On Easter Tuesday, 9 April 1912, as part of their campaign against the Home Rule Bill to be introduced in the following parliamentary session Ulster Unionists held a meeting at Balmoral in south Belfast. The new Conservative leader, Andrew Bonar Law, reviewed a march past of 100,000 men and pledged his party’s unflinching support. It was reported that the total attendance at the event was over 200,000.

A contingent of supporters from county Sligo, said to be in the region of 100, attended the meeting. They travelled by train to Portadown on Monday and stayed there overnight.

“The Sligo contingent, accompanied by the Sligo United YMCA Brass and Reed band and in charge of Col Wood-Martin, ADC to the King, left Sligo at 6.35 on Easter Monday morning and in the afternoon were the guests of the Portadown Unionists in the Bannside town.

On disentraining at Portadown station they were accorded a magnificent welcome, being received by members of the Portadown Unionist Clubs, almost 1000 strong, drawn up in military formation and carrying dummy rifles. Having fallen into their place and headed by their banner bearing the words The West’s Awake – The Sligo Contingent, the entire procession moved on and at all points along the line of route were cheered to the echo.

In the evening the Sligo Unionists were the guests at a social dinner given in the Orange Hall and on the following morning they left for Belfast with the largest contingent of Unionists that ever left Portadown." (Sligo Independent , 13 April 1912)

The Sligo Champion also reported the Sligo involvement and a few weeks later published this poem about the event which was presumably written by a member of the Sligo Lodge (Lodge 464) and printed for private circulation.

The Sligo Orangemen were led by William George Wood-Martin (1847-1917), pictured above, the well know historian and archaeologist. He wrote the History of Sligo County and Town, published between 1882 and 1892 in three volumes, which tells the story of the region from ancient times until the late 19th century.

There are mentions of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, of James Craig and Edward Carson of the Ulster Unionist Party, Colonel R.H. Wallace leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force and Bonar Law, leader of the Conservative Party which supported the Unionists.

The Gideon's Little Band reference is to the Biblical account of a small army of Israelites, led by Gideon, defeating the much larger army of the Midianites.

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