First commemoration of the Battle of Crossgar

First commemoration of the Battle of Crossgar

27 March 2024

THE Battle of Crossgar – also known as the ‘Defence of Crossgar’ – was marked for the first time on Friday evening.

The village’s Orange Lodge held an anniversary parade, which was followed by a history talk from local DUP councillor Callum Bowsie.

On St Patrick's Day 1849 a deadly riot broke out when a procession of between 3,000 and 5,000 Ribbonmen from south Down marched into Crossgar and clashed with the roughly 50 Orangemen attempting to defend Killyleagh Street.

It became known locally as the 'Defence of Crossgar' and was a defining moment in Orangeism.

It led to the banning of all parades throughout Ireland for 22 years, but not before a counter battle at Dolly's Brae, near Castlewellan, on the Twelfth of July the same year.

The event was organised by Cumberland True Blue LOL 358 in conjunction with Cllr Bowsie.

Cllr Bowsie, who is president of Crossgar Historical Society, has conducted extensive research into the incident in recent years.

He said: “No incident in Crossgar had such an impact on national politics than the Battle of Crossgar. It is important that these stories are relearned and retold, and the marking of a significant anniversary by the main party caught up in the conflict is quite special.

The event started with a parade around Crossgar to the site of the deadly clash at the present day roundabout where a short ceremony was held.

A wreath in remembrance of the two lives lost in the battle was laid by Cllr Jonny Jackson, Worshipful District Master of Lecale District LOL No 2, who was escorted by Gareth McCauley, Worship Master of Crossgar LOL 358.

The parade was led by Schomberg Fife and Drum Band from Kilkeel who marched in traditional period uniform. The ceremony was brought to a close with a prayer by Bro Robin Fairbairn from the Grand Lodge of Ireland.

The 70-plus people who made up the parade returned to Crossgar Orange Hall where Cllr Bowsie’s presentation on the battle was open to the general public.

He gave a brief background to St Patrick’s Day in Crossgar from the early 19th century and explained how increasing sectarian tensions from around 1830 in the then young village led to one of the county’s largest riots by 1849 and the subsequent pressure put on Westminster to ban all party processions.

Cllr Bowsie said afterwards: “I would like to thank LOL 358 for running this event, Schomberg Fife and Drum for leading the parade, the visiting lodges and those who took part and made the event possible.”

Robert Heaney, from the Schomberg Society, said: "Our Schomberg Fife and Drum Band was honoured to have been invited to lead the parade in Crossgar to mark the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Crossgar. Our band appeared in traditional period costume, complete with old style Orange sashes.

“A huge well done to Crossgar Cumberland True Blues LOL 358 for organising the parade and memorial service, followed by the historical talk by historian Callum Bowsie. A special mention also to our drum major tutor, world champion Emma Barr, who led our Schomberg Fife and Drum during the parade."