Loughries Historical Society was formed in September 2005 out of Loughries True Blues 1948 Orange Lodge. The lodge had been on the decline for quite some time and had hit rock bottom.
October 2004 had seen a few new members into the Lodge who had become disillusioned with the Orange Institution in Newtownards. We were fed up with the negative publicity surrounding our Traditional Parades, the excessive use of Alcohol and Drugs and the thuggish behaviour of elements attached to our Institution / parades - we all wanted something new and different. Loughries had 11 members at this time and that was soon reduced to 9 members with 2 deaths. Discussions were at hand to decide what to do either to hand back our Orange Warrant or explore a new way forward.
It was decided to adopt the Ulster Scots Tradition and develop as an Ulster Scots Community Group, however still having Orangeism at our core. Meetings were held with Ards Borough Council – Jim Murdock and the Ulster Scots Agency to plot the way forward.
Within a very short period of time we began hosting historical talks and lectures, exploring our Ulster Scots Culture – with names like Gregory, Graham, McCartney and Anderson in the Lodge and most of us Worshiping at Greenwell Street Presbyterian Church, the connection was too great to ignore.
We began at the beginning of the ‘Dawn of the Ulster Scots’ with an exploration of the Hamilton Montgomery Settlement of 1606 - the then Chairman of the Ulster Scots Agency Mark Thompson, came along and gave a great talk & PowerPoint on this vitally important settlement – incidentally it was the 400 anniversary of the Hamilton Montgomery Settlement at this time, and since then Loughries has grown and developed into a thriving Ulster Scots Community Group.
We have also explored areas of Ulster Scots history such as Robert the Bruce, The Covenanters, Ulster Surnames, The Plantation of Ulster, Burns Night Suppers and at the same time explored aspects of our Orange Tradition through talks / lectures mixed with educational trips to the Boyne Battlefield and Dan Winters Cottage.
The jewel in the crown of Loughries Historical Society is our Ulster Scots Summer School. It commenced in July 2007 and is held annually at Castle Gardens Primary School Bowtown Road Newtownards. For 1 week each year up to 70 children per day come along to the school where they are educated in a fun, relaxed, safe and friendly environment, where the children and leaders explore all aspects of our Ulster Scots Traditions like, music & song, dance, history, poetry & language, arts & crafts, sports & games, cookery and storytelling and not to mention the highlight of the week the day trip to either Delamont Country Park or the Ulster Folk Museum. We have been graced with the visit each year of the Mayor of the Ards Borough and Local MLA’s, Michelle McIlveen and Simon Hamilton who are amongst out staunchest supporters.
A lot of time is spent planning and developing various projects and we have also been very fortunate to enlist the help of a great many people – too many to put on this blog, but many have volunteered to help using their own special talents. Nevertheless as our reputation begins to grow in the Local area our membership has also increased to over 25 members.
We firmly believe it is possible to be an Orangeman and be an Ulster Scot; there is no shame in that. Both can go hand in hand and are inextricably linked - our history tells us that. Loughries now proudly march on the ‘Twelfth’ with The Symington Memorial Silver Band from Dundonald – we did not have a band to accompany us on parade for over 25 years, we now carry our Banner on parade with plans to purchase a new banner in 2012 to mark the Centenary of the Signing of the Ulster Covenant.
New members continue to join us and it is a credit to the hard work and vision of our group that we have turned around an almost possible situation into a thriving Orange Lodge and Ulster Scots Community Group.