The St. John Riots

orange day riotsToday is July 12th, “Orangemen’s Day” as it is also known. It is the day (mistakenly) marking the defeat of Catholic James II of England, Scotland and Ireland, by Protestant William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne River in 1690. The battle actually took place on July 1st under the old calendar, which is the equivalent of July 11th under the Gregorian calendar, but it is celebrated on the 12th.

In addition, at least one historian has posited that William was funded in part by the then Pope, on account of his dispute with King Charles of France.

As with most things having to do with religion, the “Glorious Twelfth” has been marked by sectarian violence; including bloodshed, and Canada is no exception.

The first recorded incident took place in St. John, New Brunswick, in 1840. During the 1840s Saint John, Portland (a separate town now amalgamated with Saint John), Fredericton and Woodstock all experienced ethnic and/or sectarian violence, stemming from tensions between Irish Catholics (many of them immigrants) and the Protestant majority.

In 1847 at Woodstock, Carleton county, tensions between Irish Catholics and area members of the Loyal Orange Association (LOA) left at least ten dead.

Expecting an armed Orange church parade to return to the town, Catholics gathered with guns, axes, clubs and scythes. In the aftermath of the fighting at Woodstock, no Protestants were arrested and nearly ninety Catholics were charged. Of forty-nine men tried, thirty-five were convicted.

On July 12, 1849 a parade of Orangemen, many of them from surrounding rural counties, attempted to march through the largely Catholic immigrant waterfront neighbour of York Point. At its head was an Orangeman mounted on a white horse, representing King William of Orange, who had defeated the Stuart forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

They were returning from the Indiantown area of Portland where they met brethren from upriver. The Orangemen carried swords, pistols and muskets. The mayor feared serious violence if the parade reached Dock Street where Catholics had erected a green arch of tree boughs. At this time Saint John lacked a professional police force.

Unable (or unwilling) to separate the two sides, the civic authorities and the small garrison of British soldiers waited south of the Catholic ‘line of battle.’ A serious riot developed in which with rocks, bricks and firearms were used. Up to a dozen were killed and many more wounded, making the York Point riot the most serious outbreak of collective violence in New Brunswick’s history.

Thanks for dropping by.

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