International Review of Social History

Research Article

The Orange Order in Scotland Between the Wars

Graham Walker


This paper focuses on the theme of religious conflict within the working class in inter-war Scotland. It pays particular attention to the Protestant working class of the industrial lowlands and to the role of the exclusively Protestant secret society of Irish origin, the Orange Order. It attempts to explain why the inter-war period saw an upsurge in membership of sectarian organisations like the Orange Order and their activities; and at the same time was notable for a broadening of Labour Party support among the working class which transcended religious divisions. It argues that sectarian and class loyalties often went together and in some ways reinforced each other. The Orange Order leadership's Conservative politics is stressed but it is contended that the Order's appeal to the working class was to a large extent based on issues such as education and mixed marriages and perceived Irish Catholic immigration, issues which did not break down neatly into party political terms. It is argued that the Orange Order's social role was of great significance in this period of economic austerity and mass unemployment.