Peep O'Day Boys


Peep O'Day Boys

The Peep O'Day Boys was a Protestant faction fighting group in 18th century Ireland, active in the 1780s and '90s and precursor of the Orange Order.

It was formed in or around 1784 in County Armagh as an exclusively Anglican association to push out economic competition from Catholics for leases, rents and in the linen producing business following the relaxation of some of the Penal Laws. Their name derived from the practice of attacking Catholic homes at dawn (the "peep of day") and wrecking their linen weaving machinery. They were also referred to as "Protestant Boys", "Wreckers" and "Orangemen", and did not confine their attacks to Catholics but also targeted dissenting Protestants such as Presbyterians and Quakers.

In response, Catholics formed a group known as the Defenders and regularly clashed with the Peep O'Day Boys until violence reached a pitch in 1795, when the two groups fought the "Battle of the Diamond" in Loughall, County Armagh. Between thirty and eighty Defenders were killed by the better armed Peep O'Day Boys and in celebration of this victory, the Peep O'Day Boys were re-organised as the Orange Order. ["Later apologists rather implausibly deny any connection between the Peep O'Day Boys and the first Orangeman or, even less plausibly, between the Orangemen and the mass wrecking of Catholic cottages in Armagh in the months following the Diamond; all of them, however, acknowledge the movement's lower class origins"." - "from article" "The Men of No PoperyThe Origins of The Orange Order" (Jim Smyth, History Ireland Vol 3 No 3 Autumn 1995)]

Throughout the 1790s, the Peep O'Day Boys or Orangemen expelled up to 7,000 Catholics from their homes in central Ulster. Orangemen and ex-Peep O'Day Boys were also involved in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 providing Yeomanry corps and supplementary loyalist militias to the service of the government.

References


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