The Boyne Society

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 2 (Summer 1997), Letters, Letters, Volume 5

Sir,—In his recent letter (HI 4.4, Spring 1997) Patrick Maume correctly states that in some districts Protestant yeomanry corps continued to exist on an unofficial basis following the disbandment of the yeomanry as a body. He also says that such a body existed in the Crom Castle area of Fermanagh under the patronage of the Earl of Erne, and wonders whether other unofficial corps existed.
I would submit that other corps certainly existed and would mention, for one, the Boyne Society (known variously as the Royal Boyne Society and the Orange Boyne Society) which had a military wing.
The Boyne Society is believed to have been formed in Enniskillen shortly after the Williamite War and consisted, initially, of ex-servicemen. Soon the gentry and landlords perceived its usefulness in putting down Roman Catholic disturbances and it spread to many parts of the country. Around 1725, it evolved into a kind of Orange Freemasonry and organised its members into orders or grades. The membership of its first or noviciate order were designated ‘Boynemen’, whereas the members of its second or higher order were styled ‘The Knights of the Most Glorious Order of the Boyne’. It plagiarised wholesale from the Masonic Order and developed an intricate system of passwords and symbols. A number of its artefacts—essentially wall-charts depicting masonic-like symbols—are preserved in the Armagh County Museum, where some are on public display. Because of its semi-clandestine structure not much is known of the Boyne Society, and references to it by historians are rare.
It is most likely that the Boyne Society was still active in Fermanagh at the period to which Patrick Maume refers. It certainly was in nearby County Armagh. The Boyne Society had a significant bearing on the development of Orangeism and I should be grateful if anyone could throw further light on it.—Yours etc.,

KEVIN HADDICK FLYNN

London

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