History of RBP 503 'Guiding Star'

The original warrant of RBP 503, dated 27th October 1888, was given to the first Worshipful Master, Sir Knight James Reid of Ballyhannon, by the Imperial Grand Black Chapter and the title The Carrickblacker Guiding Star was assumed at a meeting in Dublin Orange Hall on Tuesday 6th December 1892.

The Preceptory was first encamped in a house to the rear of Sir Knight John Jones's farm at Ballyhannon, on the Drumnacanvey Road, halfway between Blacker's Mill and Bluestone Methodist church. Some time later the encampment was moved to a weaving shed, owned by a Mr John McCann, in the same locality and then later to a room belonging to T E Maginnis near the junction of the Breagh Road and Drumnacanvey Road.

Many of the records up until 1920 are missing but the original members included Worshipful Master James Reid, Deputy Master William Dickson and Robert H Bride, Dynes McMurray, Joseph Davison, George H Hart, William Jones, James Graham, Francis Best, George Davison, Samuel Gillespie, Robert H England and James R England. By July 1889 membership has risen to 16 and by 1900 to 26.

Sir Knight Reid died in 1901 and was succeeded the following year by Sir Knight Frederick W Maginnis, Carrickblacker Avenue and Sir Knight Henry McKenzie, 10 Market Street, until 1905, when Sir Knight David Rock, 14 Bridge Street, became Master and he remained in office until his death in 1937. Sir Knight Rock was also Portadown District Master during the latter period.

During the First World War some of the members, such as Sir Knight Joe Livingstone, served in the armed forces, while others supported the war effort at home.

By 1920 membership had risen to 59. On 13th July, when the Preceptory went to Scarva, the band that led them cost £3 and the expenses for the day amounted to £10-17-6.

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Until then the Preceptory paraded from the Hall, in the townland of Drumnacanvey, to join the District parade in Portadown and then proceeded to Scarva by train. This arrangement changed in 1922 when a charabanc was hired to bring the Preceptory members to Portadown. The levy for the day was 5/- (25p).

The Election of Officers, which took place every February, was conducted by the District Master, who in the 1920's was Sir Knight Bell, and always finished with a social evening, when members were entertained by songs and recitations. The levy for this was 2/6 (12pence) per member.

In 1928 increased costs for running the hall meant that the dues had to be raised to 1/- (5p) per month and in 1929 it was proposed that the annual rent paid to T E Maginnis be raised to £2-7-0 (£2.35). Since this was such a large amount it was decided to pay it in two installments of £1-3-6 (£1.17), in January and July. Another large expense at that time was the purchase of 24 yards of cord for the banner, which cost 12/- (60p) from R Corbett.

From the 1920's to the Second World War the Preceptory always had a band for 13th July. Ballyhannon Flute band accompanied them for the early period for £3 and when it disbanded Edgarstown Accordian Band came to their aid. In 1937 Tandragee Christian Accordian Band was engaged for £5. These years saw a decrease in the number of members with membership dropping to 28 at one point. 1937 was also a year of change, when the Preceptory lost its Worshipful Master, Sir Knight Rock, and his deputy Sir Knight George Hart took over, assisted by Sir Knight John Porter as Deputy Master. At this time it was proposed that a new banner be purchased from Messers Bridgett in Belfast and bear the portrait of the late Sir Knight Rock. The new banner was unfurled on 6th July 1938 in Edenderry Square, Portadown by Mrs Dougan, wife of the Westminster MP for Armagh, Dr G Dougan. A week later it was proudly carried in Scarva, the Preceptory being led by 3 pipers.

During the war years all demonstrations were suspended and the 13th July was celebrated by social evenings in the Hall. Several Sir Knights served on a district vigilance defence committee formed during these years.

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In 1940 T E Maginnis gave notice to the Preceptory that he required the building where the Preceptory met for other purposes and it was decided to write to Bluestone LOL 41 requesting the use of their hall for meetings. This request was turned down and another proposal that 'We rent the house at the bottom of the hill for our meetings' was passed. The rent was £2-12-0 (£2.60) annually. However the house needed a lot of repairs and the accumulated funds were boosted with the assistance and donations from a number of prominent local people to enable the repairs to be carried out.

1940 Donations ; - (Note this was in old pounds, shillings and pennies) Return to top
T E Maginnis 2.10 .0
Harold Calvert 10.0
Bumbury Atkinson 10 .0
Joe Bell 10.0
Watson Wilson 10.0
David England 10.0
John McCauley 10.0
Mr Clements 10.0
Total £ 6 .0 .0

Cost of Repairs
Lime 1 .8 . 0
Glass 5 . 3
Sand and cement 18.11
2 No. doors and case 1 .0 . 0
Lorry load of sand 1 .0 . 0
Lock and keeper 5. 2
1 Stone of plaster 1 . 6
Stove 1 .0 .0
£ 5.18.10

Following the improvement works it was unanimously decided that £12 surplus be deposited in the Belfast Savings Bank to earn some interest. In 1945 the new hall was officially opened and named the Victory Hall.

1945 also saw the resumption of the July demonstration and the Preceptory once again joined the Portadown District enroute for Scarva headed by 2 pipers and upon their return the ladies served a meal in Blacker's Mill canteen, kindly loaned by the owner, Harold Calvert.

The death occurred the previous year of Sir Knight John Porter and it was decided by the Preceptory to purchase a Bible in the memory of the late Deputy Master. The Rev Mann, rector of Knocknamuckley, who had recently joined the Preceptory on transfer, conducted a memorial service on 15th November 1945 at which the Bible was dedicated. The Rev Mann was also Portadown District Chaplain.

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In 1946 the treasurer, Sir Knight John Gillespie, was honoured by making him a free member in recognition of all the work he did for the Preceptory.

In 1947 quite a debate was caused with the decision to install electric lighting. A levy of 2/6 (12/p) was imposed on every member to defray expenses and the oil lamp, which was previously used, was sold to Knocknamuckley Parish Church for £2.

The following years saw a steady increase in membership until 1955 when it peaked at 112. New officers had taken over such as Robert Jones who was Worshipful Master from 1948 to 1952 and later Lecturer, Eric Davison who was Worshipful Master from 1953 to 1983, John Gillespie who was Treasurer from 1940 to 1974 and Leonard Wilson who was Deputy Master from 1945 to 1967. Sir Knight Gillespie holds the record for being the longest serving officer, holding continuous office for 34 years.

During these years the Preceptory received several gifts from members -Sir Knight Shepherd presented a portrait of Lt Col Stewart Blacker, Sir Knight J F Jones presented a picture, The Secret of England's Greatness1, Sir Knight J Livingstone presented a desk, Sir Knight W Harrison presented an oak cabinet, Sir Knight Leonard Wilson presented WM and DM chairs and the County Grand Master, Sir Knight Adair, presented an emblem cabinet and slides. New regalia was purchased in 1949 and a commemorative photograph was taken with the officers wearing the new collarettes.

In 1951 W Hynds carried out extensive renovations to the Victory Hall for £353-1-1 (£353.06). At the reopening ceremony, which was conducted by the County Grand Master, Sir Knight Adair, Sir Knights Robert Jones and Leonard Wilson were presented with clocks for their services to the Preceptory. From this time the hall was used for various missions and Carrowbrack Unionist Association held their regular meetings there.

During these years the Preceptory once again engaged bands for the 13th July. When Edgarstown Accordian Band increased their fee to £15 it was decided to engage Syerla Pipe Band for £10 and a few years later Bleary Pipe Band. In 1956 the Preceptory first used Tartaraghan Church for the refreshments in Scarva.

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1952 saw the start of the annual church services. On 16th November the venue was Knocknamuckley Parish Church. The following year the parade was moved to 13th September and the venue was Bluestone Methodist Church. Over 200 Sir Knights from the Preceptory and Portadown District were on parade. The minister of Bluestone, Rev Callender, conducted the service. The Rev Wesley Grey of Lurgan preached the sermon, the District Chaplain Rev Mann (also Chaplain of RPB 503) read the lesson and the soloist was Sir Knight Dawson, a member of the Preceptory.

The annual service alternated between the two churches each September until 1969 when, due to the troubles, the Minister of Home Affairs placed a six month ban on all parades. Similar bans were placed until 1972 when the annual service resumed, but it was poorly attended and the following year it was decided to discontinue it.

In 1964 it was decided to buy a new banner and after some discussion an order was placed with Tutill's in England for a new banner costing £95. The unfurling and dedication ceremony took place on 2nd July in a field, which is now the site of Charnwood Grange Housing Development. It was presided over by the District Master, Sir Knight H Whitten and ministers taking part were Rev J Shearer, Seagoe Parish Church and Rev V Silcock, Edenderry Methodist Church. Mrs Frances Davison, wife of the Worshipful Master, unfurled the banner and the dedication was by Rev A J Finch, rector of Knocknamuckley Parish Church.

Several changes took place during the ensuing years. In 1969 years of tradition were broken when Portadown District went to Scarva by bus, instead of train, but in 1985 this decision was reversed when the District once again reverted to rail transport.

Decimalisation took place in 1971 and it was decided to raise the dues to 15p to facilitate counting the money, it was pointed out that the combined costs of rent, rates, electricity and insurance came to over £40 per year and the proposal to move to Ballygargan Orange Hall, to share facilities with LOL107, was made, but the matter was left in abeyance. It was raised a few years later but a majority of members voted to remain in the Victory Hall, which was now to be known as 63 Drumnacanvey Road, under the new postal address system.

Heating the hall in the winter months caused a lot of discussion. Not enough electricity was being used to cover the £10 fixed charge and some members wanted to change to gas heating. Others pointed out that electric heaters should be purchased to use the electricity covered by the fixed charge, but no satisfactory solution was found. It was also hoped that Orange and Black Halls would be exempt from rates, but this never materialised.

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In 1974 it was first decided to acknowledge the long service record of members who had belonged to the Institution for more than 50 years and four Sir Knights, Robert Davison, Thomas Flavelle, James Major and Alfred Mayes, were made Honorary Members. The following year a plaque to the memory of Sir Knight George Hart, a past Worshipful Master and Sir Knight Leonard Wilson, a past Deputy Master, was finally unveiled. The idea of a plaque was first raised in 1968 and an order placed with an engraver, and after several years of false promises, the plaque was finally delivered and unveiled at the February meeting by the District Master, Sir Knight Whitten.

On 30th March 1976 a terrorist bomb destroyed the nearby Ballygargan Orange Hall. The Worshipful Master, Sir Knight Eric Davison was injured and a soldier killed. Most of the members of the Preceptory belong to LOL 107 and they offered them the use of the Victory Hall until their own was rebuilt. This offer was gratefully accepted and from then until August 1977 both Orange Lodge and Black Preceptory met in the one building. It was not until 1979 however that the Preceptory took the decision to move its encampment again. Since Ballygargan Orange Hall had been rebuilt RPB 503 had held several meetings in the new hall but at the July meeting it was unanimously decided to transfer the encampment to Ballygargan Orange Hall. In order to make full use of the facilities a Ladies Night was arranged for 23rd November. 96 tickets were sold and a profit of £211.90 was made. The first prize in the raffle was a goose, donated by Sir Knight Thomas Holmes. The Ladies Night was an annual event for many years thereafter.

In 1983 the Preceptory suffered the loss of Sir Knight Eric Davison who had been Worshipful Master since 1953. Since Sir Knight Davison was also Worshipful Master of LOL 107 and District Treasurer it was decided that a plaque be erected in his memory. The unveiling ceremony took place on 25th May 1984. Later that year the Royal Black Institution introduced long service medallions and the Preceptory decided to honour those whose membership was over 40 years. At the December meeting the District Master, Sir Knight John Toal presented 50 year long service medallions to Sir Knights Robert Davison, Thomas Holmes, James Major, James H Mayes, James Jennett, Arthur McDowell and Joseph Davison and 40 year long service medallions to Sir Knights Len Wilson, Robert Jones, Edward McNeill, Robert Jennett and George McCann.

During all these years the Preceptory continued to attend the Scarva Demonstration. From 1967 until 1980 the Crozier Memorial Pipe Band from Killylea accompanied the Preceptory. Many of its members worked at the Stronge Estate and when terrorists murdered Sir Norman Stronge and his son the estate was sold and many members left that area leading to the break up of the band, thus ending a long tradition between the band and the Preceptory. Stronge Memorial Accordian Band, Portadown Pipe Band Joseph Ford Memorial Pipe Band and Colonel Saunderson Pipe Band accompanied the Preceptory in the following years.

In 1978 the Preceptory began to avail themselves of the catering facilities of Annaghmore Parish Church on 13th July, but in later years returned to Tartaraghan Presbyterian Church. In 1982 a sum of £1000 was placed on deposit with the TSB when it was decided better use should be made of Preceptory funds. In 1986 the Preceptory purchased collarettes for use in Preceptory meetings.

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In 1985 an ex member of the Preceptory, Sir Knight- R J Mitchell, who went to reside In the Coleraine area, was invited, together with other members of his Preceptory, Ballywillan RPB 157, to attend the annual 13th July Demonstration. A coach load of Sir Knights met the Preceptory in Scarva. Unfortunately 1985 was the year the Government began to re-route parades and the Portadown demonstration was prevented from following its traditional route via Woodhouse Street and Obins Street. A large crowd gathered at Woodhouse Street, where a barrier had been erected, and tried to force the parade into a conflict with the police. Scuffles took place in the crowd and when the parade passed a baton charge was made. Despite all the unrest the visitors had an enjoyable time. Other guests who regularly attended 13th July Demonstrations were several Sir Knights from RPB 555, Ballyvicknakelly Dromore and members of RBP 503 reciprocate by attending their Last Saturday in August Demonstration.

In 1974 the Preceptory was saddened to see the departure of its treasurer of 34 years, Sir Knight John Gillespie, who was emigrating to America. A special meeting was held and Sir Knight Gillespie was presented with a Bible. A few years later Sir Knight Robert Jones retired as lecturer and the Preceptory presented him with a watch in recognition of his years of service.

In 1988 the Preceptory celebrated its centenary and several events took place. A special centenary photograph was taken on 13th July and an anniversary thanks-giving service was held en 11th September in Knocknamuckley Parish Church- The rector, Rev J McMaster conducted the service and Sir Knight Rev W T Hoey, District Chaplain Belfast No 7 District, gave the address. The Preceptory Chaplain, Sir Knight George Wilson read the lesson and Sir Knight Raymond Patterson sang a solo.

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A Centenary Dinner was held in Carleton Street Orange Hall on 21st October, at which the Sovereign Grand Master, Sir Knight James Molyneaux MP was guest of Honour. Other guests included County and District Officers. The Worshipful Master's wife, Mrs Gladys Martin, cut a special cake, in the shape of a Red Cross. The following Thursday (27th October) a special Centenary Meeting was held in the Cushnie Room, Brownlow House. The Worshipful Master, Sir Knight Alex Martin, conducted the meeting and among the guests were County Treasurer, Sir Knight Brownlee, Worshipful District Master, Sir Knight J Symington, Deputy District Master, Sir Knight J Hewitt and District Registrar, Sir Knight J Mathers. Sir Knights Alex Martin, Gordon Flavelle, and Robert McKeown were presented with 40 year long service medallions and Sir Knight Robert Jennett was presented with a 50 year bar. After the meeting members stayed for supper and then were given an interesting and informative tour of Brownlow House

The Preceptory has long been a supporter of The Ulster Society and in 1989 it was decided to invite one of its speakers to talk at a meeting. In December of that year a talk on the Establishment of Northern Ireland was given by David Trimble, a name that was to figure prominently in politics in years to come.

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During this time new collarettes and apron were purchased for the officers from Sir Knight W Scott, a future County Master.

In 1990 a special Tercentenary Black Saturday demonstration was held in Loughgall. Although Portadown District do not normally parade on that date an exception was made and RBP 503, accompanied by the reformed Crozier Memorial Pipe Band, took part in the demonstration. Earlier in the year the Preceptory lost its Treasurer, Sir Knight John Walsh, and a few months later the former Treasurer, Sir Knight John Gillespie, also passed away.

The following year the Worshipful Master, Sir Knight Alex Martin, stepped down and it was decided to rotate the office of Worshipful Master and Deputy Master around the members every three years. Sir Knight John Moffett served as Worshipful Master from 1991 -1994, Sir Knight William Jennett from 1994 - 1997, Sir Knight George Wilson from 1997 - 2000 and Sir Knight Raymond Patterson from 2000 - 2003. The current Worshipful Master is Sir Knight John Gillespie, grandson of the former Treasurer.

On the eve of the Bicentenary celebrations of the Battle of The Diamond, the Preceptory, in conjunction with LOL 107, held another Ulster Society talk. This time a talk on the Formation of The Orange Order was given by Bro Frazer Agnew and was well supported by members and friends.

Another special Brack Saturday Demonstration was held in 1996. This time in celebration of the 150lh anniversary of the reconstitution of the Royal Black Institution. The demonstration was held in Portadown and was attended by the County Armagh Districts and neighboring Districts from County Tyrone. The Preceptory found difficulty obtaining a suitable band for the occasion but was eventually able to secure the services of Aughnawhoory Pipe Band from Kilkeel.

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On the day prior to the demonstration Brownlow House, the headquarters of the Royal Black Institution, was seriously damaged in an arson attack and the following year an appeal was launched to help with repairs. The Worshipful Master, Sir Knight George Wilson, was instrumental in organising a word search competition, which raised £750. At the February meeting the County Grand Waster, Sir Knight S Gardiner, was presented with the proceeds.

By 1997 it was clear that the banner would have to be replaced- Some temporary repairs, costing £175, had bought a few years' grace but a few stormy 13th Julys had caused more damage and it was decided to replace the banner. LOL 107 was also considering a new banner and it was decided to have a joint unfurling. Several meetings took place to discuss the paintings on the banner and the final decision was Moses and the burning bush on the face and Elijah ascending to heaven in the chariot on the reverse. W J Jordan of Cookstown was commissioned to paint the banner. The joint unfurling ceremony took place on Saturday 6th June at Knocknamuckley Parish Church and a number of Orange and Black County Officers took part. The Guest of Honour was the Sovereign Grand Master, Sir Knight James Molyneaux MP and Mrs Sadie Patterson, wife of the Deputy Master unfurled the black banner. Both Orange and Black banners were paraded back to Ballygargan Orange Hall where refreshments were provided and commemorative photographs taken. Unfortunately due to the Drumcree situation Portadown District did not go to Scarva that year and the following year only paraded Portadown town centre.

During the latter years bands accompanying the Preceptory to Scarva have been varied. Colonel Saunderson Pipe Band gave way to Dunloy Accordian Band for a few years and The Rising Sons of Ulster, Tandragee, Leapoughs Pipe Band, Dromore, St Mark's Silver Band and Marlacoo Pipe Band succeeded these.

A few years back a tradition of sending Christmas cards to all the members has proved popular.

In recent years the Preceptory has lost some senior members who had played a prominent part during their membership, with the deaths of Sir Knight Len Wilson in 1997, Sir Knight Alex Martin in 2001 and Sir Knight Robert Jones in 2003.

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Membership has fluctuated over the years with a peak of 115 in 1955 but it tends remain in the region of 60-70. The success of the Preceptory is due to the dedication of its Officers and members over the years. Many work behind the scenes and faithfully attend the meetings every month, helping to make RBP 503 the largest preceptory in Portadown District.

 

Mandeville Unit Presentation

Charitable Outreach Achievement Shield 2011

Worshipful Masters
Sir Knight James Reid - 1888-1901
Sir Knight Frederick W Maginnis - 1902
Sir Knight Henry McKenzie - 1903-1905
Sir Knight David Rock - 1906-1937
Sir Knight George Hart - 1938-1947
Sir Knight Robert Jones - 1948-1952
Sir Knight Eric Davison - 1953-1958
Sir Knight John Gilpin - 1959-1960
Sir Knight Eric Davison - 1961-1983
Sir Knight Alex Martin - 1984-1990
Sir Knight John Moffett - 1991-1993
Sir Knight William Jennett - 1994-1996
Sir Knight George Wilson - 1997-1999
Sir Knight Raymond Patterson - 2000-2002
Sir Knight John Gtllespie - 2003-

Deputy Masters
Sir Knight William Dickson - 1888- ?
Sir Knight George Ruddock - ? -1923
Sir Knight Andy Carson - 1924-1931
Sir Knight Thomas Holmes - 1932
Sir Knight George Hart - 1933-1937
Sir Knight John Porter - 1938-1944
Sir Knight Leonard Wilson - 1945-1967
Sir Knight ten Wilson - 1968-1990
Sir Knight William Jennett - 1991-1993
Sir Knight George Wilson - 1994-1996
Sir Knight Raymond Patterson - 1997-1999
Sir Knight Harry Davison - 2000-2002
Sir Knight Maurice Wilson - 2003-

Chaplains
Sir Knight Andy Fulton - ? -1930
Sir Knight William Harrison - 1931-1945
Sir Knight Rev Mann - 1946-1954
Sir Knight George Hart - 1955-1961
Sir Knight David Craig - 1962
Sir Knight Robert Gillespie - 1963-1976
Sir Knight Alex Martin - 1977-1978
Sir Knight Ronald Wilson - 1979
Sir Knight George Wilson - 1980-1993
Sir Knight William Johnston -1994-

Registrars
Sir Knight Carter Hamilton -? -1928
Sir Knight Alex Bogan -1929
Sir Knight Robert Davison -1930-1936
Sir Knight Albert Porter -1937-1942
Sir Knight Robert Wilson -1943
Sir Knight John Kennedy -1944-1946
Sir Knight Robert Jones -1947
Sir Knight Sam Burns -1948-1952
Sir Knight Albert Templeton -1953-1954
Sir Knight John Walsh -1955-1956
Sir Knight Sam Burns -1957-1967
Sir Knight William Twinem -1968-1979
Sir Knight Ronald Wilson -1980-

Treasurers
Sir Knight John McMurray - ? -1932
Sir Knight James Jennett 1933- 1939
Sir Knight John Gillespie 1940 - 1974
Sir Knight John Walsh 1975 - 1990
Sir Knight William Twinem 1991 - 1994
Sir Knight Raymond Patterson 1995 - 1996
Sir Knight Victor Gillespie 1997 - 1999
Sir Knight John Gillespie 2000 - 2002
Sir Knight Victor Gillespie v2003 -