Loughgall May Morning Drive – Saturday 14th May 2022
A goodly number of sevens embarked on a delightful run commencing at mid morning with Geoffrey Livingstone requesting that we return to base at around 1:00 pm to enjoy the catering offerings by members of St Luke’s parish Church, Loughgall. We set off, led by our Chairman Declan Grogan on a route that embraced the best of rural Northern Ireland, for we witnessed the spring labours of modern farming, from winnowing freshly cut grass in readiness for balers to make and wrap up silage for feeding cattle, to the many groves of orchards where apple trees were in full bloom everywhere.
Otherwise there were sheep and cattle aplenty enjoying the warm sunshine and calmness just as we did as we were buzzing along in our Sevens, all tuned up and polished for this historic big event. Our mid term stop was at a cottage farm house where the entrance was festooned with brightly coloured balloons. The members of the community were having a spring gathering, giving each other time to catch up on their socialising deficits, having perhaps been our of contact for the two years just passed, on account of the dreadful Covid 19.
What was more interesting and a huge surprise to us all, was the deep historical links of the dwelling house, known as Dan Winter’s Cottage. The vernacular 1703 cottage, owned and lived in by Dan Winter and his son Daniel, came to fame on 21st September 1795. It was in the top sitting room where Winter, Wilson, Sloan and other leaders met, following the Diamond Battle to discuss the forming of a new organisation which is known world wide as the Orange Order. The formal launch took place later in Sloan’s house in Loughgall where the first warrants were issued. For over 200 years members of the Order, their families and friends, have visited the ancestral home in the farmyard.
The official Department of Environment listing schedule states ‘This house is accepted as the meeting place following the Battle of the Diamond where the decision to form the Orange Order was made.’
The third Dan Winter, grandson of Dan of Orange fame, lived here until 1891. About 1912 his son Robert added the front porch and put the corrugated iron roof over the thatch which may still be seen by visitors looking up through the loft hatch. Robert’s son Bertie built a new dwelling close by in 1953, and the family moved from the ancestral home. This historic house has been maintained by the family to this day. We were treated as special visitors and were greeted by Mrs. Winter and family. As we entered the farmhouse, Mrs Winter was attending to a huge open fire of timber and turf in readiness for the large community group expected at Noon. We were shown shown maps, old family papers and relics from the Battle and some from earlier days.
One relic is the old 17th century chair, said to be of French origin and to have come with the family when they first settled in this area. The Winter’s first appearance was noted in the records of the local Ballyhagan Quaker meetings of 1665. The house and farm are still owned by the Winter family, the farm is now run by Geoffery Daniel Winter, who is the grandson of Bertie, and the son of the late Derek Winter and thus the direct descendant of the famous Dan. The family are happy to accept tours and talks and refreshments are available via booking by telephone or email. To us, this was a most interesting visit to a place of historical interest.
We completed the return leg of our journey without incident apart from a series of map reading adventures where we were going to and fro on a couple of stages without making any noticeable progress. The last leg of our journey was along a private road intersecting an orchard full of pink apple blossom which set against the blue sky was the perfect setting for orchard photos of our cars. We took the opportunity of taking a group shot of us all for posterity.
Happily we returned on time and parked up our cars in line ready for the visitors and admirers to come along and do their inspection. Our kind friends of St Luke’s parish had hot food and cold drinks available for us all. The catering corps comprised of Doreen, young Rhys, Philip and Mary. It must be recorded at we were very pleased with the service they provided to us all for our lunchtime sustenance at Loughgall.