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Sisters Of The Lodge

Director: Alison Millar
Producer: Margo Harkin for Besom Productions Ltd.
Executive Producer: Paul McGuigan for BBC Northern Ireland
Co-Production: Besom Productions Ltd. and Erica Starling Productions
Broadcaster: Broadcast on 21 March 2011 at 9.00pm on BBC Northern Ireland and repeated on 11 July 2011 at 10.40pm on BBC Northern Ireland


Film maker Alison Millar spent a year behind the scenes with the ladies of the Loyal Orange Lodges of Ireland. Given unprecedented access, her film reveals for the first time the private rituals and ceremonies of this secretive organisation. Sisters of the Lodge makes for compelling viewing. The film was funded by BBC Northern Ireland supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.


For the first time in one hundred years the Association of Loyal Orange Women of Ireland is trying to dispel the myth that they are a secret organisation, by inviting the filmmaker Alison Millar into the inner sanctum of their lodge rooms. Filmed over the course of one year 'Sisters of the Lodge' is a new hour long documentary from BBC NI, which explores the lives of these loyal women and the private rituals and ceremonies that make them part of an orange sisterhood.

Growing up in a rural protestant community in Northern Ireland Alison remembers the ladies walking behind the orange men on the 12th of July with their fancy hats and handbags. Thirty years on she decided to embark on a journey with this old protestant organisation to discover how it was fairing in a modern, more secular Northern Ireland and to find out if the ladies orange had become more than just the tea makers for the men. After a false start in 1887 a Mrs Johnstone from County Cavan reformed the Association in 1911. The impetus for the Association's reformation was in response to the 'Ne Temere' decree by the Roman Catholic Church regarding the religious upbringing of children born of a mixed marriage. The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued the first Warrant to the ladies organisation in February 1912.

Initially Alison was told by the Most Worshipful Grand Mistress of Ireland, Olive Whitten MBE, that she will not be allowed to film an actual lodge meeting because she is not a member of the association, but does promise Alison that the sisters will re-enact certain rituals that will give her an insight into the loyal institutions and what is means to be an orange sister. In the documentary Alison follows several members of the association from private lodge members in the Star of Dromore Lodge WLOL 66 to the trustees of Grand Lodge. They invite her to their 12th July celebrations and to one of the most elaborate events hosted by the ladies, an Orange Ball. "Growing Up in a rural Protestant Community I used to make a picnic and go to the field with my granny to see the local Orangemen. I remember seeing the ladies with their fancy hats and handbags. I often wondered what ever happened to them ... ? " Alison Millar.

As her journey progressed Alison was given unprecedented access to the hierarchy of the organisation and allowed to ask questions about its secret rule book - filmed for the first time ever on camera. She witnessed first-hand some of the secret rituals and ceremonies of the order - and was invited by the sisters in Coleraine to attend one the highlights of their year - an 'Orange Ball'. Olive explained to Alison that this was an ancient ritual that had never been seen before, let alone filmed:

"This was one of the most fascinating rituals that we filmed. It involved swords, lit candles, a portrait of the queen and a whispering sequence. In all my years of making documentaries this has to be one of the oldest and most unusual things I have ever filmed..." Alison Millar.

What emerges from the year Alison spent with the sisters of the lodge is a compelling insight into a deeply fascinating and clandestine organisation. 'Sisters of the Lodge' was broadcast on BBC Northern Ireland on 21 March 2011 & repeated on 11 July 2011.

'Sisters of the Lodge' was made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland for BBC Northern Ireland .

Domestic viewing copies available on DVD for £17 (inclusive of VAT) plus postage and packing. For Institutional rates or teaching purposes, please contact Margo at