In 1875 Number 97 George Street in Limerick, after partition re-named O’Connell Street, was purchased by the Limerick Protestant Young Men’s Association. The Association soon added a lecture hall and gym to the building, also accommodating a library, reading room and billiards room. At different times the premises performed the role of the HQ for Limerick Masonic Lodges, but perhaps of more interest is its use for another lesser known body, the last meeting place of the County Limerick Grand Orange Lodge.
The willingness of many Limerick Protestants to embrace Orangeism is not surprising given the towns place in the Glorious Revolution, namely the Siege of Limerick in 1690 and the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, but that history is now effectively erased as its Protestant population disintegrated. With the help of Military Orangeism it had one lodge in place as early as May 1798; but by 1836 had increased to eight. These eight lodges worked across three County districts namely Limerick, Ennis (County Clare) and Tralee (County Kerry). Decline led to no working County Lodge by the 1860’s, but a resurgance began in 1871 when it became the ‘Limerick District’ of County Cork Grand Orange Lodge, and in 1874 once again became a County Lodge in its own right.
At it’s peak there were circa 800 Orangemen within the County Limerick Orange Order, including LOL 2049 and LOL 2044 working in County Kerry- in 1883 LOL 2044 was permitted by Grand Lodge to call itself ‘The Kingdom of Kerry Loyal Orange Lodge’. It experienced another upsurge in membership during the Home Rule Crisis’ of 1886; but by 1899 it could no longer operate as a full County Lodge. Numbers had decreased as local Protestants became too scared to be identified with the Order in what was considered very ‘hostile’ territory. LOL 1080 ‘Luther’ was the last working Lodge in the County, and was dormant prior to the Great War.