The Fencible Regiment and the Battle of Saintfield
fighting for Irish liberty and Catholic Emancipation
In 1786 Britain was facing a major crisis. The country was at war with France and invasion was expected any day. The greatest worry was that a French army would land in Ireland and then invade England and Scotland.
At the same time the recent American War of Independence had produced a great desire for religious and financial freedom among the huge numbers of Ulster Presbyterians who had brothers and cousins who had fought for America. Theses men set up the “United Irishmen” to promote the same ideals as those expressed in the American Declaration of Independence.
To defend against these twin threats, the British government raised a number of Fencible Regiments in England and Scotland and sent most of them to Ireland. The York Fencible Regiment was raised in the City of York in 1792 and was sent to Ulster soon afterwards. The Regiment was stationed in Belfast and Comber. In 1796 (one year after the formation of the very first Orange Lodge) a lodge was formed within the ranks of the York Fencibles. This lodge was called Royal York No. 145 (The Royal prefix because the first warrant was signed by a son of King George III who later became King of Hanover.).
In 1798 the Battle of Saintfield was the first major victory for the United Irishmen in Ulster. The York Fencibles took the major part in the battle and suffered very heavy losses (56 officers and men from a total force of 250).
However the Royal York Lodge remained in existence and to this day still meets every month. The Lodge is very proud of its origins and still honours the men of the York Fencible Regiment.