Belfast Telegraph

Orange Order member McNarry lifts lid on 'ride the goat' ritual for new recruits

David McNarry
David McNarry
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

An Orangeman has revealed prospective members must go through an initiation ritual know as "riding the goat" before they can become full members of the institution.

Former MLA and Orangeman for over 40 years David McNarry was speaking on the BBC Radio Ulster Talkback show on the progress made by the the 222-year-old organisation and its rules and regulations.

He spoke of the "journey" prospective members had to go on saying you had to "ride the goat" before you could officially wear the sash.

"If you join something you sign up to the rules, you take an oath," he said.

"You go through various rituals in terms of the journey that you are taking to join the Orange Order.

"There's the fearsome bit about riding the goat."

He refused to disclose details of the ceremony, adding: "For those that haven't ridden it I am not going to spoil it for them.... but it scared the hell out of me."

He said every Orangeman would have had to complete the ritual and when he "rid the goat" over 40 years ago he was "intrepid in going to Comber Orange Hall that night".

"I'd never been on a horse, never mind a goat," he joked. 

Mr McNarry was talking about the attitude of the organisation after former Presbyterian moderator Ken Newell said there was a "reservoir of anti-Catholicism and sectarianism" in the Orange Order.

Much of what goes on behind Orange Lodge closed doors remains shrouded in mystery. It is known that members pledge allegiance to the Crown and commit their faith to God.

It is thought to be a popular misconception that the 'ride the goat' ceremony actually involves an animal. Stories have been told of tethered goats being led into Orange halls on meeting nights and brethren gambolling around the lodge room like amateur night at the local rodeo.

Some online sites claim it involves a member being covered in a blanket before being kicked and pushed by members of the chapter.

One explanation of the 'goat' story is derived from a very early Masonic ritual book, in which God is referred to as 'God of all things', hence the acronym GOAT and the ritual is to symbol the treatment he might face from his fellow brethren should he divulge the secrets of the institution.

This newspaper has reported that there is documentary evidence to show that over the years some brethren were injured during the ceremonies. The most serious incident happened in 1925 during a lodge meeting in Newry in Co Down in which a member was accidentally fatally shot.

On this occasion, the gun was accidentally loaded with a live round. When the trigger was pulled, the man was shot and fatally wounded. The member responsible for firing the gun was charged and sent for trial, but he was eventually acquitted of culpable homicide.

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