Last Saturday parades an ‘overwhelming success’ says Royal Black Institutioin

The leader of the Royal Black Institution has hailed yesterday’s “Last Saturday” parades as “an overwhelming success that bodes well for the future of the Institution”.

The Loyal Order’s flagship day usually involves major demonstrations at six locations across Northern Ireland.

However, this year, with Covid still in circulation, the Institution held “Local Last Saturday” parades, with events organised at District level.

Yesterday witnessed around 17,000 members of the Institution taking part in 28 separate demonstrations - including Larne and Ballyclare..

The Ulster Grenadiers from Carrickfergus on parade at the Royal Black Institution annual Last Saturday parade in Belfast City Centre. Picture: Philip Magowan / Press Eye

Approximately 350 preceptories, most accompanied by bands, brought a colourful parade of music, pageantry and beautiful banners to various cities, towns and villages across the Province.

Among those to host a “Local Last Saturday” parade were Lisburn, Ballymena, Antrim, Larne, Ballymoney, Ballyclare, Killylea, Loughgall, Belfast, Dromore, Clough, Newry, Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Rathfriland, Kilkeel, Comber, Newtownards, Ballygowan, Bangor, Coleraine, Limavady, Desertmartin, Dungannon, Aughnacloy, Cookstown, and Castlederg.

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson, who was on parade with fellow Sir Knights in Desertmartin, said it had been a successful day.

“The Royal Black Institution has once again staged a very enjoyable day for our members, their families and supporters,” he said.

The Ulster Grenadiers from Carrickfergus on parade at the Royal Black Institution annual Last Saturday parade in Belfast City Centre. Picture: Philip Magowan / Press Eye

“Last year, our traditional Last Saturday demonstrations were cancelled due to Covid, but we managed to mark the day by holding wreath-laying

events and drive-in services.

“Of course, we would have dearly loved to return to holding six main demonstrations again this year, but we thought it was more responsible to

organise District parades.

“It seems the public have responded to this very favourably, with people enjoying a Last Saturday closer to home, and the day has been an

overwhelming success that bodes well for the future of the Institution.

“After 18 months of the pandemic, the Institution has proven today that it is as strong and vibrant as ever before, and we are deeply appreciative of

the support and affection shown by the public towards us at each of the 28 parades across Northern Ireland. And God willing, we’ll be able to make a full return to our traditional ‘Last Saturday’ parades in 2022.”

A short religious service was held at each of today’s Last Saturday parades.

“It was wonderful to join with fellow Sir Knights and worship Almighty God,” said Rev Anderson. “We have so much to be thankful for – His guiding hand continues to lead us through the pandemic and, of course, we thank God for all the brave health workers who have worked tirelessly to care for us and administer the vaccine rollout.”

The parades were also an opportunity for participants and supporters to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland.

At each of the parades, resolutions were passed by Sir Knights on Faith, Loyalty, and the Constitution, with the latter calling for the removal the

Northern Ireland Protocol.

“We wish to remain in the United Kingdom and our citizenship of such is not open for negotiation or to be used as a bargaining tool by either Her Majesty’s Government or any foreign power,” said the resolution.