Thousands turn out across NI for final summer parades

Tens of thousands turned out on Saturday to see the cream of Northern Ireland's marching bands performing in the last major loyal order parades of the season.

The 'last Saturday' Royal Black Parade makes it way through Cookstown.

Imperial Grand Registrar Billy Scott said that the traditional last Saturday in August parade by the Royal Black Institution drew its usual enthusiastic crowds across the six Northern Ireland venues.

“The last Saturday is seen by a lot of folk as the last day out before the children go back to school for the Autumn and that does make it an attractive day out,” he said.

“One of the other things that makes it a great day out is that simply we have many fewer separate events and far fewer participants than that of our Orange colleagues.

Buckna RBP 794 members Sammy Connor and George Mills with Lauren Connor of Ballygelly Accordion Band at the Co Antrim Grand Black Chapter demonstration in Larne. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON, PACEMAKER

“So our preceptories have a much better choice of bands to employ, and to be quite honest they tend to go for the very best they can afford.”

Limavady was “an excellent day” with some excellent bands and a good attendance of between 5-7500 people and 30 preceptories, he said.

“The key message preached by Rev Brian Hassin was that God is love. He spoke of the need to show love to others and that it is not just enough to keep the rules, but to show love to our fellow men and that we ought not to discriminate. He illustrated his sermon by asking ‘who is my neighbour?’ a question which Christ answered with the parable of the good Samaritan.”

The Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson was in Cookstown, where his address was well received and preacher Rev Dr David Murphy from Cullybackey spoke “extremely well” he said.

The annual County Down Grand Black Chapter procession 2018. The largest parade was in Newtownards where approximately 5,000 members of the Loyal Order where on parade. A total of 106 preceptories and over 100 bands took part in the four-mile procession. Picture By: Arthur Allison, Pacemaker

Former Irish Labour Senator Máiría Cahill, now a Lisburn and Castlereagh SDLP councillor, accepted an invitation to attend the Cookstown parade - which was watched by 15,000 people - and the following dinner.

She said: “Upon taking up the seat in Lisburn and Castlereagh Borough Council I made a commitment to reach across traditional divides and work for all constituents no matter class or creed.”

Mr Scott said that a colleague who had been at the Ards demonstration “said he had a good day but smiled and said he had sore feet”. It was a “very long” demonstration with a route of about 4.5 miles with big crowds of about 25,000 people. The speaker was former Free Presbyterian Moderator Rev Ron Johnston, Mr Scott said.

“In Larne there were 10-12,000 people from all over Co Antrim and they had a speaker from Child Evangelism Fellowship, who are our designated charity. They were very well received.”

Bandsmen in the annual County Down Grand Black Chapter procession 2018 in Ards. Picture By: Arthur Allison, Pacemaker

The city of Belfast parade, which traditionally marches in provincial locations, went this year to Ballymena. It was well attended and an address was given by Chris Cunningham, Royal Black Belfast city grand registrar, who was part of an outreach team in east Africa last summer.

“Donemana is probably one of the smallest demonstrations, which draws people from north and west Tyrone and even some from as far away as Co Donegal and Co Cavan. They had a good day also, with some 5000 people attending.”

Cromkill RBP 1191 members Robert Russell, Alan Steen, Billy Gillen, Sam Beattie, David Blair and Leslie Hazlett enjoy their picnic lunch in the field at the Co Antrim Grand Black Chapter demonstration in Larne. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
The Royal Black on parade in Ards for the last Saturday of August 2018. Picture By: Arthur Allison, Pacemaker