What the Twelfth means to me…

Talkback featured its annual July 11th discussion on bonfires, including this one in Ballycraigy, Antrim. To the left of the bonfire is a bouncy castle, as well as face painters, much to the delight of the many children gathered at the site. The message here, however, is clear. The prominent siting of the ‘Kill All Taigs’ tricolour is a frightening reminder of what this day is all about for many nationalists: a ritual baptism of a tribal hatred of catholics. That may seem- or indeed be- unfair to many raised in the unionist tradition, but nevertheless it remains the over-riding perception of nationalists to the Orange celebrations that are now upon us.

For my benefit, I would invite personal experiences and perceptions- particularly from unionists- of the 11th Night and the Twelfth, and particularly what changes would be necessary- or even desirable- to alter perceptions of the meaning of the celebrations or to transform it into an occasion in which the political baggage can be left behind (if those are in themselves goals worth striving for.)I would like to urge posters to avoid the temptation to engage in ‘whataboutery’ in their contributions and instead treat each post on its merits as the genuine thoughts and sentiments of each respective contributor.

  • Christopher Stalford

    I would recommend you read The Twelfth and What it Means to Me, edited by Gordon Lucy and Elaine McClure, published by the Ulster Society. It has a good cross section of opinion reanging from our own David Brewster, through to people like the late Rowel Friars and Michael Longley – a very interesting book.

    As for the Talkback discussion, I found Councillor John Scott’s contribution interesting to say the least.

    Regards

    Christopher

  • andy

    Most 11th night bonfires seem to consist of sectarian slogans, drunk 12 year olds and paramilitary shows of strength.

    Do decent people attend these fires, or is it all riff raff.

  • Prince Eoghan

    “The prominent siting of the ‘Kill All Taigs’ tricolour is a frightening reminder of what this day is all about for many nationalists: a ritual baptism of a tribal hatred of catholics. That may seem- or indeed be- unfair to many raised in the unionist tradition”

    A tradition that advocates killing, why do you wish to not seem unfair in calling a spade a spade? Are they not calling out to kill all Taigs?

    Sometimes I find the whole situation incredible, from the Paddy’s day carry-on onwards. No civilised society would tolerate this kind of undisguised hatred, nor should they.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Eoghan: “A tradition that advocates killing, why do you wish to not seem unfair in calling a spade a spade? Are they not calling out to kill all Taigs? ”

    Don’t you mean calling a spide a spide?

    And, Eoghan — you’re disparaging their culture! Telling uncomfortable truths about other fulks’ cultures can lead to folks making accusations of one-eyed hatred…

    All kidding aside — folks frequently dislike awkward or uncomfortable truths. No doubt the inevitable rush of “only a bad few percent” will be here shortly to say that its just a few bad apples, etc.

    Eoghan: “Sometimes I find the whole situation incredible, from the Paddy’s day carry-on onwards. No civilised society would tolerate this kind of undisguised hatred, nor should they. ”

    And, yet, the NIO seems to prefer appeasement to law enforcement. Likewise, there are no shortage of “ordinary, decent, law-abiding” Unionists who prefer to shake their heads, mutter “spides will be spides” and go about their business.

  • Chris, the reason why everyone has a good laugh when the Provettes appear, and start mummimg morality, is really very simple. Obscene slogans like ‘KAT’ are repulsive; the people who pen them should be charged with something, and the rest of us should be glad there are so very few of them. Murdering people is worse than daubing letters on flags. When or if you ever understand this, you’ll then realise that while we good guys want to stamp sectarianism out, we’re nowhere near foolish enough to think the most bitterly sectarian people in Northern Ireland are going to be any use in that crusade. And who are the most bitterly sectarian people in Northern Ireland? Go on, guess. Or look at your glossy Marty McG posters for another clue.

  • Prince Eoghan

    So sectarianism is ok as long as they are not acting it out(crap) and it is all marty’s fault. Why look within, when you can blame the Taigs, eh?

  • pith

    Is that an Ikea bonfire in the picture? Where have all the old sofas and branches gone? Is that car going to tow it all away?

    That’s what the 11th night means to me.

  • fair_deal

    PE and DC

    I must ask why you come to slugger as you don’t seem to wait for answers from others just make up the ones you want to hear?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Karl Rove: “Obscene slogans like ‘KAT’ are repulsive; the people who pen them should be charged with something, and the rest of us should be glad there are so very few of them. Murdering people is worse than daubing letters on flags.”

    And yet, most of the Unionist simply “tut tut” and go about their business, preferring to avert their eyes and subscribe to the silly notion that those slogans are meant to honor some Danish football player or some such.

    I agree that, in the hierarchy of sins, murder outranks sectarian intimidation. However, are not the folks who do the former also the perpetrators, generally speaking, of the latter?

    Karl Rove: “you’ll then realise that while we good guys want to stamp sectarianism out, we’re nowhere near foolish enough to think the most bitterly sectarian people in Northern Ireland are going to be any use in that crusade.”

    Ah, yes — the ordinary “decent” Unionist. Tell you what, Karl. With all this wanting, you’d think some action might manage to eke its way into play. Words are nice, but they are no match for deeds.

    Karl Rove: “And who are the most bitterly sectarian people in Northern Ireland?”

    Well, take a look at whose still out killing folks over the wrong jersey and get back to me.

  • Briso

    Could all my fellow taigs please STFU? I can’t hear a damn thing in here.

  • Yeah, the symbol currently known as Titwad, “sectarianism is ok as long as [the Orange sewers] are not acting it out (crap) and it is all marty’s fault. Why look within, when you can blame the Taigs, eh?” Obviously when I wrote, ‘Obscene slogans like ‘KAT’ are repulsive; the people who pen them should be charged with something, and the rest of us should be glad there are so very few of them’, that’s just what I meant. Well done you for defying reason, common sense and a basic grasp of English, and figuring out my hidden meaning. My God, and to think I almost got away with it. Damn you pesky Provettes!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    FD: “I must ask why you come to slugger as you don’t seem to wait for answers from others just make up the ones you want to hear? ”

    Are you saying that we’re inaccurate or simply inconvenient?

  • Ziznivy

    “I would like to urge posters to avoid the temptation to engage in ‘whataboutery’ in their contributions and instead treat each post on its merits as the genuine thoughts and sentiments of each respective contributor.”

    Yes indeed. Let’s leave the whataboutery behind and get stuck into the virulent unionist bashing that is increasingly this site’s trademark.

    There are some extremely distasteful facets of some bonfires without a doubt. No-one would defend a flag saying kill all taigs being burned. In the context of a intemperate display by mainly young and uneducated people it is hardly as surprising or as sinister as it is painted. Sadly atavistic hatreds exist on both sides of the divide here, but I see this flag as something akin to the kind of pantomime displays of hatred some football fans indulge in regarding their rivals.

  • idunnomeself

    I thought this thread was a Sinn Fein asking Unionists for their experiences of this part of Ni culture, in order to broaden his knowledge about it.

    I respect Chris for doing this, I trust he will read our comments with an open mind and use them to inform his, and his party collegues, views.

    Unfortunately straight away the thread is filled with people telling me what bonfires mean to me. Apparantly they are very bad things, and I am a nasty person if I even admit that I have ever attended one.

    I’ll tell you tomorrow what I think about what goes on tonight in my neighbourhood and i will be honest, if I manage to get any tourists/ immigrants to come with me I’ll tell you what they think too

  • george

    “akin to the kind of pantomime displays of hatred some football fans indulge in regarding their rivals.”

    KAT – kill All Taigs

    ATAT – All Taigs Are Targets

    Some pantomime !!

  • Stephen Copeland

    Ziznivy,

    I see this flag as something akin to the kind of pantomime displays of hatred some football fans indulge in regarding their rivals.

    That comment is entirely indefensible.

    You are trying to minimise the very real threat that the people who build these bonfires pose to ordinary Catholics. To even use a word like ‘pantomime’ shows a complete lack of understanding, both of the murderous activities of loyalists past and present, and indeed even the damage they are causing to their own communities.

    How many murders, stabbings, rapes, beatings, devestated streetscapes and frightened lives do you think an average ‘pantomime’ involves?

  • Posted by Dread Cthulhu on Jul 11, 2006 @ 04:15 PM

    Karl Rove: “Obscene slogans like ‘KAT’ are repulsive; the people who pen them should be charged with something, and the rest of us should be glad there are so very few of them. Murdering people is worse than daubing letters on flags.”

    And yet, most of the Unionist simply “tut tut” and go about their business, preferring to avert their eyes and subscribe to the silly notion that those slogans are meant to honor some Danish football player or some such.

    I agree that, in the hierarchy of sins, murder outranks sectarian intimidation. However, are not the folks who do the former also the perpetrators, generally speaking, of the latter?

    What the blithering f*ck do you want us to do? We don’t vote for the front organisations for murdering sectarian gansters, so we can’t, for instance, stop voting for them. So in the specific instance of these morons and that bonfire, you tell me Sancho, what would you do? Climb up and rip it down? Thanks, but I think I’ll pass on that one. You know how it is with the old Saville Row threads. But seriously, you’re yammering on about how ‘Unionists’ ought to do soemthing. Tripe. Everyone, in that vague, echt-liberal sense of ‘I’ve sloganeered and hoped someone else will come along and actually deal with the problem’, ought to do something. By not voting for paramilitary ‘parties’, the vast bulk of Unionists have done that windy something. Sadly fewer and fewer Nationalists do likewise these days. But perhaps you did after all mean, what physically am I or any other Unionist going to do about filth like that flag? About the same as you I imagine: wish that the sodding Police would do something about it, pretend that the criminal law hadn’t been hollowed out in this place over the last decade, and, realistically, expect bugger all to actually happen*.

    Karl Rove: “you’ll then realise that while we good guys want to stamp sectarianism out, we’re nowhere near foolish enough to think the most bitterly sectarian people in Northern Ireland are going to be any use in that crusade.”

    Ah, yes—the ordinary “decent” Unionist. Tell you what, Karl. With all this wanting, you’d think some action might manage to eke its way into play. Words are nice, but they are no match for deeds.

    See above. I’ve the fairly strong feeling that my deeds against sectarianism are at the very least equal to your own.

    Karl Rove: “And who are the most bitterly sectarian people in Northern Ireland?”

    Well, take a look at whose still out killing folks over the wrong jersey and get back to me.

    [deep breath sucked in] Well that takes the Copeland cup for literalism: look at what I’ve written: sectarianism = bad; stop it. It really couldn’t be any clearer. But because of course you see one of themuns penning something like that, there naturally, you give every apperance of assuming, has to be a covert sectarian agenda. Just think for one second about your persistent asumption as to a.) there being ‘another side’ (there isn’t: we should all be on the same non-sectarian, law-abiding side) & b.) that anything I have said is informed by anything other than a strong desire for constitutionalism. That words and not bully boys in balaclavas should be the medium through which Northern Irish politics is conducted. Blind, blind, blind.

    *That, incidentally, in case you truly are so purblind that you think it’s a pro-sectarian point, is a lament at the state of post-Belfast Agreement policing in NI.

  • Prince Eoghan

    “Yeah, the symbol currently known as Titwad, “sectarianism is ok as long as [the Orange sewers] are not acting it out (crap) and it is all marty’s fault. Why look within, when you can blame the Taigs, eh?” Obviously when I wrote, ‘Obscene slogans like ‘KAT’ are repulsive; the people who pen them should be charged with something, and the rest of us should be glad there are so very few of them’, that’s just what I meant. Well done you for defying reason, common sense and a basic grasp of English, and figuring out my hidden meaning. My God, and to think I almost got away with it. Damn you pesky Provettes!”

    Karl, so many insults. Damn we have hardly even been introduced yet. Why miss out the important second part of your post that contradicts this. All you are doing is further pointing out the contradiction in your post. You can’t glibly condemn with one hand then excuse and blame others with the other. Well you can but you won’t get away with it I’m afraid. I stand by my reading of your post. It may have helped, to be more honest in repeating the lot not just the nice part:¬)

    FD.

    PE.
    ” must ask why you come to slugger as you don’t seem to wait for answers from others just make up the ones you want to hear?”

    I do not, I also seek to answer any points put to me as honestly as possible. Some could take note on this. Anyone would think you didn’t want me to post here FD?

  • Briso

    I’ll tell you tomorrow what I think about what goes on tonight in my neighbourhood and i will be honest, if I manage to get any tourists/ immigrants to come with me I’ll tell you what they think too

    Posted by idunnomeself on Jul 11, 2006 @ 04:35 PM

    I’ll be glad to hear it. I was hoping to learn something in this thread.

  • Well Sherlock Eagleton, my whole post’s up there, so if anyone wants to mooch along and made a better fist of deconstructing some sectarianism out if it, they’re welcome to give it a shot [sic, sorry, those have been decomissioned, haven’t they?]

    Meanwhile, for some context on the ould Prince here, here’s another of his posts, in full, from that fantasy land thread:

    Lib.

    I don’t believe fr. Reid to be far wrong.
    Kensei, couldn’t have said your last line better myself.
    Gerry, Glad to note that you don’t advocate Nationalists leaving their own land, it would help in not giving that impression, by not alluding to it again. I also believe that you are peeved that I have noticed that, apart from showing your obvious ant-Irishness, that you have nothing constructive to add.

    Bring back Keith M.

    Posted by Prince Eoghan on Jul 11, 2006 @ 04:03 PM

    That would be the Fr. Reid who thought Unionists were Nazis; Nazis would be the people who killed all them Jews and what have you; Prince Eoghan would be the fellow who thought that Fr Reid was not far wrong in confusing the two. I hope this helps.

  • fair_deal

    Chris

    I will begin with experiences first.

    I have experience of both the non-Belfast and Belfast 11th nights. In my home estate, growing up collecting for the bonfire used to be a brief affair, it began usually with the end of school terms. As there were large fields beside the estate siting and storage of material wasn’t a problem. There would be two fires – one would be lit at about 9pm for the younger children and then the main one at midnight. There were never paramilitary displays at the bonfire and there still aren’t. The site has since moved as the fields have been developed and the estate now competes to have the largest in the town.

    The next morning would commence with the local band parading the estate then off in the car to the parade (my father’s membership of the OO had lapsed at the time – he has since rejoined).

    We’d usually go to the North Antrim parade in the morning, a very large one but one I tended not to enjoy. Blood and thunder was the pheonomenon of my generation and this parade had very few. Worse it had a high incidence of the dreaded accordion band. In the afternoon, we’d go to a different parade often the Independent OO usually in Portlegnone. Then back to the town to see the return parade of the local lodges. Throughout the day and in the parade we would meet or wave to friends and relatives.

    In terms of the Loyal orders, I first became a participant when I joined the Apprentice Boys at 17 (juvenile arthritis had put pay to my fluting, music’s gain trust me). A class member had joined his father’s club and he recruited four others to join shortly after. Our common membership is how we have kept in touch over the last 15 years.

    I joined the OO when I came to Belfast. It became clear to me that the 11th night bonfire was a much bigger thing in Belfast (and this attitude seems to have spread). When I first moved into the area I now live there were 15 separate fires within a mile of my house, most small affairs with 3/4 big ones. It is also the first time I saw a paramilitary display at a bonfire.

    In the area over the past few years the number of bonfires has significantly declined. It was down to 3 last year (although it has crept up to 5 this year). There has also been a reduction in the type of undesireable materials but by no means their complete removal. The paramilitary displays also stopped three years ago. A regular programme of events is now put on for kids too. As I type there are children with painted faces on bouncy castles outside my house.

    In terms of the Twelfth day, I put on my suit eat a fry and then walk down to the hall to meet up with my lodge, collarette in hand. Two of the members, I will not have seen for a year as the live and work in Dubai but return every year. Usually try to dodge the eye of the District officers too, I’m a trained marshal so sometimes asked to leave my lodge to do that thankless task. Then the morning parade to Clifton Street for the gathering of the Lodges. There aren’t big crowds along the parade route at this stage.

    As my mother comments she has never seen as disorganised a bunch of people as the OO but somehow they manage to pull off the Twelfth. So after some organised confusion the parade proper starts. The crowds have grown by this stage and you just walk in rhythm to the band tunes, say hello to whoever you know and banter with Lodge members. Most people have a usual spot to watch the parade so over the years you know were to look out for people.

    At the field a quick bite to eat then wander over to see the platform party and now the extra entertainment provided. It has become a rule that I will meet someone in the field I haven’t met for about five years, usually from University. Then the organised confusion again for the return parade. After the sit down in the field legs will be a bit stiff and feet that more difficult to lift. Shaftesbury Square is the most intense part on the return parade, the huge crowd, the narrow gap for lodges and bands, the music and the cheering and shouting. Shortly after we disperse at our hall after singing the national anthem and then back to the master’s house for food and my first alcoholic drink of the day. Then a slow walk up home as the legs get very stiff.

  • Rory

    I recall going out after work one 11th night, around about 1967, from our office in University Avenue. After a few we decided to head for Sandy Row for the craic and everything was going swimmingly – we dancing round the bonefire accepting swigs of sweet sherry from offered bottles and getting on famously with some “wee dolls” in micro skirts. Until, that is, one wee doll spotted my mate’s Pioneer badge and stepped back with finger pointing and a heart rending screech of “Feenn – yanns!”.

    We legged it sharpish to safety. Still I can’t sometimes but think of what might have been.

    So, Mabel, if you’re still out there and still keep a little bonefire in your heart, get in touch through Slugger. (We won’t need to bother upsetting Herself about anything, will we?)

  • smirkyspice

    I’m from Canada but now live in Belfast. This will be my third July here and I am no closer to inviting international friends and family to visit us this time of year. Orangefest? I don’t think there’s a name for this, to try to jazz it up for tourists. Tourists do not understand people burning the Irish flag with glee. Burning tyres?? we let this happen because..??

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Karl Rove: “What the blithering f*ck do you want us to do? We don’t vote for the front organisations for murdering sectarian gansters, so we can’t, for instance, stop voting for them.”

    Not an UUP/PUP fellow then, eh?

    Karl Rove: “So in the specific instance of these morons and that bonfire, you tell me Sancho, what would you do? Climb up and rip it down? Thanks, but I think I’ll pass on that one. You know how it is with the old Saville Row threads.”

    Prefer Brooks Brothers myself, but I take your point. As for what to do, how about not letting the shite pile up in the first place? Failing that, limit bonfires to controlled settings, where grown-ups (read police and firemen) get a say in the damned things, rather than ceding power to the godfathers of the street. Regulate the damned things. Elect politicians who will reclaim the city fathers’ perogatives from the street fathers.

    Karl Rove: “By not voting for paramilitary ‘parties’, the vast bulk of Unionists have done that windy something.”

    No, they have ignored it, letting it the spides do as they please.

    Karl Rove: “But perhaps you did after all mean, what physically am I or any other Unionist going to do about filth like that flag? About the same as you I imagine: wish that the sodding Police would do something about it, pretend that the criminal law hadn’t been hollowed out in this place over the last decade, and, realistically, expect bugger all to actually happen*. ”

    Asterisk noted, acknowledged, accepted and resented. A very palapable touch. I guess we’ll both see if Empty Reg’s folly bears fruit.

    Karl Rove: “Well that takes the Copeland cup for literalism.”

    Karl, if you’re gonna set yourself up with a straight-line like that, someone is going to take you up on it. As you said yourself, murder outranks simple sectarian intimidation.

    Karl Rove: “look at what I’ve written: sectarianism = bad; stop it. It really couldn’t be any clearer. But because of course you see one of themuns penning something like that, there naturally, you give every apperance of assuming, has to be a covert sectarian agenda.”

    Actually, Karl, there’s little covert about your agenda. I respond as I do because A) given the state sponsorship in the past of these thugs, they are, arguably, the state’s responsibility; B) You talk a great deal about wanting and very little about doing (see D below) and C) It always somehow comes around to being the Nationalists being fault / responsibility / just plain worse. For example, in answer to your own question as to who the “most bitterly sectarian people in N.I., you posted “Go on, guess. Or look at your glossy Marty McG posters for another clue. ” Ergo, you come off as one-sided as everyone else, you just have a *MUCH* better patter than most.

    In your defense, D) you’ve given me one good bit to think on… for *THAT*, I thank you.

  • I truly think I have never read a greater catalogue of human depravity than Fair Deal’s detailing of the satanic ’12th’. Veritably, an account worse than any horrors which happened anywhere on, for example, the Eastern Front. If ever I had any doubts that the Orange Order puts the Wehrmacht to shame, they have now been dispelled. Banning them is not good enough though. Portydown ought to be bulldozed, and salt n’ vinegar crisps ploughed into the ruins. Thnak God we have the Provettes coming to Slugger and bravely posting interminable threads about the Orange evil. Otherwise it might have gone unnoticed, again.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Fair Deal

    Did y’all clean up after yourselves?

    I would think that cleaning up after one of these little shindigs would have impressed itself on you — worked fire salvage / clean-up between college semesters. Does anyone ever clean these up themselves, or is it simply left to the state to toddle after and clean up?

  • Hurler on the Ditch

    Class storys Fair Deal and Rory! More of that please!

  • Hurler on the Ditch

    eh DC and KR is it possible that the night varies depending on what bonfire you go to? Most likely you can have a pleasant community based evening (like FD clearly has) or you can head down to a more sectarian bonfire and burn a few flags. But maybe you should each accept that the two nights exist!

  • fair_deal

    Chris

    In terms of changes:

    Overall I’d like to see the first two weeks to develop into a major festival.

    There is a lack of cultural awareness especially among the young and the lack of a cultural knowledge has not meant they are less sectarian but more ie they have never heard a positive narrative so they adopt a solely negative one of us v them. Also the Ulster protestant community has a wealth within its history it needs to untap.

    On what I’d like to see with bonfires:

    Designated sites for storage and the fires themselves.
    A time-limited collection period e.g. six weeks.
    Co-operation with the environmental services to remove unsuitable items.
    Organised street parties.

    I do have a personal sympathy for modelling the 11th night on the Las fallas festival in spain as it involves fire and a degree of competition between local communities but the concept of a boney is probably far too deeply rooted.

    As regards paramilitary influence, these traditions predated their existence and will continue after they have gone (hopefully some time soon). A task I have said before and willingly say again Unionism has not focused itself enough upon. The changes in the bigger scene will be reflected.

    The longevity of the bonfire tradition and difficulty of enforcing means a ban simply won’t work. The people who construct bonfires live there so they have a 24/7 presence while stats presence is intermittent, in the battle of wills those with a permanent presence win.

    The transformation of bonfires will not be achieved quickly, a tradition is like an oil tanker slow and hard to steer but there has been enough improvement to remain hopeful. In some communities it will take longer as they have been effectively stripped of social capital so developing properly organised community events will take more time there.

    On the twelfth day:
    Family events in the field and a key parts along the route (already happening in a number of places)
    The closure of Licensed and off-licences along the parade routes and enforcement of drink bye-laws. (reliant on the PSNI who have so far refused doing this)
    Multi-lingual leaflets for tourists.
    The addition of floats in the parade aong cultural and historical themes, re-enactment groups etc.

  • fair_deal

    DC

    1. Inaccurate
    2. In my home estate we used wood so it burnt away and the site was in the middle of a field so no need for a clean-up, what was left wasn;t in anyone’s way nor had it caused damage to roads or houses etc. Around were I live the past the smaller fires were cleaned up as they were usually for a particular street, usually the women of the street would brush it up the next morning.

  • Carsonite

    I’m all for people marching and celebrating their culture, but those bonies are an eye sore. Big piles of rubbish and pallets piled up around neighbourhoods for weeks on end, the mess afterwards of cans, burnt out tires, furniture and half eaten food.

    The whole 11th and 12th should be cleaned up not just for the neighbourhoods but for the whole of Northern Ireland to participate in and enjoy.

  • loftholdingswood

    What the Twelfth means to me….

    Tonight will be the annual bonfire, scaled down from previous years. Trained marshals and first aid personnel are the order of the day and, as I am trained in both, I will arrive and wait for the inevitable problem to deal with. Tyres (in our area anyway) have been phased out (hence the shrunken bonfire) so it soon burns out. A bit of a chat with people and then home to bed. I don’t drink so I don’t bother staying into the wee hours for a sing song.

    Tomorrow will be up bright and early and put on the dreaded suit. It is a new suit since last July to this July I have lost over 3 stone and 6″ off my waist (giving up cider does have it’s advantages). Down to the lodge, pay my marching fees and away we go. I will see people that i have not seen all year and will have a nice chat with them. I will take a bottle of water and listen to the speeches in the field. I will avoid the beer tent. Home in no time and that is it.

    I don’t know what changes I could or would make. I guess you either like that type of thing or you don’t. I use the day as a day to remember people who I have lost and to renew friendship with those I have not seen in a while. I do not riot or drink or fight or shout for that matter. I go home quietly as well. I used to hate but realised that the hate was eating me up inside and that it was pointless. So I do the “political” thing and try to change things that are around me. Does it make a difference? doubtful really but it gives me something to believe in.

    I don’t have anything enlightening to say to people who all this is alien to. Only this; for years I have watched and listened and learned and I never fear what people say they are going to do or write what they are going to do or sing what they are going to do for these people do not have the foggiest notion to actually carry out their boasts and threats. The 11th and 12th nights can be like that.

    I used to have a T-shirt that said “I love HATE and I HATE everything else”. I don’t have it anymore.

    I wish everyone the very best for tomorrow.

  • circles

    Interesting LHW.
    I normally don’t find myself in anything you write, but there was more than a few sparks of recognition went off when I read your post.
    The march bit really reminded me of the Easter march down to Milltown – the speeches, the meeting, greeting, catching up on old acquaintances.
    The bonfire bit reminds of what it used to be like with the internmentnt / August bonfires (that in my neck of the forest became the West Belfast Festival).

  • blandy

    One for Republican Posters

    How are sectarian slogans like ‘kill all taigs’ any different from celebrating the activities of those who did fact kill both taigs and prods – eg Mr Sands et al.

    For the record i am a fan of neither.

  • joeCanuck

    Protestants have a right to celebrate their religion and their culture.
    Catholics have a right to live without fear of intimidation.
    There is obviously a huge gap.
    Does anyone have any suggestion of what to do about starting to bridge that gap, other than shouting at each other?

  • Greenflag

    I remember ‘celebrating’ the 12th in a far off Asian country many moons ago when one of our party was a NIP (norn iron prod). The rest of us were Fenians although not of the northern variety . Our tame ‘proddie’ had to be cajoled to sing ‘The Sash ‘ Eventually it came out of his throat but only after he’d been threatened with the hiding of his life if he did’nt sing it’

    Subsequently we all got banjaxed and I can’t remember any more . No flags were burnt though 🙂

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Protestants have a right to celebrate their religion and their culture.

    This is something that comes up time and time again. Protestants have exactly the same right to celebrate their culture as everyone else – that is, no right whatsoever if it involves causing harm or disturbance to others.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    loftholdingswood,

    Only this; for years I have watched and listened and learned and I never fear what people say they are going to do or write what they are going to do or sing what they are going to do for these people do not have the foggiest notion to actually carry out their boasts and threats. The 11th and 12th nights can be like that.

    I enjoyed your comments, but found this troubling. Just because the threats aren’t carried out doesn’t mean they’re OK, y’know.

    Though I doubt you think that.

    Defences of the less savoury aspects of 12th from people who ought to know better tend to fall into two camps..

    1 – The ‘oh, we don’t really mean it’ defence

    If you don’t mean it, don’t do it! Is that hard?

    2 – The ‘in the olden days, Catholics came to the parades and it was grand’ defence

    I never know what to say to this.. I suspect that there was an elements of the fenians knowing their place back in the day – an entire society too scared to say ‘hold on a minute, this is pretty grim’.

    But then, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know..

  • ulster scot

    The flag burning/pope burning part of the tradition says one thing only – ulster scots/prods/unionists/brits dislike the Irish nation its symbols and ethos.Why – they harboured the murderers of their relatives -simple really.Its really like Jews burning swastika’s – who would find that offensive.The pope thing ,well if someone calls himself Pope Benedict andannounces that he is God’s representative on earth(false) and that his church is the only true church(false) and that he is the successor of Peter the Apostle(false)- he deserves to be rediculed and have his effigy burnt.
    The 11 th and 12th are all about the prods saying we are not Irish – the rest of the year nationalists can spend their time trying to make this distinct people “invisible” and convincing themselves if Northern Ireland wasn’t in the UK we would all be happy clappy born again Irish – a nation in reality we despise in the same way Isreali’s feel about Germans.

  • Rory

    Well so much for reminisence or personal anecdote of one’s actual experience.

    Never mind, a failure is better than no attempt at all.

    I think I’ll have that pre-prandial now. God knows, after reading most of the above, I dearly deserve it.

  • Crow

    Nice to see the tricolor so prominently dispalyed all the same ;->

  • lib2016

    Aaron,

    I can’t speak for others but in the very early 70’s I went to the fields at Finaghy and Scarva. We had hope then and thought that reason would win the day – the sort of excuse being put forward now was very prevalent then -‘largest folk festival in Europe etc.’

    I went because I thought that Orangeism would die of shame within a few years and because I had Orange friends who had lived abroad and knew that we were all Paddies together in a big big world.

    It was an interesting culture shock, terribly prim and proper in the sandwich tents while the most amazing vile propaganda was being spewed from the platform and cheered wildly by respectable men in their best suits. God knows what it is like now.

    Now I’ve grown older and more experienced while the Orange Order and it’s followers are more vicious than ever because they know they have lost. As others have pointed out it is only the lowest of the low who still stagger on because it is all they know.

  • loftholdingswood

    “I enjoyed your comments, but found this troubling. Just because the threats aren’t carried out doesn’t mean they’re OK, y’know.

    Though I doubt you think that.

    Defences of the less savoury aspects of 12th from people who ought to know better tend to fall into two camps..

    1 – The ‘oh, we don’t really mean it’ defence

    If you don’t mean it, don’t do it! Is that hard?

    2 – The ‘in the olden days, Catholics came to the parades and it was grand’ defence

    I never know what to say to this.. I suspect that there was an elements of the fenians knowing their place back in the day – an entire society too scared to say ‘hold on a minute, this is pretty grim’.

    But then, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know..”

    No, I accept that the threats are troubling and cause upset. My point was that the 11th and 12th tends to bring out the drunken yahoos. But that is true on any Saturday night in any town I suppose.

    I understand what you mean about excuses and justifications. I would sincerely doubt in its current form that the 11th or 12th can have any appeal to those of different faiths. I am at a loss to suggest fundamental changes as I would doubt that the majority would agree with it. “Festivals” and “Celebrations” have been mooted but how can we share something that has previously been so contentious?

    “Interesting LHW.
    I normally don’t find myself in anything you write, but there was more than a few sparks of recognition went off when I read your post.
    The march bit really reminded me of the Easter march down to Milltown – the speeches, the meeting, greeting, catching up on old acquaintances.
    The bonfire bit reminds of what it used to be like with the internmentnt / August bonfires (that in my neck of the forest became the West Belfast Festival).”

    circles,

    It is strange isn’t it? We cling to our system beliefs and where we were born/brought up/experienced and yet we are so similar. Your march to Milltown/loyalty to friends/colleagues/lost ones is as important to you as my experiences. And in that we are the same.

    I see a softening of positions in my area (outside of Belfast), I really do. Small mind, but it is there. The next generation will move it on a bit and the generation after will possibly leave all this behind? It’s a bugger that I won’t be around to see it!

  • loftholdingswood

    Forgot to mention the 13th – Scarva. Can’t stand it. Did it for a couple of years and it was one big headache for me. Too many people!! Traffic chaos in such a small pretty little village.

    The 13th for me is a quite walk with the dog and the wife (in that order). Peace and tranquility.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    All the talk of people’s experiences of the twelth (or even Milltown if you like) – a chat, a big feed, a few beers, time in the open air – sounds very much like my much-loved trips to Ravers/Lansdowne Road!

  • joeCanuck

    Aaron

    Why did you ignore my second sentence?

  • Prince Eoghan

    KR.

    LOL. All bluster and no knickers. Caught.

    Loft.

    Are you of the opinion that instead of waiting these generations, we could move on just now? I hope so.

  • Aaron

    Joe,

    Wasn’t ignoring it – just that I don’t think the two sentences have to go together.

  • joeCanuck

    well Aaron

    If they don’t go together, why did you essentially repeat what I said in the second half of your second sentence?
    Incidentally, I asked what could be done about starting to bridge the gap. Deafening silence so far.
    Bit like Hain’s committee. Everyone chomping at the bit to score points and point the finger of blame at themmuns and no-one willing or able to offer a way forward.

  • pith

    This is disgraceful. Rory has confessed that his pioneering mate was at the sweet sherry in 1967. Who’s going to tell Fr Matthew?
    Who’s going to tell Herself??

  • Aaron_Scullion

    sorry joe, didn’t mean to slight you, just didn’t like the way I read yours – as if one was conditional of the other.

  • see the light

    joeCanuck “Catholics have a right to live without fear of intimidation.
    There is obviously a huge gap.
    Does anyone have any suggestion of what to do about starting to bridge that gap, other than shouting at each other?”

    Yeah – Ban the GAA

  • joeCanuck

    See the light

    Stop shouting

  • joeCanuck

    Aaron

    Apology not needed but welcomed anyway. We can have different points of view. I, perhaps, wasn’t clear in what I meant to say.
    I think we’re agreed.
    A saying I heard a while back comes to mind:
    Your absolute right to punch me in the face ends just before your fist hits my nose.

  • slug

    Concerned Loyalist

    “It is a new suit since last July to this July I have lost over 3 stone and 6” off my waist (giving up cider does have it’s advantages).”

    Well done. That is quite something.

    You can cut a better figure on parade this year.

  • RoryYank

    I am from the NY but my people are from Derry and I have been to Ireland loads of times, I am dying to see what all the fuss is about with the bonfires. Although I am all for the Nationalist cause, I am not sure if I would be insulted or intrigued by them?

  • joeCanuck

    Don’t go there RoryYank

    You won’t like it unless you go to a small one in some little village.
    And even there, don’t give the slightest hint that you sympathise with the Nationalist cause.

  • páid

    Nice post by lofty – enjoy your day out, sir.

    Now who else noticed that the peace process IS starting to work?

    What are the Loyalists doing with that nasty KAT flag?

    Are they going to burn it? And destroy such a great slogan?

    Maybe they’ll have a debate. You know, like the sadist wondering whether or not to whip the masochist.

    Political advice required. Where are those singed loyalists when you need ’em?

    Oi Davey, over here!

  • Two men and a hairybear

    Unfortuneatley my experiences of the eleventh night are not as festive as some other posters.
    I remember leaving home a young lady one year who was of a different ‘hue’ than myself. I had been courting this girl for some time. When we got close to her estate she said she would walk the last ten minutes on her own as it may have been a bit risky for me to go any closer to the ‘boney’ site.
    Just as I left her a crowd of ‘revellers’ appeared and began calling her various names and questioning her choice of boyfriend due to my religious background. She urged me to go on home.
    I was literally only two minutes down the road when a car past and stopped about twenty yards ahead of me. The occupants got out, armed with red, white and blue taped ‘band poles’ and various other heavy blunt instruments. When I turned to go in the opposite direction there was a sizeable crowd of young lads similarly tooled up running towards me.
    I took off through some back yards and managed to evade capture for about a mile and a half.
    Without going into the gruesome details it is enough to say I spent the following bank holidays as a resident in the local hospital.

    Now some people may say things have changed but unfortunatley I don’t see a great deal of change around the numerous bonfire sites in this town. There may be a bouncy castle beside the ‘boney’ but they still want to ‘Kill All Taigs’.

  • Rory

    Joe Canuck,

    Darkness at Noon certainly has the power to exercise the mind. It did mine some 45 years ago. I since see it as all devious smoke and mirrors employing the earnest tools of introspection and conscience for a partisan cause.
    Koestler’s later career as a promoter of belief in ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night do nothing to shake my revised opinion.

    Pith,

    No. My Pioneer mate was the one among us who declined to drink the nectar of the sirens. Good job too – it was his alertness saved our bacon.

    Never mind who’ll squeal to Herself. It would be too daunting a taskfor the faint-hearted.

  • Rory

    UlsterScot,

    I cannot say how much I appreciate you making things so clear. I had never quite appreciated the (now perfectly understandable reasons) for burning fenian flags and effigies of Pope, the Antichrist before but now that you have made it all so simple I feel quite ashamed of myself and indeed a little bit guilty.

    All the moreso because I too have been guilty of offending Orange tradition and sensibilities by naively suggesting respect for one’s neighbours and such heretical nonsense.

    Clearly the only way I can expiate my guilt and shame is to offer myself for burning upon a twalfth bonefire.

    Should I fatten up first for a bit more sizzle do you think or do you prefer more the dry snap of exploding bones? I do want to get things right.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Nice try, but Karl Rove still wins the prize for ‘post most dripping with sarcasm’ tonight.

  • snuff

    RoryYank

    “I am dying to see what all the fuss is about with the bonfires”

    More than likely the fuss at the bonfire will be your dying. Oh God I hope not.

  • Brian Boru

    According to someone on politics, i.e., “a bonfire in Ahoghill had a flag at the top of it saying “F**k Mickey Bo”. This was a trend across the Ballymena area – the bonfire next to the chapel in Harryville had a flag at the top saying “Mickey-Bo”.

    Do Orangemen and Unionists on thie forum support this action? Is this what Orangeism stands for? If so then I can’t say I’m surprised!

  • Brian Boru

    This is on the Current Affairs thread there btw entitled “Sick display at Ballymena bonfires”.

  • ballymichael

    How a sectarian bonfire riot turned into a tourist attraction, but still kept a bit of protestant bite.

    Lewes bonfire night

    I’ve been in Lewes on bonfire night. It isn’t in the least bit scary from a catholic point-of-view.

    But it takes time. You can’t just throw money at it and call it a tourist attraction.

  • Rory

    RoryYank,

    I would heed the advice given above if I were you. Bonefire night is not a welcoming or safe time for ‘strangers’ much less ‘stranfers’ from a nationalist background whatever their present nationality.

    Watch Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles again and try to imagine yourself as the black sherriff and you might get an idea of the reception that might await you. Or imagine walking into an LA ‘Crip’ ‘hood sporting the wrong colours.

    It would be fairly safe though to watch some of the parades on the following day and I’m sure your compatriot, our own dear Miss Fitz, would be happy to advise you there.

    But please don’t let our concerns over attending at Bonefire Night deter you from coming to enjoy what else is on offer.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Fair Deal / Rory

    Just wanted to congratulate you both on excellent posts.

    Concerned Loyalist

    And fair play to you! Losing three stone is some going. Must be all the worry, eh Concerned?

  • loftholdingswood

    “And fair play to you! Losing three stone is some going. Must be all the worry, eh Concerned?”

    It was me that lost the weight but, yes, it is all that worry! The UPRG work is taking it’s toll.

    Back from a quite twelfth. It rained a fair bit.

    To all those going to Scarva tomorrow – good luck. The car park is already a bog no doubt!.

  • idunnomeself

    ok I went on a bit of a tour of the bonfires in east Belfast.

    There are still lots of little bonfires in the roads around here and these are burnt through the evening, we wandered around them and the whole area had a party atmosphere, lots of streets blocked off and everyone out in the street and tables in the road and pensioners having tea and young ones wandering around drinking furiously coloured alcopops. Some of the the wee bonfires seemed to be perliously close to buildings.

    I chatted to the ones at cluan place, they were very friendly, they discussed the merits of different bonfires. Apparantly this year Shankill was the biggest, Belvoir a disappointment and Bendigo street (my local one) far bigger than Pitt park, a reversal of last year.

    Pitt park wasn’t very big at all, they had carefully cut wood to board up windows and were having a party and also had some sort of stage.

    As the night went on there were more fireworks over the city, which i haven’t seen before.

    We went down to Bendigo street to see that one, it was massive. Really big, like easy 5 storeys high. There was some bad rave being played on a speaker systems and lots of wee ‘warm up’ fires- this apparantly being for the kids who were too small to stay up till midnight, although they all seemed to anyway.

    Just before midnight they switched to playing flute tunes (Hymn tunes), and Loyalist folk music. Anyone who hasn’t heard loyalists folk music should thank their lucky stars, being the worst sort of Daniel-O’Donnell-lite with plodding synth praising loyalists. The lowlight was a version of ‘Simply the Best’, which tried very hard to squeeze in a line about how the first batallion of the UVF was better than the IRA rabble. Seriously, try to make that rhyme, or indeed scan..

    The fire was lit and basically collapsed in on itself, I think if anything it was too big. It got very hot, hot enough to make us retreat from where we were watching it 100 yards away.

    Oh there were some tyres, so obviously the council need to do some work, although to be fair the tyre situation has improved a lot in the last 2 years, and i suppose thats more than i would have hoped for two years ago, so i will complain, but be quietly content things are getting better.

    There were 5 tricolours on top, but I didn’t hear a roar when they went on fire, and although it’s obviously rude and a negative rather than positive expression of a culture, I don’t think this is ‘Sectarian’ (unless you think the tricolour is a Catholic flag)

    The only other banner was one that said ‘do you like it’ on the bonfire. And people obviously did because we do respond to fire, it’s primal and dangerous and moves and dances..

    There were probably about 1000 people there at midnight, although only a few hundred at ten to- all these peolpe just appeared, some of them quite middle class looking, but mainly working class, and a lot of excited kids and harassed parents, which takes me back to when i used to hassle my parents to go to the bonfire, even though they clearly didn’t want to have to content with the drunken youths around it.

    So it was a party atmosphere around the place, and I enjoyed it actually, and so did my English friend I walked around with. Was it cross-community? no. Did I witness any agressive anti-Catholism, No (but I’m sure i could have). Could it ever be cross community? probably not, but it could become accessible to other communities. It does needs to be a lot of things, cleaner, less agressive, more organised and it is heading that way.

    But at the end of the day it’ll take a lot of peace time to remove the overtones, and maybe eventually it’ll end up like the bonfires in England, which were banned as anti-Catholic hatefests a few centuries ago.

    So there you go. The next day I got up and went surfing

  • Christopher Stalford

    Idunno

    When we lived in Carrington Street, we always had our own wee bonfire (about 1/15th the size of the Bendigo Street one) at the bottom of the street. Our parents would lay out tables of sandwiches/snacks and we light the thing at about 10:30pm. We never had a tricolour on top, but usually my sister Angela had to sacrifice one of her dolls as an effigy! It was a great night for all involved (except Angela obviously!).

    When I was younger the Twelfth would involve getting up at around 8am to see the Ravenhill Lodge parade down the road from Donard Street and then round to Ballymacarrett Orange Hall to see Number 6 leaving from Templemore Avenue. Now I am older (and in the Order) I have a few friends round on the Eleventh Night for a barbeque, we go and see the local bonfire (on the site behind the Holywood Arches library) and then get up a 6:30am to have a hearty breakfast (consisteing of barbeques sausages, eggs and a couple of rounds of toast) and over to Sandy Row for the start of the day.

  • Gareth

    Have any of you folk ever been to a bonfire? Are any of you folk even protestant or FROM northern ireland. Readin this blog it doesnt seem that way. Find something better to do rather than sit an stare at a computer, use big words to make yourself seem more intelligent and discuss things you know nothing about. Try the practical side for once then JUDGE other people and what they do and celebrate.

  • TAFKABO

    When I was young we would have a fantastic time collecting for the bonfire, it would occupy us for weeks and weeks, a discarded sofa was a treasure to us.
    The site of the bonfire was a great place to hang out, build huts and stay up till the wee hours, all with parental approval as we “guarded our bony”
    the 10th night was my favourite part, all those weeks of collecting would culminate in a supreme effort to get the bonfire built for the next nights festivities. I can’t recall anyone ever giving orders, but we seemed to work in unison everyone doing their part as the bony got bigger and bigger.

    That was the good part. the eleventh ight would come and something would change, a perceptible shift in the air. it was still a time of celebration, but there was always an undeniable undercurrent of something dangerous and violent lurking in the background.
    Where I grew up there was a faily of catholics, and all year round they were our neighbours and friends, but on the eleventh night they became the enemy. I don’t ever recall anyone ever phyically harming them, but I do recall muttered curses and allegations of treason levelled against them, even though they would also attend the bonfire.

    I’m happy to come from the Unionist tradition, and I would fight tooth and nail for the traditions of unionism to stay, but maybe not all the traditions.
    We need to be honest and get rid of the bad, or we’ll lose it all.
    that same undercurrent of violence and hate still exists, it’s stupid and dangerous to deny this.
    It’s time we put that sectarian bullshit on top of the fire and burned it.

  • Kristallnacht

  • Sean

    lol SGB not entirely off the mark but not exactly helpful either

    I will confess I am NOT a northerner, a catholic or a taig

    But from what I have seen from trying to learn about NI(I have my own reasons) I do not think that the nationalists would object so much to the bonfires if they went back to the local wee bonfire in the park or street where the localised population could gather around and celebrate the 11th, this they could understand and take on board as part of your culture instead of an instuement of intimidation

    2nd they dont object to your marching up and down the street even with the drunken gits, they just ask that you stay to where you are wanted and leave the areas alone where you arent wanted. Not to much to ask really is it. they havent asked you to quit marching just to quit marching in front of THEIR homes.

    you want this to go quietly then just be human.

    walk your selves silly just walk where you are wanted, no one has said don’t march at Drumcree they just said don’t walk down the Garvaghy.

  • DK

    Although I am not from Northern Ireland (I’ve lived here, errr 13 years now) I have to admit that I am fascinated with the idea of going to see the bonfires, but also somewhat scared of the spides that seem to hang around them.

    My main experience of the 12th is not being able to get plumbing equipment as all the plumber shops are closed down (B&Q don’t have the bit I need) and not getting into the places I want to at lunch as they are either closed or massively busy.

    I will make a vague effort to see a bonfire tonight.

  • TAFKABO

    Why don’t we tell the gay community that they can have their parade, but just not where people find them offensive?

    Oh that’s right, it’s called homophobia and is recognised as an unreasonable hatred.
    No one has the right to find people unnaceptable, just because they’re different.
    If people say or do something that insults or promotes hatred of you, then you have the right to object, but as long as people act in a manner consistent with the legal guidleines, no one should have the right to object to them, simply because they exist.

    What people are proposing here is tantamount to apardheid.

  • DK

    TAKFBO, I think you’ll find that the gay community have to apply to the parade commission like everyone else having a parade (including boys brigade, vintage car rallies, even the OO)

  • gareth mccord

    I think the main point that people need to realise is that every faith and religion has a right to celebrate and remember!
    But to my embarrassment as a protestant the celebration of our religion on the 11th and 12th is not a celebration i am proud of.
    Just look at the 11th and the trouble that comes with it. Alot of drink drugs paramilitaries fighting deaths and shows of strength is part of every 11th. Considering the mentioned why would any decent parent want their children part of this? Yes there is some street parties for kids that are well managed and well recieved but very few. Does getting blind drunk, fighting, celebrating with paramilitary scum and encouraged to hate the “taigs” represent my protestant religion? is this the only way to celebrate? Then i am ashamed for myself and those decent people who mix and celebrate with the para scum who have ruined our protestant heritage.
    The 12th is as bad in most areas. Look at kids out of their heads with drink and drugs, look at the bands with their sick para flags and emblems look at the banned routes because of the hatred. Why is this ” a good day out ” for the family?
    Why do parents bring their kids to watch the bands who are mostly para scum who have murdered sold drugs and gave the protestant religion a rotten name?
    Yes granted not all bands are bad and not all areas are hate filled and rife with division.
    But can someone please give me a lift to the moon so my family can celebrate the 11th and 12th and not see and listen to hatred drugs fighting and shows of strength by “OUR” paramilitary scum.