My first parade of the season

To get myself warmed up for our 12th outing I went along to an Orange Parade in my home town of Crumlin tonight. I lasted half of the 2 hours scheduled, mainly because I got bored. The occasion was the opening of the Arch in the Village which has appeared in recent days. I’ve never been a fan of the thing and it certainly isn’t a work of art being more designed to last than for any aesthetic quality.I fell in with a bad crowd at the outset, Parades Commission monitors, there because of concerns raised by local residents over the route and the fact last year one of the bands stopped outside a pub to give a rendition of the Sash to punters.

The PSNI presence in the village while visible wasn’t huge but the addition of a mobile CCTV jeep didn’t set an early scene of normality. It may have been due to a bottle thrown at a previous parade which injured a participant.

Things started with the lodge members assembling on the road for speeches and prayers made over a dodgy PA – I couldn’t hear a word. They then formed up – 1 band and 75 odd people, mainly older men, and almost exactly half the numbers they declared on their form to the Commission.

They set off watched by a crowd barely numbering 20 and got a few waves from friends outside the pubs on the Main St they passed. As they turned to head to the outskirts of the village I realised I was more bored than anything else and headed back home for a beer.

So a largely inoffensive and harmless occasion? In the main.

That brings me back to the one of the reasons the Parades Commission were there – as this parade returns to its starting point it, like almost every parade in the village, inexplicably veers off just before reaching its destination and will march down two residential streets which won’t have very many supporters living on them. It then returns to the main road before finishing at the Orange Hall. A pointless addition that along with the pretty awful arch are probably the only big negatives I can see in this parade – beyond disagreeing with the ethos and spirit of the organisation involved that is.

ADDS: I should also note as positives – there are no attempts beyond the Arch to decorate or claim the Village with flags, there was no colour party or flags displayed during the march, of the few supporters only one a small child was waving a flag, the band was a restrained Silver Band and as they passed the pub where the previous Sash playing occurred only a single drumbeat was heard (I don’t know if that was voluntary or a PC detirmination)

  • Drumlins Rock

    would agree with you Mark, most arches have alot to be desired in artistic merits, although if you look back at some of the pictures of old Victorian ones they were real displays of craftmanship and real display of pride for that local street/village, as for the parade well I guess its like going to watch a pub football team, its more for the participants than the spectators.
    BTW dodgey PA is a curse!

  • eranu

    sounds like just a wee walk about for some of the locals.
    id agree that arches arent very pleasing to the eye. perhaps OO people could make more of an effort using a variety of materials and maybe a few artistic pieces placed around the arch.

  • Mark McGregor

    You happier now? I am making an effort to get a slice of Orange life.

    So on the Arches – if they aren’t particularly pleasing to a supporter and to an outsider they seem so unattractive and gaudy that the only reason for erection must be territory marking what about this for a solution; Don’t put them up if they look like crap, have none or one that even an outsider can see has some kind of effort/value?

  • villager

    Many parades go on seemingly insane detours with nobody watching. I used to play in a band on the 12th that would get off the bus in the evening over a mile from the hall, when everbody was knackered, and parade down a long stretch of country road, it only served to scare the cattle. When you ask the orangemen why, they all agree its stupid, but if they didn’t do it one year then they wouldn’t be allowed to do it the next year. It is a very typical reaction to parades being banned, people become stubborn and pig headed.

  • Mark McGregor

    villager,

    So pointless detours that serve no purpose and needlessly annoy people after main roads are paraded unmolested, why can’t they just be scrapped?

    The two things I had an issue with at my first parade are also an issue for some supporters. If it wasn’t for them I’d have come back with a big list of ‘no problem’ other than not finding the experience particularly inspiring.

  • eranu

    surely putting up some type of decorative arch for some type of procession to pass through is pretty standard stuff the world over? im fairly sure it wasnt invented by them prods in NI..

    “Don’t put them up if they look like crap, have none…”
    tolerance for others traditions mark, not looking for an angle to stop someone elses traditions taking place altogether.

  • Mark McGregor

    eranu,

    I said I was turning up with my baggage. Missing element for today and the day out proper is the volunteers from the ‘other’ side willing to explain the stuff I and others just won’t get.

    I’m not going along as a willing convert but I’m going and don’t intend any application of spin.

    I don’t think my prejudices were reinforced today but they weren’t shaken at their foundations, though it was just a first run.

  • villager

    They should be scrapped Mark but as I said people want to hold on to what parades they have before they get taken away. It’s a specious argument in pretty much every case but when these things are discussed the don’t give an inch crowd always win. It’s also important to bear in mind how lodges are run, the ‘worshipful master’ position (leader of the lodge) is rotated more or less randomly every year resulting in a general lack of leadership, conservatism rules the roost, ‘if we did it last year, we’ll do it this year’.

  • Mark McGregor

    villager,

    That’s a confusing argument and I know its not yours. This parade and some others clearly have pointless elements to the route, I would even guess in this case the original reason was to pass pensioners’ Bungalows and save them a short walk, but the impact of that tradition in a changed demographic is to add an element of contention that just doesn’t need to be there.

  • villager

    There are usually bizarre and arcane reasons for these things, I parade every year in Armagh for the district parade and always wondered why we looped around the tree in front of the gaol, I recently discovered it’s the ‘orange tree’, but I’m sure most of the people there don’t even know that. Also I think some of the parades are longer than what would seem sensible because up until the 50’s there were no buses – between lodge, district and county demonstrations people could walk 30 miles, I think some of the older members think we’re being soft if we shorten the parade.

  • Mark McGregor

    villager,

    That was a part of it I couldn’t get, they must have walked a few miles tonight but beyond the first 100yds or so there was no one watching and on a fair proportion of the route people either ignoring, being inconvenienced or disturbed by something they had no interest in. It may be traditional but it seemed as if the tradition was only for the few hardy souls putting leather on the ground, ignored new realities and with the potential to put backs up and create a situation that could lead to resistance of the entire event. Cutting your nose off etc.

  • eranu

    mark, its definitely a positive that you are going to go to orange events to see things for yourself, but it doesnt make any sense to evaluate something when you start from a default position of being prejudiced against it. try to put all that to the side.
    anyways, hope you have an interesting time. i dont really know anything about OO stuff myself, so id be interested to hear an unbiased report.

  • Dave

    That has a ring of truth to it, Villager. I suspect that a lot of the demands to alter contentious parade routes were resisted precisely because they were demands. It would have been seen as an encroachment upon established rights and would also have been seen in the context of the ongoing Shinner violence, since many of the opponents of those marches were linked to Shinner activists. The old ‘no surrender’ mindset of hardliners would have kicked in. I don’t buy the ’where they’re not wanted’ argument since streets are not owned by the residents and they have no right to control who uses them. Nothing is ever going to get away from the two nations competing with each dynamic, however, so even if some of that contention is now handled by third parties in the form of the Parades Commission, it will always be there is some form or another. Just as long as folks aren’t throwing bottles at marchers or marchers giving residents on certain streets the finger, that’s life.

  • Mark McGregor

    eranu,

    I can’t do unbiased on this, I am biased. Sorry. I’m going and I’ll blog my positives with my negatives but I can’t dump my baggage at the door. That’s why we (Slugger) hope to have more than just me signing up for this.

    Remember this is only a personal test run, the schedule is still open for suggestions and people are free to particapate outside what I’m doing via the comments or the cover-it-live blog we will be running over the weekend. That space is as open for supporters and participants as it will be to people new to things like me.

  • villager

    You’re preaching to the choir there Mark, most parades are like that, except when a large 12th is held in a small village, eg. Loughgall or Killylea. I have to say the 13th(14th this year) at Scarva is the nicest parade I’ve been to, the village is packed and there’s a good atmosphere, apart from the kids being sick at the beer tent. I’d advise you go there if you get a chance.

  • villager

    Dave I think Drumcree really changed people’s mindset more than anything, it really made people dig their heels in.

  • Mark McGregor

    I’m off. I’ve enjoyed this discussion more than the parade. Thanks for the feedback and if you want to sign up for ‘Slugger does Orange’ drop myself or Mick a line. Still looking more informed hand-holders on the inside.

  • Driftwood

    Boring oul crap, those parades. Haven’t been near one in over 20 years. if you really want to understand our culture Mark, why don’t you come along to our conference in Manchester in October…
    http://www.conservatives.com/Get_involved/Conference/Conference_2009.aspx
    Your call..

  • Drumlins Rock

    thanks Driftwood, its good that you have hilighted to Mark that parades mite not be that exciting but it could be a whole lot worse!

    Mark, I would gladly show you round a parade but Tyrone is probably a bit far I guess

  • Chris Donnelly

    I think Mark hit the nail on the head regarding the purpose of many arches- it’s more about claiming territory and agitating ‘themmuns.’

    The Crumlin arch is a perfect case in point because, actually, there are two arches (of sorts). One along the railings of the Hall so that Brethren and associates can pass under it as they enter the Hall, but a much larger (and tackier) one spanning the breadth of the road, resplendent with Christmas tree-type lights and four loyalist flags flying at diagonals, which all must pass asunder. Carlsberg don’t do tacky arches, but if they did….

    There are, however, many positives about parading in Crumlin today. The Orders -and their bands- parade a couple of times a year, to almost universal indifference in the 80% catholic village. The parades rarely require a police presence, and normality usually returns to the village within a short period of the sparsely attended parades wrapping up. In fact, one thing I’ve noticed is that there are normally more catholic kids in the Main Street during the parade than loyalist supporters, and those kids are only there because the ‘main drag’ is their hangout spot 365 days of the year!

    Recent years have witnessed an attempt by some in the local band (as opposed to Order) to ratchet up tensions, which has been widely opposed by villagers and some from the Loyal Orders themselves- this included attempts to bring Mark Harbinson’s Orange Volunteers band into the village for a large-scale band demonstration on a Friday night two years ago, and last year’s unfortunate decision to bring the Ballymacash loyalist band (the Jolly Roger brigade from Lisburn…)into the village on the 12th July- clearly traditional route wasn’t on their agenda, as band memebers made clear on their Bebo site ahead of that parade.

    The last band parade in Crumlin- some months ago- saw a band member struck by an object thrown from kids as they passed along Main Street, with one person arrested almost immediately and all condemning the incident.

    The fact that calmer- and wiser- heads have prevailed all round is a good sign, and I’m glad that this parade passed off without any incident.

    For me, it is important to ensure the Orange/ parading culture has a place in the village as it sends out a positive message of tolerance towards the unionist minority, a tolerance which, by the way, simply isn’t reciprocated in villages/ towns where the demographic profile is reversed.

  • Luther

    A list of all the 12th parades can be found on the following orange order blog http://www.orangestandards.blogspot.com

  • Drumlins Rock

    Oldruss,
    most parades are are of a small local nature with just one band, im not sure of the breakdown but there are roughly 4 types of parade, that is Loyal Order Parades which are about 80% of all parades roughly at a guess.
    Band parades/contests are usually based in a town and are a fund rasing event for the the host band, Orange lodges have little if any input to theses as most bands are independantly run. Anything from 6 to 160 bands could attend.
    Church/Event Parades are probably the second most common type, they normally have one band followed by a number of marchers, on average i would say about 30, occasionally 2 or 3 bands can be involved. Most of these parade from a point of assembly to a Church, Hall, or some open air site where a Service is held, many of them are is the country side with just farm animals to watch!
    Then there are the set piece parades, the 12th, Last Saturday, Scarva, “Derry day”, etc. these are the large parades with bands, banners, marchers, the full show, and whilst they make up a small proportion of parades they are the best attended by marchers and specators.
    Finally probably the biggest number of parades are the “feeder parades” which are simply the local band and marchers parading to and from thier meeting place before or after the big parade.
    Less than 7% of parades are contentious, why do most people parade? simply because they enjoy it.