New one for me

How do you write about the 12th after your first proper one? I’ve no idea. I’ve just had a fascinating day. Instead of dwelling on it I’ll just give my experience while doing what most of the Brethren must be doing – having a beer.Up early to get the local Crumlin parade before they headed off to wherever and I’m glad I made it. At one point it looked like we’d miss the parade due to a bus connection to Lisburn for the Belfast parade before they left but we ended up getting to enjoy (and I think I did enjoy it) the noise of two huge proper Lambegs beating out a deafening sound across a village deep in sleep. No noise, no cars, just a deep drumming spreading for miles. Almost hypnotic over an empty street. I almost forgave those that thought this inconsequential parade needed to take place without an Antrim GAA flag in sight. A display of music and culture rarely found the rest of the day.

The journey continues, bus moves off, we make it less than 2 miles before being stopped at a bigger parade in the smaller village of Glenavy – there are people at this one. My first ‘Sash ‘of the day from an accordion band, then a pipe band passes and we only have to endure the terrible Crumlin Young Loyalists Flute (B&T) band before getting back on the bus and moving on.

..onwards to Lisburn (texting delays to other Slugger folk) then we get stuck behind a lodge doing the bus route our Belfast connection follows so we give up, get off, walk beside and then past this lodge into Lisburn eventually get the train to Belfast (they don’t honour our through bus tickets made useless by parading) and almost hook up with the rest of the Slugger team. Almost, because they are on one side of Bedford St and we are across the road, there is a period of waving and being too frightened to cross a street until after ½ an hour the parade stalls and we risk crossing. I was so brave I decided it was ok immediately after the woman with a pram.

This is an utterly tedious parade as far as I’m concerned. Blood and Thunder Flute Band belting out the same kind of stuff, time after time. The lodges aren’t the centre of attraction, it is gaudy bands with flutes. Then we decide to go towards Shaftsbury and the car we are using to get to Bangor. People are drinking all over the road, as we go past the cinema some yellow coated goon with PSNI backup asks me if I have drink in my bag. The road is covered with people drinking and he asks one of the few people without a bottle in their hand about drink! FARCE!

A brief stop off while some have a chat with Dawn Purvis – I’m not interested in that, I’m finding it a bit intimidating that the stalled Tullycarnett band with the UPRG flags are starting to get UDA chants from the crowd.

Then we go on through Shaftsbury Sq and up the Lisburn road. This can only be described as a drunken mob. The only time I felt uncomfortable or threatened. People shouting at one of our party who looked well dressed ‘tourist go home’ etc.

Now to cross the road again to get the car. Such paranoia about crossing a main road. Wait for a gap, two cars separating lodges – go. wtf. We are crossing a street.

So off to Bangor.

Civilised. Still a bit of drinking on the street but better bands – accordion, brass, pipe and an easy atmosphere. Up to the field and it was like an expanded School Fete – still drink but not drunkenness going on. Thought it a bit odd people dragging the three black guys up to dance in front of the stage in a display of utter tokenism but can’t say I felt uncomfortable – god knows what they felt.

Then back to Belfast and the biggest delay ever to get home that involved Ulsterbus just not showing up and having to plead for a lift.

All in all, wasn’t my cup of tea, I won’t be back but Translink are the real bastards and if you want to experience the 12th for your first time don’t do it in Belfast and seriously don’t do it between Bedford St and Tates Ave – that way lies people working out their demons.

  • the future;s bright, the future’s orange

    fair play to you mark – you certainly went outside your comfort zone. Belfest is a cesspit on the 12th and no wonder it wasn’t one of the ‘flagship’ events. Outside of belfast, the 12th is a totally different concept and has quite a lot going for it.

  • OrdinaryDecentProd

    May I respectfully suggest that in order to enjoy an orange parade, you do what most supporters do – pick one display, pack a picnic, wander along with the bands to see them in full flow before finding a good spot on the field to enjoy aforementioned picnic with friends, listen to speeches before going back to see bands set off again and then scarper before any bother might kick off a la Ardoyne shops.

    Scarva and the sham fight is always a bit of fun too and a great opportunity to stock up on random crap from the street stalls such as union flag underwear – always good for a laugh.

    The whole trying to get to them all will only ever result in frustrating traffic jams and irritation, transport is going to be difficult on the Twelfth, just plan in advance to work around it, Translink do special timetables for it.

    I’m not getting at you, I am just merely concerned that in trying to do it all you just do not get the proper experience. Of course there are going to be drunken idiots, there will be at every major public event, Pride have the same problem as do St Patrick’s day in Dublin.

    I appreciate you are making an effort to see parades through the eyes of supporters and I commend you for this, however sometimes in reading your posts, it does sound like you are almost trying to find fault which is a little wearying.

  • slug



    In previous years I have enjoyed Miss Fitz’s entries on the Twelfth but this year you did a very interesting and believable review.

  • Mick Fealty


    I hear what you are saying, but sampling the tension and then the lack of it elsewhere is a useful and instructive experience for those of us to whom it is not a ‘native’ experience.

    On the live blog we had stuff coming from Fair Deal’s progress through the day and notes from people telling us about the drinking in Shaftesbury square when we could see most of the Orange was miles away.

    But that’s for my own post tomorrow… Today was about mapping the event beyond its controversies… without ignoring them… achieved largely through Mark and his team’s efforts and the others around NI…

  • nordie prod in baile atha cliath

    Great review, Mark.

    I used to love the parades when I was a young’un, but don’t bother with them these days. Might just go along to one next year if I’m back in Northern Ireland. Once you get past all the shit (and there’s a lot of it), there’s actually a bit of history and culture there.

  • stranger abroad

    THi sis froma Conctry orangeman, having walked my first twelfth in belfast. Few comments

    1. Amazed at the crowds especially in the City Centre
    2. Amazed at the lack of bands and variety of bands
    3. Long walk compared to whatI’m used too
    4. Amazed at the early morning drinking – obligatory it seems
    5. Surprised to see so few politicians – Reg Empey, Lord Laird, Jim Rodger and Nelson Mccausland only ones I saw
    5. Amazed it remained dry in Belfast

    Overall done once, will probably stay inthe Country though – overall a more gentle parade in country and a more family atmosphere

  • Driftwood

    You heading to Scarva tomorrow (Tuesday) Mark?

  • You will find the pattern of behaviour you witnessed continues down the Lisburn Road and on to Balmoral Ave Mark.

    That’s why everyone leaves.

  • “two huge proper Lambegs”

    Mark, playing is believing – or deafening 🙂

    I’ve not had a go but I did once encourage a young bodhran maker from Co Down to have a blatter and to walk behind two fifers on a remote headland overlooking Rathlin Island. He was most impressed. Later on there was a musical interlude with one lambeg and four bodrans using bodhran sticks – rather than lambeg canes 🙂

  • Skintown Lad

    i went to a couple of twelfths in fermanagh and rossnowlagh when i was a nipper. i have to say your account of yesterday in belfast, mark, bears very little resemblance to my memory of them. most likely the difference is down to an urban/rural split and the prevalence of underage drinking generally now.

    the one thing i find totally unacceptable about the twelfth is the UVF banners that were reportedly in some areas of belfast. i don’t think that would be allowed in fermanagh and indeed i think most of the brethren in fermanagh would refuse to walk behind such a banner. i don’t understand how the order just ignores such an obvious thing that undermines their professed purpose. can any orange sluggerites explain it?

  • GGN

    I think the amount of rubbish on the Lisburn Road was simply unpatriotic.

  • eranu

    mark, glad you had a mostly enjoyable time. you mentioned previously you would be going to 12th events with all your prejudices. can you tell us what, if any, prejudices have changed/ been dropped / been confirmed?

    you seem to have had a good day in bangor with some cultural music and a family atmosphere. you also seem to have enjoyed your own parade in crumlin. in areas where residents are trying to get any and all parades banned. for those parades that are similarly cultural/family orientated and free from paramilitary stuff, would you now lend your support to those people to be allowed to have their day out, to have their parade? would you be saying to objecting residents that these parades are not offensive or sectarian hate exercises? just wondering if you might now be conditionally supportive even just a weeee bit?