The Marching Season – Whats it all about?

We are now a week past the 1st of July, the day the Somme Offensive is remembered, and the “Glorious Twelfth” when the Battle of the Boyne is celebrated is just around the corner, these historic events are by tradition the main reason for the many parades and celebrations at this time of year and to a few history buffs they are a welcome reminder of one of  Ireland’s periods of greatest significance on the world stage.

…. however ask most of those parading on the Twelfth why they are there and I doubt history is at the forefront of their thoughts, they might manage a quick line about King Billy on his White Horse, or to show superior knowledge state “the Pope was King Billy’s side you know!” but most will know more about Sundays battle between the modern Dutch and Spanish than any fought in bygone days of yore.

So why do hundreds of thousands of people still attend and participate in these events?  Is it to “express our culture and identity” or  is it to “claim towns and villages as our territory” or maybe, as we are often accused, is it blatant “triumphalism and coat-trailing” ?  (I have no idea what “coat trailing” is  by the way, but at the price of suits and band uniforms i doubt many will be trailed on Monday )

… once again if you suggested these reasons to spectators and marchers on the Twelfth the response would be much the same as before, a few might discuss the finer points of banner art, Lambeg tuning and championship pipe bands, sadly a few might spout “they don’t like it up’em you know” rubbish, but most people would quietly smile at your two heads and ask did you hear the vuvuzelas in the parade.

So if none of the above are that relevant what is the real reason we parade?  its quite simple really, because we enjoy it.  I know the idea of Orangemen having fun seems alien to many, but walking down a road behind a good band with family, friends and neighbours watching is actually an enjoyable experience, even with no-one watching it is still a pleasure.

I remember a few years ago I took part in a parade where the only spectators for most of the route were sheep, but it was a gloriously bright Sunday evening, walking behind an excellent silver band through beautiful countryside to an ancient Church, the pleasure and contentment from that parade remain fresh in my memory today, along side those of the Tercentenary Parade in Belfast where the crowds cheering and the music reverberating of the building carried us along for the entire route.

Normally the parades I take part in are of the smaller nature, usually just the one or two bands with a few dozen Brethern behind each, some are in the countryside, but most are in small villages and towns, and because of the area I live in many of the villages have Catholic majorities, the parades in these villages are viewed no different from the others, and simply result from the local band or lodge from that locality inviting their neighbours to join them for a service or parade,  I don’t believe we do anything that is intended to offend or could be taken as offensive, the increasing number of Catholics who come out to watch bears witness to this I believe.

I am not on here to argue about Ardoyne or Drumcree, there will be ample chance for that over the coming days, but I just wanted to counter the “ban them all”  statements of some posters, only a tiny fraction of parades are contentious and are focused on a handful of interfaces, hopefully over time these can be resolved, but in the meantime lets us have our parades and enjoy them.   I would agree we probably need  Gok Wan to give us a makeover sometime,  but in the meantime I ‘m happy to look almost as ridiculous as a professional golfer,  and come Monday will proudly wear the Sash my father,  grandfather (and grandmother),  great grandfather and six or more generations back all wore on the Glorious Twelfth in their day.

  • Munsterview

    John EB

    I wish that ‘doctrinal differences’ were that easy to ignore or dismiss but for better or worse they have influenced thinking and dictated political actions on this Island. This sadly rather than any benefits of Christianity per se, led to a situations giving rise to Yeath’s pity observation of ‘Great hatreds, little room ‘!

    As to your own observations regarding Roman Catholic top tier corruption for most of its history from the earliest ages to the relative recent P 2 Masonic Vatican Lodge financial scandal, there has been little far short of serious to total corruption for most of the Vatican’s history. Instead of Society mirroring an Ideal Church Of the Gospels, the Church mirrored the Societies that it operated in !

    In this situation where there was absolute corruption and decadence among the Kings, Princes and other Ruling elites of Society, the same family elites that provided the Governance of the Church, what else could be expected ?

    In fact despite the noble ideas and ideals of Martin Luther, did the new Protestant States behave much better, other than some devolutions of democracy? From inception they faced the very same problems of religious/political dichotomy and made most of the same mistakes as previous State models, only in a more compressed time scale!

    This should not have been the situation on this island for the last two centuries : post the French Revolution The British Government and the Roman Catholic Establishment, including the few Wealthy Catholic families remaining here made common cause to prevent the radicalization of society.

    Robert Emmet’s Rising in particular scared the daylights out of all parties; the Act Of Union was supposed to have settled ‘ The Irish Question’ for all time, or at least the foreseeable future. However here was more of the same before the New Union Peers had even time to settle into their sinecures, explosive dumps in the Capital City and a leading judge killed. The Nightmare continued and England could not end it alone!

    Anne Warren’s chronology of the British Establishment bringing in successively more restrictive laws for the OO from 1820 to 1860 and after should bee seen on this light : now that they had the Catholic Establishment to act as their acceptable Policeman of the restless Catholic populace, they no longer needed the OO bogey men, in fact they got in the way. The Brits first wanted general control of society, they now had that by the first quarter of the 19th, cen., then they wanted peace and the OO activities led, be it inadvertent or otherwise, to constant inter faith, inter communal violence.

    One has only to look at the following 1912 OO document to see how much out of step it was with the Ireland of Dr. Douglas Hyde, Bishop Graves, Childers, Rodger Casement, Yeats, Lady Gregory, etc, or the rest of our other respected Protestant Culture Heros who led the Celtic Revival in the last quarter of the 19th, cent and made the mind set for establishing a Republic in the first quarter of the 20th, possible !

    John, before you are anyone else come back with ‘ how protestants fared ‘ in the Free State and later Republic, let me answer that by saying they fared the same if not better than True Republicans. Both minorities lost out!

    The OO bled in their thousands in the British Battle Fields of Europe to support the Crown and cement their connection to the British State. Where did it get them ?

    Just two decades after the last of that Loyalist blood had flowed for ‘King and Country’ Churchill offered the Six-Counties to Dev, lock, stock and barrel for the use of a few derelict sheet iron sheds and weed covered quays ! Were they consulted……. were they F****! British interests came first and that was that, as it always was and will be.

    If Dev had taken the deal do you think that Churchill would have hesitated to use the British Army to enforce it ?

    In this first quarter of this 21th century we are again where we were in the first quarter of the 20th, the same issues to be decided and the same way forward. We have two failed institutions, one that has fallen far short of its Independence promise, and another that it seems can only get started by agreeing on a joint policy of repression as in the curtailment of assembly and right to protest!

    In my cultural activities I frequently encounter third level Northern Protestant students in Folk and Traditional Music circles in the England and Scotland. Quite simply there is the same problem the English always had here with Planter stock, they have gone Native. The irony of it, they are now doing so in England, the mother country itself!

    I have also seen the pride and eagerness ot these young people in their own real culture when I have taken them through the United Irish Men and the Young Irelanders and linked these organizations to progressive European wide Movements. I have also seen their annoyance and anger at having this history concealed from them to the extent that only the OO was their identifiable cultural expression.

    The Battlefields of WW1 may be still big in some parts of Ulster but most English and European historians now portray it for what it was, a monumental and useless waste of young life’s that achieved nothing even in the intermediate term, in less than a generation it had to be done all over again! And I am not commenting on this from the outside; the bodies of two young officer cousins are in French soil near where they fell in uniform, both were spotters on planes over German lines.

    John, quite simply the bus of history left the depo over a century ago and the OO missed that. Another has again left the depo and the OO do not show too much signs of wanting to catch it this time around either. To continue the analogy, successfully puncturing the wheel the odd time may delay the bus certainly, it cannot stop it and eventually it will only delay the journey, inconvenience the passengers and totally piss off all aboard!

    Has the Protestant cause, in as much as there is a separate protestant cause in civil society, prospered culturally, financially or otherwise in the meantime North or South of the now largely cosmetic border ? When will reality dawn and participation in the new dispensation arise ?

  • Munsterview
  • John East Belfast


    I think you read too much into the tense I used – ie we had been discussing the 19th Century Orange Order at the time.

    However of course I agree with you – things move on and so should our mindsets.

    Heretics are no longer being burnt at the stake however the clerical abuse scandals show that a degree of caution and suspicion towards big institutionalised and authoratoritive religion can never be mis-placed

  • John East Belfast


    “One has only to look at the following 1912 OO document to see how much out of step it was with the Ireland of Dr. Douglas Hyde, Bishop Graves, Childers, Rodger Casement, Yeats, Lady Gregory, etc, or the rest of our other respected Protestant Culture Heros who led the Celtic Revival in the last quarter of the 19th, cent and made the mind set for establishing a Republic in the first quarter of the 20th, possible !”

    From where I am standing I think those Irish Protestants you list were out of step with the rest of us !

    “Has the Protestant cause, in as much as there is a separate protestant cause in civil society, prospered culturally, financially or otherwise in the meantime North or South of the now largely cosmetic border ? When will reality dawn and participation in the new dispensation arise ?”

    Yes it has very much prospered in Northern Ireland – I and my children have a great life – why do you think it hasnt ?
    And although you didnt want us raising the issue of Protestants in the ROI – but you just have ! – and from where I am standing I cant see how they did well – both numerically as well as having to live in a country where the Catholic Church had a major role in the 1937 Constitution and all any trappings of their past British heritage were suppressed – the Queen just might make it back next year. However we wont go there

    “John, quite simply the bus of history left the depo over a century ago and the OO missed that”

    I think that could be said of most religious entities – including the Catholic Church. However buses keep coming round again and another one can be caught later

  • Billy

    The Marching Season – Whats it all about?


    Well, head to the Dublin Road tomorrow at about 10.30 am wearing a Celtic top and you’ll find out.

    A grand day out altogether!

    (p.s. No doubt Mick will pull this post as well)

  • Munsterview


    I think that we can park this for now; the eve of the 12th, is not the best time to conduct an discussion about Northern politics, so enjoy, have a good a good Eve tonight, a great day to-morrow day and that applies to the rest of our readers up there on the other side too! Besides it is also too good a good sailing day to miss!

  • John East Belfast


    Have a good day yourself

  • John

    How would Orange Men feel if the shoe was on the other foot?

    If exterme Republican/Catholic organisation had a national holiday which they were excluded from and marched down there areas and intimated them would that be acceptable??

    What if this organisation was involved in serious criminality and other acts of thugary and violence would they be alright with that??

    If this is as they say it is a Christian organisation which is backed by the main protestants churches then where is the meassage of Christ “Love thy neighbour??” and “Do on to others as I have done unto you??” then Not very Christian is it??

    Where else in Britain or indeed the Democratic Free World would this carry on be allowed?
    Replace the word Catholic for Black Jew or Asian and it wouldn’t be allowed

    Image if they tried that in Britain they wouldn’t get away with it for a second and rightly so
    Where nearly half the population is excluded from there national holiday?

    Where it is seen as a “tradation” to act like a thug and petrol bomb police officers catholics in there homes and put huge 30ft bombfires outside a hospital, where in the bible does it jusify that?

    It used to be tradition to lynch black people to rape your wife to sell your children to slavery but we stopped all that so why should we continue these bararic tradtions either??

    I believe that if this whole “british” and “protestant” carry on is just a proxy – a front and there is neither anything british nor protestant about it just travel around britain and you will see nothing of the sort they make the BNP look like the liberal left

    This is done as a front to “prove” to themselves that they are “british” and “topdog” to cover-up the cracks in there identiy crises as where else in the world they have such carry on

    In every other country there national day is a postive day not a negetive where where they trample on there neighbours just to make themsleves “feel” better that is just hollow and empty

    In every other country national holiday St.Patrick’s Day, 4th of July Bastille Day Chinese New Year etc they don’t start burning other nations flags and intimade and exclude nearly half the population

    Basically if you take away all the elements of “britishness” and “protestantism” and thugary with just raw bigotry and hared for your Catholic neighbour then all you are left with is well nothing there is nothing there, it is empty hollow barren they have to keep up this front to prove that they are a million milies from there Catholic neighbours when in fact they are the same

    When ever a protestant from the north who goes over to britain they always called them Irish and Paddies and say that they are from Ireland and they certainly don’t regard them as british so they are from britain and yet they dont even regard then as british

    When ever the protestant from the north heard this they go absolutely mad at this like a bull reacts to a red flag but if they are so sure about there idenity they why would they react in such a manner as if you called a british person irish they laugh at you or if you called me british (i’m irish) i wouldn’t even lift an eyelid yet they get very worked up about the issue so obviously affects them and it is a raw point but why??

    In the sunday times a report done on the irish in britain and it said that the group most affect was the northen protestants as they were be called irish and had an idenity crises and were 4 times more likely to suffer from depression that other people from ireland and they put up british just to make sure that people in britsin know who they are!! not only that but loyalist are 10 times more likely to put up flags in there areas as republicans as was said in a recent report

    Now they are saying that they are northern irish which means that they are admitting that they are irish just northern irish like an east german was still a german

    Basically they are keeping this front up to keep their show on the road cause if they admit that they are they same and are irish Irish Cup Irish Football Assocation Irish League anyone?? they the game is up and all that time is wasted

    If you are protestant but you want to remain part of the uk fine fair enough but you don’t need to have this carry on as it proves your insecurities and it is just wasting your time trying to prove you’re british when you know in your heart you’re not you dont need to put on a show a song and dance to prove who you are as all that does it look sad and pathetic

    I’m Irish but I don’t need to start painting my kerb stones a certain colour or put up a flag or insult my neighbour because of their religious belief cause I know who I am and am comfortable with my idenity they aren’t

    The Christians churches have a hell of alot to answer for in relation to them backing such the Orange Order to the hilt even though they have caused and spread so much hatred amongst neighbours while prentending to be a Christian church an apology would help

    I know the Catholic Church did an awful lot of terrible crimes aswell and that was/is wrong aswell and they must also be accountable for the wrongs that they also did

    I would love if some one from the Orange order would respond to my piece

    Thanking you for reading my comment

    I am against all form of racial hatred religious hatred violence so if any church/group does or supports such crimes it is still wrong

    It’s all about: “walking down a road behind a good band with family, friends and neighbours watching is actually an enjoyable experience, even with no-one watching it is still a pleasure”
    So now we know, it’s a day out for narcissists. That would explain why some can’t see how offensive their behaviour is.

  • SMC

    “If this is as they say it is a Christian organisation which is backed by the main protestants churches then where is the meassage of Christ “Love thy neighbour??” and “Do on to others as I have done unto you??” then Not very Christian is it??”

    Well said John.

    As a born-again Christian (ie, I do not merely claim Christianity as my “religion” – I have acknowledged & accepted Chist as my Saviour & committed my life to serving & following God), this is the one thing that truly gauls me about the OO.

    I cannot bear to see parade banners & arches emblazened with images of the Bible, the cross, or slogans such as ‘For God & Ulster’ and the like. Such slogans & symbols pronounce the OO to be approved by God and claim to be for His glory. That is heresy.

    All Christian symbolism should be stripped from the OO. The OO is not a Christian organisation – it does not represent the Christian faith, it does not uphold or promote the teachings of Jesus – so it should not be permitted to masquerade as such.

    I pray that God would challenge the hearts of all true Christians who are part of the OO. Examine God’s word, examine yourselves, examine the core principles of the OO. Who do you truly serve as your Lord and Master…the true and living God? or a spiritually empty tradition?

    Peace & blessings

  • John

    Dear SMC,I wish to talk you for your very kind and true words which can be lost in a sea of point scoring

    I once heard a saying once and it was that the North was “full of religion and and had no Christianity” that they all claim to be part of a Christian church but they don’t act Christian to one another that maybe if all people in the North could act more Christian towards one then there would be less trouble – indeed all nearly all of the North is full of Christians; Catholic, Protestants, and Christians (smaller churches) they all believe in Jesus Christ and his message and are duty bound to try there very best to live there life like this (we are all human so we do make mistakes)
    Make God Bless you SMC and if more people were like you then maybe we would have a better more understanding world Take Care

  • John

    Dear Orangecitadel,Yes in alot of areas Orange Order marches DO pass of peacefully BUT you cannot ignore the bigory hatred and the message that this sends out

    For instance just say every what you say if the shoe was on the other foot and Nationalist/Republicians had the 12th of July on say every Easter weekend and it was a national holiday and they celebrated the glorious 1916 rising and they had marches all over the north for say most of the summer and through protestant areas how would they feel??
    Would they like it?? and they kept rubbing your noses in it?
    No you wouldn’t would you find offensive?
    How about people getting burned out of there homes and young boys getting burned alive in there bed???
    Fun eh for who??
    and people being forcefully kicked out of their own homes so that march can go ahead yeah thats great fun for catholics

    Yes it is better if all the marches go off peacefully BUT you cannot hid from the fact what the marches represent tupence ha’penny looking down on tupence basically if you took away these contenious issuses (i know that there are more issuse on both sides ) then for most part people would find it easier to get on easier not perfect though

    I believe that the major parties and even the churches like to divide the people of the north for their own gain as they fear that if they work and live togetheir then a new northern ireland they would play very little if any role or influnece in

    There is a huge amount of baggage involved it’s not just a parade and even you know that It’s about proving who is top dog who’s in control etc
    Basically we can march anywhere in the north (newtownbulter anyone??) just to prove our strength and that we can march any where

    The Orange Order mindset is that a win win for them if the marches go peacefully then they say “look they all really love our marches and tea and buns up on the hill this proves orange culture supermity over catholic traditions so less have it every year ” if there is a riot then they say “look they are trying to destroy our culture are way of life we must defend it and it proves what catholics would really do if they got there way”

    Also you cannot ignore the huge criminal element within the Orange Order even those within the Orange Order have critized what the Orange Order has done as in the book a tradation betrayed (though the oo has always been violent as acts of parliament had to been enacted in the 19 century to stop there activies )
    there was guns found at orange marches as late as the late ninties and oo men jailed for terrorism so expalin that then?

    I know that the oo will say well we cant control all our members etc nothing got to do with us well what if would they say that if a catholic organistion did that??
    Also football clubs are regulary fined if there fans riot or misbehave etc and that excuse doesn’t work

    I know that to many Unionst that the fear that this is the thin end of the wedge and that if this goes then thats it but this issuse is soul destroying and consuming the life out of unionism you’ll end up that this issuse becomes unionism instead of a side issuse

    How come in the republic the protestant community don’t feel they need to to prove who they are they used to but not anymore (a small number of protestant are orangemen but not many)
    The protestant churches in the south don’t feel the need to put up flags around the 12th of july
    My point being that they are just as much a protestant as anyone else and yet just because they don’t march in orange parades doesn’t mean that the sky has fallen the vibes that I am getting at is that when you mix up politics and religion too much both can suffer and both lose out
    I feel that the protestants feel that if they lost the 12th marches that it would mean that there whole identity would go and vanish when in fact it would set them free

    For instant some catholic are unionist in the north but it doesn’t make them any less catholic yet you never hear of a protestant who is a republician

    In the most countries your religion and politics are more about mix and match that what your religion is therefore if the 12th marches go it is like the baby being thrown out with the bath water

    Even in the belfast telegraph (a moderate unionist paper) they had a editorial in 1985 stating that tradtional marches had to change and that compromise must be done instead the oo refuse to this 25 years later

    Even the catholic aoh is pretty much dead and buried and it used to be tradition

    Basically what I am saying where are the oo going with this? when will it all end? will it go on indefinitly?? and for what?

    Why should the whole north be held hostage for a private bigotit organistan which is riddled with criminals why should they as tax payers pay the huge bill? would they allow this if the nationalist where doing this??

    Is it really worth saving a tradition which causes so much hurt and pain and divides brother against brother remember that in the south of the us the kkk were tradition and now there tahnkfully gone but that doesnt mean that they are any less americian traditions change and elove other wise we’ll still be stoning women for having affairs and chopping off hands for stealing

    Call a spade a spade and stop pudding footing around the issuse the oo is a bigot which is riddled with catholic hatrers and criminals and thugs who use the guise of church state (both endores and backs it) with tradition with the public face of “repectability” of the march and the tea on the hill to justify there actions

    If it looks like a duck feels like a duck waddles like a duck and quackes like a duck then its a duck

    Take Care

  • John

    Dear orangecitadel,sorry if i missed read your comment they wrong way take care cya

  • Thanks for that John. Are you a ?uck