Balmoral Review – fireworks, food, funfair, parades and speeches

Jackie McDonald’s remarks at the Political Studies Association conference about the Orange Order’s planned parade to Ormeau Park in May stirred up a lot of comments on Slugger.

Answering a question after his speech, the former UDA prisoner painted a vision of “the UVF in the Somme gear” and “antique motors with the machine guns on them and all the paramilitary flags” passing by parts of Short Strand behind the Orange lodges and bands.

On Easter Tuesday 1912, a large parade gathered for a rally at the Balmoral Royal Ulster Agricultural Show Grounds to show unionist opposition to the proposed Home Rule Bill, two days before its introduction in the House of Commons. Edward Carson addressed the crowds and Andrew Bonar Law – the (Conservative) leader of the Opposition – was guest of honour.

The presence of seventy Conservative MPs representing English and Scottish constituencies demonstrated that Ulster unionists did not lack influential friends. The largest ever Union Flag ever woven was dramatically unfurled above the assembled multitudes.

It is estimated that over 100,000 attended, with 70 special trains ferrying men to Dunmurry where they decamped and marched down to Balmoral to meet the Belfast men arriving from the other direction.

Balmoral Review posterOn 19 May 2012, the ‘Balmoral Review’ will be commemorated with a parade to the Ormeau Park (ie, the all weather pitch behind the Ozone). The events have been organised by the Unionist Centenary Committee in partnership with the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.

Events open on the Friday evening (18 May) at 6pm, with the tented village, food stalls and fun fair, and a fireworks display at 10pm. The organisers state that it will be “an alcohol-free, family friendly event”.

On the Saturday, parades will leave Alexandra Park Avenue, Sandy Row, Shankill Road and Clifton Street and arrive in Ormeau Park around noon. Participants are encouraged to parade in period costume.

The tented village will offer “a number of workshops and exhibitions”. A “superb programme of entertainment” will commence at 1.30pm after a religious service at 1pm. The parade leaves Ormeau Park after the National Anthem at 5pm.

Covenant ties, badges, notebooks, cuff links, tea towels and mugs are available from the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland website shop. (They’ve a selection of Titanic goods too.)

The printed booklet (supported by NI Community Relations Council) that accompanies the Balmoral Review contains many pages of history and explanation of how the original Easter Tuesday parade and rally fitted into the Home Rule/Covenant timeline. In the booklet, the Unionist Centenary Committee note their four guiding principles for events:

1. Events should be based on fact.

2. Communities should develop evidence based activities which give people an in depth understanding after considering what the broader implications are of their event.

3. Recognise and respecting different perceptions/impacts.

4. Work towards outcomes which provide a better understanding for all.

They also note:

The Balmoral Review is an opportunity for people to learn and celebrate. Exhibitions, booklets etc are available and people are on hand to help explain our history etc. Please take advantage of this. We will also be extending the hand of friendship to non Unionist communities on Friday night, explaining to them the Home Rule Crises from a Unionist Perspective.

There’s a heavy emphasis on “respect your history and your culture” throughout the paper programme. The News Letter carried some details of the Balmoral Review launch in Monday’s paper.

I wonder how large a Union Flag they’d need to be the largest ever on this occasion?

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  • PaulT

    Boy the OO know’s how to throw a party, march to a field, say prayers, read booklets, drink tea, sing God Save the Queen and go home

  • Drumlins Rock

    You should try it Paul, have had visiting friends from overseas rave about the amazing day they had at the 12th, hi-light of their visit to Ireland.

    One of the most memorably days of my youth was the Co. Tyrone re-enactment of the Battle of the Boyne on 26th May 1990 at Cookstown, over 500 of us took part with thousands watching,

    I hope 19th of May 2012 will be a similar day, see if Belfast CGL can match Tyrone’s achievement then, I have been re-assured by comments from those who seem to know on here, it is starting to look like it could be a very enjoyable day.

  • PaulT, you’ve left out the banter, the crack, the music, the sandwiches and the wee buns. It’s not just about remembering 1690, it’s about remembering the event, about making new friendships and renewing old ones. I’d be very surprised if there was a complete absence of alcohol 🙂

  • PaulT

    apologies if I sound underwhelmed, and how you describe other events sound like a nice day out if that’s your cup of tea *ahem* but the whole thing for next month seems quite muted, will there be any big ‘names’ for the event, any royals or cabinet MPs. It just sounds like a 12th of July event to me.

    All in all the centenary of building a big ship which sank on its first voyage seem to be regarded as a much bigger event that the founding of the State (on paper at least)

    the 1798 rebellion 200 year commeneration had a nice buzz to it for the whole year, do you think this will bubble along for the rest of the year will the 12th be a big event this year?

  • Harry Flashman

    “the 1798 rebellion 200 year commeneration had a nice buzz to it for the whole year, do you think this will bubble along for the rest of the year will the 12th be a big event this year?”

    You know I haven’t the slightest recollection of a single event associated with the bicentenary of ’98. I was just thinking the other day after finishing Pakenham’s “Year of Liberty” how utterly muted the whole thing was, I must have missed it all.

  • Red Lion

    Looking forward to it hopefully shall be an enjoyable day, hope theres a nice selection of pipe bands playing !!

  • “the 1798 rebellion 200 year commeneration had a nice buzz”

    You make it sound like a damp squib, PaulT. Isn’t it funny how times change? If you go back to that era around Ballymoney some Presbyterians were republicans:

    We are now in this country [USA, 1804] under a real Republican Government and the best in the world and have got into possession of a new and extensive country which Ireland would not be a garden to.

    whereas a few miles to the east some Catholics in Loughguile were articulating the loyalist cause:

    To that part of our Protestant brethren, who have so solemnly excluded us from their fraternity [Orange Order?], we only entreat that should the hour of danger ever arrive we may be allowed to unite our efforts in defence of our king and country.

  • ranger1640

    I’m Looking forward to see this event, so it can help put into perspective the events that were told to me by my grandparents, other elderly relatives and family friends.

    How Unionist politicians, fraternal institutions and ordinary Unionist people who are all part of my cultural background. Took part in the most dynamic time in our history. A once in a life time chance to see people in period dress, with the use of props, flags, bands, vehicles and re-enactments, will bring the event alive for everyone and relevant for children and adult alike.

    Similar to the re-enactments on Easter Sunday that are held by republicans.

  • carl marks

    Was Jackie playing a April fools day prank on us. There seems to be no mention of loyalist paramilitaries, beyond “ old UVF”.
    As i have said in other posts i dislike the idea of the UVF in any form being lauded but recognise the 1912 in a key part of unionist history and that community may regard the UVF of that period as being different from the present namesake, what is disturbing is that in many areas the people celebrating the old gang have connection s to the new one. (Ballymena has a march where they dress up as old UVF and the organisers are the PUP)
    This would not be my idea of a day out but each to their own , it certainly is going to be colourful enough.

  • carl marks

    Similar to the re-enactments on Easter Sunday that are held by republicans.

    where do republicians hold these enactments, first i have heard about them.
    Come on time and place please.

  • ranger1640
  • carl marks

    indeed i stand corrected, in my defence it has been a long time since i was at a Easter parade.

  • ranger1640

    Sorry Carl forgot to put up this years shinner Easter parade

  • carl marks

    your ok dont bother with anymore. just remembred why i dont go anymore.

  • lamhdearg2

    Easter sunday 1916 commemoration,2012 Falls road Belfast,
    some words that cover it
    sad unhappy, depressed bereaved, bitter, blue, cheerless, dejected, despairing, despondent, disconsolate, dismal, distressed, doleful, down, down in dumps, down in mouth, downcast, forlorn, gloomy, glum, grief-stricken, grieved, heartbroken, heartsick, heavyhearted, hurting, in doldrums, in grief, in the dumps, languishing, low, low-spirited, lugubrious, melancholy, morbid, morose, mournful, out of sorts, pensive, pessimistic, sick at heart, somber, sorrowful, sorry, troubled, weeping, wistful, woebegone.

  • lamhdearg2

    I had a good day today in Bangor, O.O. littluns on parade, one thing i noticed, North down events posters (and web site) not a mention of the parade, i would say it brought maybe an extra 10000+ into the town cafes/shops/pickie park* all buzzing, ingrates.

    *those with littuns of their own check out the new improved pickie park.

    And now Stormont, from the BBC,
    “The Stormont estate will host the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s Covenant centenary parade later this year.”
    cue, gnashing of/off teeth.

  • As lamhdearg2 mentioned, from Ormeau Park to Carson’s Statue in the shadow of Parliament Buildings.

  • Harry Flashman

    “Carl check out the sinn fein Easter parade as photographed by the Belfast Telegraph”

    Grim, truly grim.

    I’ve said it before but how come western Europe’s most formidable guerrilla organization simply can’t “do” paramilitary style uniforms?

    Chucks always look decidedly uncomfortable outside their preferred anorak, sneakers and home made balaclava mode. Have a look at those photos (skip the shot of the horrendous collection of Cuman na mBan ladies if you haven’t had breakfast yet, my late glamorous grandmother, a former member, would be turning in her grave at that collection of shapeless heffalumps), they’re a mess.

    Why can’t Republicans wear berets properly? They’ve had almost half a century of practice at funerals and Easter parades yet still they end up looking like Frank Spencer in one of his more gormless moments. I should point out that the bloke in photo 17 is an honourable exception, he’s got the French paratrooper look down to a tee, even to the reflective pilot Raybans.

    You got to hand it to the huns, they know how to do uniforms, especially back in the 70’s. Who can forget the ranks of Aussie slouch hat wearing, cudgel carriers back in ’74, or Gusty Spence’s boys in their black polo necks, Sam Browne belts and commando caps?

    I guess it must have something to do with the lefty background to the Provos with their disdain for regular armies as opposed to the Imperialist prods. It seemed to come through in their respective ranking structures too, everyone in the Ra was a simple “volunteer”, whereas the prods went for “staff sergeants”, “captains” and “colonels” etc, if I’m not wrong East Antrim even had a couple of field marshalls.

  • cars1912

    The BR should be a great couple of days. No alcohol and a family event. Free entertainment, fairground, stuff for the kids and education for those that want it. On Friday night there will also be a fireworks display and not a Thompson sub machine gun in sight! Mind you it wasn’t around in 1912 – 1916 unless your a Provo and don’t know your history.