The loyal order marching season in Northern Ireland reaches a finale tomorrow with six major demonstrations of the Royal Black Institution.
Upwards of 17,000 members of the institution – the most senior of the loyal orders – will parade at six locations for the traditional ‘Last Saturday’ demonstrations.
Approximately 350 preceptories, accompanied by 300 bands, will take part in the processions in Ballygowan, Ballymoney, Dungannon, Holywood, Garvagh and Seskinore.
Preceptories and bands from the Republic’s border counties will parade in Dungannon and Seskinore, while Scottish bands will lead preceptories at Ballymoney, Ballygowan and Holywood.
Sovereign Grand Master, the Rev William Anderson, who will attend the Ballymoney parade, said the institution was looking forward to “another day of spectacle and pageantry”.
He said: “Our traditional ‘Last Saturday’ demonstrations are rightly regarded a flagship day in the annual parading season.
“We are expecting tens of thousands of spectators to line the parade routes at the six different venues.
“The parades are a colourful expression. Our banners have Biblical scenes, we have talented musicians in our bands, and our members, in Royal Black regalia – it makes for a glorious display of culture in our beloved Province.”
Mr Anderson added: “I was mightily impressed by the huge crowds at this year’s ‘Sham Fight’ demonstration in Scarva on July 13, and the attendance at the recent Co Fermanagh demonstration in Brookeborough was also a great source of encouragement to me as sovereign grand master.
“It’s clear from the high level of support we receive at our parades, that the Royal Black Institution plays an important and cherished role in the lives of a great many people in Northern Ireland.
“I pray that each of our ‘Last Saturday’ parades will be enjoyable and memorable occasions for all involved, as we witness for the Reformed Christian Faith.”
Three thousand RBP members from 80 preceptories in six districts – Ballymoney, Ballymena, Antrim, Lisburn, Larne and Ballyclare – will parade at the Co Antrim demonstration. They will be headed by 75 bands.
The parade will leave the showgrounds at 12.30pm, proceeding through the town centre to the Riada playing fields. During the parade, there will be a short stoppage for an act of remembrance at the war memorial on High Street.
Platform proceedings will be chaired by Roland Hill, Ballymoney district master and the service of worship conducted by Co Antrim chaplain Rev David McCarthy. The return parade leaves at 4.15pm.
l Three resolutions will be passed at the demonstrations on faith, loyalty and constitution. affirming Reformed Protestant principles. The Royal Black Institution, with headquarters in Loughgall, is globally based with preceptories in Ireland, Scotland, England, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Ballygowan village in Co Down is the venue for the largest demonstration.
A total of 107 preceptories from 13 districts will be led by 100 bands, many of them the top part flute, pipe, silver and accordion bands in Northern Ireland.
Saintfield district, with eight preceptories, will host the parade and other districts taking part are Lower Iveagh (Dromore), Lecale, Castlewellan, Newry, Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Rathfriland, Mourne, Largymore (Lisburn), Comber, Newtownards, Bangor and Comber.
The marchers will number around 8,000 in total. Among the preceptories will be the largest in the institution, Elijah’s Chosen Few RBP 208 from Kilkeel in Mourne district, with 280 members.
The main parade commences at noon, from the Ravara Road through the village, to the demonstration field at Belfast Road.
Platform proceedings will be chaired by Colin Cunningham, County Grand Master. A service will be conducted by Raymond Adams, county chaplain, with the preacher Robin Fairbairn, Saintfield chaplain. The return parade is at 4pm.
Sixty preceptories and bands from Co Armagh and the South Tyrone/East Tyrone region is expected to attract up to 15,000 spectators.
Five districts will take part – Aughnacloy, Killyman (Dungannon), East Tyrone (Cookstown), Primatial (Armagh City) and Summerisland (Loughgall).
The 5,000-strong parade moves off at noon from Northland Park proceeding via Dungannon town centre. Platform proceedings are under the chairmanship of Desmond Bloomer, District Master Killyman. The service is conducted by Rev David Reid.
The City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter’s demonstration is in the north Down town. Fifty preceptories will be led by more than 30 bands. A service will be held at Spafield playing fields at 11am, conducted by Alan McIntosh, Belfast city chaplain. The main parade begins at 11.45am, taking in Holywood town centre. Return parade is at 4.15pm.
Twenty-three preceptories will parade in the west Tyrone village, all accompanied by bands. Hosted by Seskinore RBP No 304, the parade involves three districts – Omagh, Strabane and Castlederg.
The main parade starts at 12.30pm.
Platfiorm proceedings will be conducted by Stanley McFarland, Omagh district master, with principal speaker asssistant Sovereign Grand Master William Baillie, from Annalong.
The Co Londonderry demonstration takes place in Garvagh, hosted by the local preceptory Star of Bethlehem RBP No 504, The parade involves four districts – City of Londonderry, South Londonderry, Raphoe (Co Donegal) and Coleraine. Thirty-two preceptories will take part, led by 28 bands, in a parade of 3,000. The main parade begins at noon, with the return at 3.30pm. The service will be conducted by RBP chaplains the Revs Joseph Andrews and Rev John Martin.
• Three resolutions will be passed at the demonstrations on faith, loyalty and constitution. affirming Reformed Protestant principles. The Royal Black Institution, with headquarters in Loughgall, is globally based with preceptories in Ireland, Scotland, England, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.