Today is our glorious Twelfth and I have to confess it’s a long time since I’ve been to a parade on the day. Holidays usually got in the way.
When my boys were small I once took them to our local parade which in that year happened to be near us. The youngest – in a pushchair – howled his head off at the noise, whilst the other had no idea what it was all about and looked suitably bored.
I didn’t repeat the experiment yet often thought how different my childhood was compared to theirs. To us children living in rural south Derry the Twelfth was everything, the music, the colour and the egg and onion sandwiches eaten in the field while we waited to join the parade home again on the traditional route for that area, followed by the last short parade on the return to our own Orange Hall finishing under the Arch which was always erected with some ceremony the night before.
During the Troubles the Arch was sabotaged and eventually this revered annual ritual had to be abandoned. The demolition of Orange culture began a long time ago and all this talk of inclusivity of cultures by the likes of Martin McGuinness is neither sincere nor believed by the Protestant population.
If we children were sad when the big day ended there was always the 13th to look forward to. We knew about the events in Scarva but without a family car we were in no position to go so this day was often celebrated by a game of rounders in our uncle’s field. Being a large extended family there was always enough of us to field teams.
A few Catholic friends would have joined us. The morning would have been spent clearing the cow-pats off the ground. If you were lucky and it had been a dry year the pats would have been easily dealt with, a quick kick with a boot out of range of the rounders’ track. Otherwise they had to be shovelled off and the site of the pat cleaned with a handful of grass, if not the hem of a skirt. If a Union Jack survived from the day before it was hoisted on the fence.
Those rounders’ games were highly competitive. Our protests at cheating attempts could be heard five miles away. Hours of batting and running later we would have adjourned to which ever aunt’s house was offering lemonade and biscuits, or, a much prized cup of freshly made buttermilk.
Yes, I have wonderful memories of rounders and was pleasantly surprised when the Governor of the Bank of England, Canadian born Mark Carney decided that the bank’s summer party this year should be ‘a little bit more inclusive’. So out went the traditional game of manly cricket in exchange for rounders which both sexes can play together.
Some of the posh and traditionally minded guests described the decision as outrageous, awful and a sacrilege. Did they never play rounders at places like Eton? I must say I don’t watch much cricket. Like golf, I can never see the point of it but rounders is different. I can still recall the rules and would dearly like to get a celebration match together with those geriatric cousins and friends who provided hours of great fun on a 13th of July when we had no money to do anything else.
Last summer English born neighbours held a fun afternoon for friends, neighbours and their children. It was a hot sunny day in that field by a gently flowing river. And the most popular event of the day? Rounders!