The loyal order marching season ends on Saturday with six demonstrations by the Royal Black Institution.
Apart from the Twelfth, the ‘Last Saturday’ parades are the largest of the year with 350 preceptories and top quality bands provide a highly colourful spectacle.
An estimated 17,000 RBP members will take part, with tens of thousands of spectators expected to gather in the various centres,
The institution’s recently installed Sovereign Grand Master the Rev William Anderson said the ‘Last Saturday’ parades are rightly regarded as one of the flagship events of the annual parading season and we are once again expecting another glorious day of spectacle and pageantry, enjoyed by tens of thousands at six different venues across the Province.
“The large numbers of spectators in attendance and success of this year’s Sham Fight at Scarva, and the recent Co Fermanagh demonstration, underline the enduring appeal and relevance of the Royal Black Institution,” said Mr Anderson.
The largest parade of the day will be in the north Down borough where approximately 5,000 RBP members will be on parade.
A total of 106 preceptories and 100 bands will take part in the three-mile walk. Districts represented will be Lower Iveagh, Lecale, Castlewellan, Newry, Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Rathfriland, Mourne, Largymore, Comber, Newtownards, Saintfield and Bangor. Several Scottish preceptories and bands will also take part.
Among the preceptories stepping out will be the largest in the institution – Elijah’s Chosen Few RBP No 208 from Kilkeel in Mourne district, with 280 members. Bumper crowds, estimated to be up to 25,000, are expected to converge on the town.
The main parade commences at 11.30am, leaving West Winds playing fields, and proceeding via Circular Road through Newtownards town centre to Comber Road; before returning to the playing fields.
The religious service will be chaired by Colin Cunningham, Co Down grand master. The guest speaker will bethe Rev Ron Johnstone. The return parade will not proceed through the town centre; rather sir knights and accompanying bands will leave Newtownards via Blenheim Drive, Comber Road and Messines Road.
Eighty preceptories and 75 bands will parade in the Co Antrim demonstration in the east Antrim coastal town to the demonstration area at Sandy Bay playing fields.
Participating preceptories are from six districts – Lisburn, Ballymena, Antrim, Larne, Ballymoney and Ballyclare, made up of more than 3,000 members. The main parade, through Larne town centre, starts at noon.
Platform proceedings will be under the chairmanship of Arthur Beattie, Larne district master and Co Antrim Grand Chaplain Robert Campbell will conduct the service of worship. Guest speaker will be Philip Agnew, a representative of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). The Christian outreach organisation is the designated charity of the Imperial Grand Black Chapter’s latest biennial appeal this year.
The Cookstown demonstratration involves RBP members from south and east Tyrone, west Armagh, and counties Cavan and Monaghan. In attendance will be the Sovereign Grand Master the Rev William Anderson.
Seventy preceptories and bands will provide a two-hour parade, with the march led by Tullylagan pipe band. Five districts will take part – Aughnacloy, Killyman (Dungannon), Summerisland (Loughgall), Primatial City (Armagh) and East Tyrone (Cookstown).
They move off at noon from Grange Road, via Tullywiggan Road, Killymoon Street, through the town to the field at Moneymore Road. At the platform proceedings, the Rev William Anderson is the principal speaker. The service will be conducted by Rev Robert Boyd with the preacher the Rev Dr David Murphy.
Twenty-four preceptories and bands will join in the west Tyrone demonstration, with three districts represented – Strabane, Castlederg and Omagh.
The main parade commences at 1.30pm, moving via Longland Road, Lisnarragh Road and Berryhill Road before returning to Longland Road for a religious service. Preacher will be the Rev Geoffrey Abraham, with the principal speaker being deputy county lay chaplain James Emery.
During the service there will be an emphasis on the centenary of the ending of the First World War. There will also be recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing. In 1998, the Last Saturday was also held in Donemana; then, members of Omagh District opted not to participate as a mark of respect.
The Co Londonderry demonstration features 35 preceptories from four districts – South Londonderry, City of Londonderry, Coleraine and Raphoe (Co Donegal).
Thirty bands will lead the parade, which begins at noon from Ballyclose Street, through the town to the field on Roemill Road. Platform proceedings will have as special preacher the Rev Brian Hassin. Guest speaker will be the Institution’s Imperial Grand Registrar, William Scott.
City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter’s demonstration is in the mid-Antrim borough. It is tradition for Belfast members of the Black Institution to parade in various provincial towns and cities.
Fifty preceptories, from seven districts, will be accompanied by 30 bands, a number from Scotland. The parade moves off at 11.45am from Ballee playing fields over a route taking in Ballymena town centre and returning to the playing fields. The service of worship will be conducted by Alan McIntosh, Belfast grand chaplain, and city Grand Master William Elliott.