July reminds us of one momentous, historic battle, is the Protocol the next?

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Years ago, for me, July was always that much wished for month when school would be out, there was no nightly homework and my siblings and I could roam the countryside coming back sometime later for tea.

I’m certain my mother was always glad to see the back of us for the day as she could ‘get-on’ as she used to call it with the daily laundry, cooking, pet keeping, even some gardening.

There was always time for her to visit local friends once the laundry was seen to, and the store cupboard replenished when she got the baking bowl out. Sometimes she joined us in our many country pursuits.

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Today’s mothers live a very different kind of life. A big percentage of them will be working full or part-time. For them filling the store cupboard is a weekend occupation and lots of time will be used up driving the children here and there to their many activities often to the detriment of her own hobbies and pleasures.

​It’s tradition: the Braid demonstration in Broughshane, Ballymena  (Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia)​It’s tradition: the Braid demonstration in Broughshane, Ballymena  (Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia)
​It’s tradition: the Braid demonstration in Broughshane, Ballymena (Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia)

I was thinking about her this week as I watched the local loyal Orange band pass my home on the way to their big day of celebration. They played music as they marched with family members walking alongside, some with children of assorted ages, the next generation learning the traditions in much the same way we did.

The Orange celebration may never have survived if women during the school holidays hadn’t been a big part of it, nurturing the tradition in their children, making the bags of sandwiches for the big day and ensuring their menfolk had spotless clean shirts to wear for the parade. It’s been a long lasting tradition despite what I thought in the 60’s that pop music would kill it off for good.

After all how could the music of the Orange tradition survive the music of the Beatles, Cliff Richard and Lulu. And then of course there were the showbands, the length and breadth of Ireland which had my ‘couldn’t-afford-a-car generation’ so besotted we thumbed lifts everywhere in order to attend their concerts.

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Did I ever imagine the Orange bands would still be out their hoisting their orange-lily trimmed banners and drums decades later whilst the showbusiness fraternity often had to vie for attention when it came to the `Orange’ season?

Some years ago on a trip down south I made a point of visiting the Battle of the Boyne site and museum. Our Orange history is worthy of respect and is the glue which keeps the Order going today. To many Protestants now though it’s just a period in time and while they may feel respect for its history and might still go out on the Twelfth day, they’ve moved on from it and so they should.

My generation keeps its memories of that time, the mini skirts and drainpipe trousers, the platform shoes and the false eyelashes but would we want to go back there? I shouldn’t think so, though we do respect the changes we created without even noticing that our future children would probably look at it all and think we were bonkers then.

Orange traditions on the other hand were created from a period of strife that was inevitable at the time. All battles and wars change society. Today we have a battle over the Protocol and, as Ben Habib, writing in the News Letter recently said, “we won the debate but lost the battle”. So battles will always be with us even the history and traditions of the unforgettable Boyne.