Chapter Chat: BBC interview turns spotlight on Royal Black Institution

​​The head of the Royal Black Institution faced a series of searching questions about the organisation as the 2023 parading season reached its finale.
Rev William Anderson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution addresses the crowd at Scarva. (Photo by Graham Baalham-Curry)Rev William Anderson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution addresses the crowd at Scarva. (Photo by Graham Baalham-Curry)
Rev William Anderson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution addresses the crowd at Scarva. (Photo by Graham Baalham-Curry)

Listeners to BBC Radio Ulster’s ‘Evening Extra’ heard the Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson speak candidly about the history and motivation of the organisation in an interview with journalist Mark Simpson two days ahead of the Last Saturday parades.

The item began with Mark’s co-host Joel Taggart saying: “Many will know about the Orange Institution and the Apprentice Boys, but what do we really know about the Black Institution?”

The following is an abridged version of the interview:

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William Anderson: The Royal Black Institution is very much a faith-based institution, Bible-based and Christ-centred, and it wants to promote the Reformed Christian Faith through its public processions … its work with its own members and families and the wider community, as well as through our charity work.

Mark Simpson: What about politics?

WA: Politics is not allowed. No, we don’t discuss politics.

MS: Would you describe your institution as pro-Union, though?

WA: Yes, of course, we are concerned, as you have seen in our Mission Statement, we want to continue and further develop social and responsible citizenship. We are citizens of the United Kingdom, and that’s what we would support. Yes, no problem with that, but we don’t get into party politics.

MS: So, you would admit you are political, just not party political?

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WA: Ah no, I think that’s just a twisting of words. I don’t think we are political at all. We are concerned about our citizenship in the world that we live in today, and that citizenship, in this part of the world, is in the United Kingdom. Don’t forget, we have members across the world.

MS: Pro-Union sounds pretty much political to me.

WA: No, it wouldn’t be political, because you couldn’t call a Canadian pro-Union or an American pro-Union, and they are members of the same organisation that I am a member of.

MS: What about gender?

WA: Well, it’s a male organisation. It always has been, and I don’t see any need for consideration of that.

MS: So, it’s 2023 … in what is still a divided society, what contribution do you think the Royal Black is making, can make and will make?

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WA: The Royal Black, as we stand, has donated £845,500 to various charities throughout Northern Ireland … and we have also been abroad to the Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda, where we built a maternity wing onto a hospital out there, with the skill of our membership who went out with a team … We make a contribution through our faith, and we encourage people to come to a faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

MS: And for people who don’t know much about the loyal orders, what is your relationship, if any, with the likes of the Apprentice Boys … the Orange Order?

WA: Well, obviously … we do keep in touch with one another and as every member of the Royal Black Institution is a member of the Loyal Orange Institution, and therefore there is a commonality and purpose there.

MS: The colours. Why black? Give us a history lesson.

WA: Well, here we go, Mark (laughter from both).

As you would well be aware, the colour black is often associated with death and mortality and therefore it’s a solemn reminder, I think, of our own sin, and we deserve God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and the life to come, so every time we wear that colour it’s a reminder to us that we need a Saviour to save us from our sins and, of course, the Gospel is for everyone to repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The reference to the word Royal is nothing to do with the Royal family but rather a reference to 1st Peter 2:9, where true believers in Jesus Christ are described as ‘the chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a peculiar people’, so the Royal Black Institution is therefore a body of true believers who receive and rest upon Christ alone for their salvation.

The full interview was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on 24/8/2023