Chapter Chat: Royal Black’s Centenary Circuit hailed as ‘tremendous success’

The leader of the Royal Black Institution has urged people to make a last-minute donation to the ‘Centenary Circuit’.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 27th September 2021, 5:02 am
Blue skies and sunshine for the Centenary Circuit at Groomsport Memorial
Blue skies and sunshine for the Centenary Circuit at Groomsport Memorial

Calling on sir knights and members of the public to “dig deep” and show their appreciation to all the walkers who took part in the sponsored lap of Northern Ireland, Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson said: “We had a really enjoyable time walking around our beautiful country but now we want to make sure we raise as much money as we can for such a good cause, The Somme Nursing Home in Belfast.

“It’s not too late, we are still taking donations online – please visit our website and show your support.”

After walking 176 miles around Northern Ireland, the Centenary Circuit crossed the finish line in Loughgall on the evening before the Last Saturday, to rapturous applause and heartiest congratulations from those who had gathered to welcome home the walkers for the final stretch of their epic pilgrimage.

Cyclists on the Scarva Towpath route stop for some refreshments with Mount Carmel RBP 24

It was a wonderful evening of fellowship, music and culture to lift the spirits and banish away any feelings of fatigue among those core participants who had walked most of the route.

This was an evening to remember – celebrating 100 years of Northern Ireland, and also celebrating the vitality and strength of the Royal Black Institution, which had just completed one of its most ambitious “mass participation” events ever undertaken.

To mark 100 years since the foundation of Northern Ireland, relay teams of sir knights embarked on a sponsored lap – on foot and bicycle – of the Province, with all money going to the institution’s designated charity, the Somme Nursing Home.

The Centenary Circuit took place over a 10-day period (August 16-20 and 23-27).

A Lambeg drum leads the Centenary Circuit, joined by members from Agivey Knights of Ulster RBP 843

Billed as a chance to “Rediscover your home”, the route – which included all six counties of Northern Ireland – was divided into 29 different sections covering a total of 176 miles, and catered for walkers of all abilities.

Starting from Sir Norman Stronge’s home, Tynan Abbey in Co Armagh, on Monday, August 16, some sections were one to three miles long, while those who fancied a stiffer challenge were able to take on a 10-mile hike in the Mourne Mountains on August 26.

There were two cycling sections – the 26-mile Lagan Towpath route on August 23 and the 20-mile Scarva Towpath route on August 27.

A social function was held each evening, with refreshments and entertainment provided, bringing together participants and supporters in a relaxed environment after a day’s walking.

Centenary Circuit walkers pictured at Ebrington Barracks, Londonderry

It concluded with a three-mile walk to the finish line at the institution’s new headquarters in Loughgall on Friday, August 27.

One of those behind the project was Sir Knight Calvin Reid, of Glentimon RBP 416.

He said the event had been a tremendous success.

“It is fair to say that the two weeks exceeded our expectations in terms of support from the membership and the institution’s wider family,” he said.

“Because the weather was in our favour, we were able to truly appreciate all the fantastic scenery that Northern Ireland has to offer. It is cliché to say, but scarcely a day went past without a member of the group claiming that we don’t appreciate the beauty we have on our own doorstep – and it’s true!”

Mr Reid said perhaps the “greatest thrill” had been the “phenomenal support” given to the project by the grassroots of the institution.

“At every destination along the way, local sir knights and friends turned out in strength to support the Centenary Circuit. Regardless of where we were in the country, sir knights were willing to lend their support and help in whatever way they could.

“Over the course of the 10 days, the hospitality and entertainment were second to none, without exception.

“A core group completed the majority of the routes, and it was heart-warming to see the bond and good-hearted camaraderie that developed over the course of the two weeks amongst people who, before then, had been complete strangers.”

You can still donate to the Centenary Circuit via the institution’s website, www.royalblack.org