PICTURES: Royal Black Institution hails ‘overhwelming success’ of last Saturday parades across Northern Ireland

The Royal Black Institution has said its Last Saturday parades were “an overwhelming success”.

By Staff Reporter
Sunday, 29th August 2021, 8:10 am
Updated Sunday, 29th August 2021, 9:30 am
Royal Black Institution 'Last Saturday' parade in Belfast, one of 28 in Northern Ireland. 
Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacmaker.
Royal Black Institution 'Last Saturday' parade in Belfast, one of 28 in Northern Ireland. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacmaker.

The organisation’s flagship day usually involves major demonstrations at six locations across Northern Ireland.

But this year, due to the Covind pandemic, the loyal order held local paradas, arranged at district level.

The Royal Black said that around 17,000 members of the institution took part in 28 separate demonstrations.

Royal Black Institution 'Last Saturday' parade in Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacmaker

Approximately 350 preceptories, most accompanied by bands, were in parades invarious cities, towns and villages across the Province.

Among those to host demonstrations were Lisburn, Ballymena, Antrim, Larne, Ballymoney, Ballyclare, Killylea, Loughgall, Belfast, Dromore, Clough, Newry, Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Rathfriland, Kilkeel, Comber, Newtownards, Ballygowan, Bangor, Coleraine, Limavady, Desertmartin, Dungannon, Aughnacloy, Cookstown, and Castlederg.

Rev William Anderson, who is Royal Black Sovereign Grand Master, said the day was “an overwhelming success that bodes well for the future of the Institution”.

Rev Anderson, who was on parade with fellow Sir Knights in Desertmartin, added: “The Royal Black Institution has once again staged a very enjoyable day for our members, their families and supporters.”

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson joined with Sir Knights in Desertmartin for a parade organised by South Londonderry RBDC No 4. Rev Anderson is pictured with County and District Officers

He added: “Last year, our traditional Last Saturday demonstrations were cancelled due to Covid, but we managed to mark the day by holding wreath-laying events and drive-in services.

“Of course, we would have dearly loved to return to holding six main demonstrations again this year, but we thought it was more responsible to organise District parades.

“It seems the public have responded to this very favourably, with people enjoyinThg a Last Saturday closer to home, and the day has been an overwhelming success that bodes well for the future of the Institution.”

Rev Anderson added: “After 18 months of the pandemic, the Institution has proven today that it is as strong and vibrant as ever before, and we are deeply appreciative of the support and affection shown by the public towards us at each of the 28 parades across Northern Ireland today.

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson joined with Sir Knights in Desertmartin for a parade

“And God willing, we’ll be able to make a full return to our traditional ‘Last Saturday’ parades in 2022.”

A short religious service was held at each of the Last Saturday parades.

“It was wonderful to join with fellow Sir Knights and worship Almighty God,” said Rev Anderson.

“We have so much to be thankful for — His guiding hand continues to lead us through the pandemic and, of course, we thank God for all the brave health workers who have worked tirelessly to care for us and administer the vaccine rollout.”

General view of the Last Saturday Royal Black Institution parade in Lisburn, Co Antrim. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

The parades were also an opportunity for participants and supporters to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland.

At each of the parades, resolutions were passed by Sir Knights on Faith, Loyalty, and the Constitution, with the latter calling for the removal the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“We wish to remain in the United Kingdom and our citizenship of such is not open for negotiation or to be used as a bargaining tool by either Her Majesty’s Government or any foreign power,” said the resolution.

Many Sir Knights on parade on Saturday had already been ‘stepping out’ to celebrate Northern Ireland’s centenary over the last fortnight, having taken part in the Institution’s ‘Centenary Circuit’.

Relay teams of Sir Knights embarked on a 10-day sponsored lap — on foot and bicycle — of the Province, with all money raised going to the Institution’s Designated Charity Appeal, The Somme Nursing Home in Belfast.

Billed as a chance to “Rediscover your home”, the route — which incorporated all six counties of Northern Ireland — was divided into 29 different sections, covering a total of 176 miles.

Coleraine RBDC No 1 Bally Rashane band leaving at Killowen Orange Hall Coleraine Photo Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press

The Circuit got under way on Monday, August 16 at Tynan Abbey in Co Armagh, home of the late Sir Norman Stronge, a former Sovereign Grand Master who was murdered by the IRA in 1981.

The event concluded with a three-mile walk to the finish line at the Institution’s new headquarters in Loughgall on Friday afternoon.

The Centenary Circuit was a hugely rewarding experience for everyone who took part, according to the Sovereign Grand Master, who was on location across each of the 10 days.

“What a wonderful way to celebrate 100 years of Northern Ireland, by walking around our beautiful country and taking time to enjoy its fascinating landmarks, amazing scenery and, of course, its fantastic people,” said Rev Anderson.

“Along the route, I met so many inspiring Sir Knights and their families, who love God, love their country, and love their Institution. They took part to raise money for a very worthy cause, and are full of Christian compassion for their fellow citizen – which is the very essence of our Institution.

“Many new friendships were made, and it was an experience that will live long in the memory.”

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Coleraine RBDC No 1 Ballywillan Lodge at Killowen Orange Hall Coleraine Photo Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press
Part of the Banbridge procession
A banner in the Banbridge parade
Coleraine RBDC No 1 Jeffery Stirling County Grand Master Giving a service at Killowen Orange Hall Coleraine Photo Desmond Loughery/Pacemaker Press