Royal Black Institution set for grand opening of new headquarters

The Royal Black Institution is counting down the days to the official opening of its new state-of-the-art headquarters – marking a milestone in its 225-year history.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 28th March 2022, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 28th March 2022, 11:23 am
Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson outside the new Royal Black headquarters in Loughgall
Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson outside the new Royal Black headquarters in Loughgall

The grand opening of the property takes place on Saturday in the Co Armagh village of Loughgall.

A parade of more than 2,000 sir knights, accompanied by up to 10 bands, will take place at noon, before the building at 45-47 Main Street is officially declared open by Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson.

An exhibition focusing on the lives of past leaders will form part of the event, including the unveiling of a bust of Sir Norman Stronge, a former sovereign grand master and Somme hero, who was murdered by the IRA in 1981.

“It will be an emotional day, culminating as it does with the opening of the first-ever headquarters to be owned by our institution. It will be a day long remembered in the annals of history as we leave our legacy for future generations,” said Rev Anderson.

“This project was one of the biggest and most important ever undertaken by the Imperial Grand Black Chapter of the British Commonwealth.”

The institution was founded in 1797, with initial bases in Belfast and Dublin, but it had never owned its own headquarters until the purchase of the Loughgall building in 2017.

In 2019, the Royal Black moved from Brownlow House, Lurgan, where it had been a tenant since the 1920s, to temporary premises in Loughgall, beside the Museum of Orange Heritage.

Renovation work on the new headquarters began in May 2020, with the original plan to officially open in 2021, but this became a casualty of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Loughgall property – dating back to 1820-1830 – is a B1 Listed Building and has been sympathetically renovated, with features such as windows and beams restored to their original character.

It includes new administrative offices, an exhibition space, a library to house the institution’s collection of books and artefacts, meeting rooms, and an outdoor memorial area.

Starting point for Saturday’s parade will be the junction of the Red Lion Road and Ballymagerney Road at noon.

Heading the procession will be the Imperial officers and guests, led by Moneyslane Flute Band, followed by Agivey RBP 843 and Breaghey RBP 264, accompanied by Breaghey Silver Band.

Sir Norman Stronge was associated with both preceptories, having joined the institution in Agivey, Co Londonderry, and later transferring to Breaghey, when he moved to live in Tynan Abbey, Co Armagh.

Following on will be each county grand chapter, displaying their county bannerettes.

The parade will leave Red Lion Road and proceed via the Main Street, past the headquarters and down into the public park, which has been kindly granted by Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

The institution advises that all buses should approach the village from the M1 direction, turning left at the end of the Ballymagerney Road into the Red Lion Road.

Marshals will assist county chapters to get into their places for the parade.

Members of the public in cars are advised to approach the village from the Armagh side.

“Please note that parking will be limited, and as the parade route is very short, we would encourage members of the public to travel with the sir knights on their buses,” suggests the institution.

There will be a “food village” in the country park for the use of both sir knights and the public.

The headquarters will be opened at 1pm by the sovereign grand master, and dedicated by Grand Chaplain Sir Knight Canon Will Murphy.

The ‘Leaders’ Legacy’ exhibition will be opened by Sir Knight Calvin Reid, followed by the unveiling of the bust of Sir Norman Stronge by Bro James Kingan and Sir Knight Andy Gray, and it will be dedicated by Grand Chaplain Sir Knight Nigel Reid.

Imperial Grand Treasurer David Livingstone will present mementos to Bro Kingan and Sir Knight Gray.

The sovereign grand master will lay a wreath at the newly unveiled bust while a lament is played by piper Sir Knight James Frazer.

A service of worship will begin in the public park at 1.45pm and will be followed by the return parade at 3pm.