Royal Black leader hails opening of ‘magnificent’ new headquarters in Loughgall

The leader of the Royal Black Institution has hailed the opening of its new headquarters as an event that delivers an enduring legacy for future generations.

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson, speaking at the official opening of the state-of-the-art centre in Loughgall, said: “There can be no doubt that this day marks an important point in our journey as an institution.

“It is a time in our journey to give thanks for the past, to be assured of the present and to look forward in anticipation to the future.”

Saturday’s grand opening ceremony took place after a colourful and dignified parade of more than 2,000 members of the institution, accompanied by 10 bands, through the picturesque Co Armagh village.

The Royal Black Institution held a parade on Saturday to mark the opening of a new state-of-the-art headquarters in Loughgall

Guests included the Grand Master of the Orange Order, Edward Stevenson.

Spectators lined the route in the sunshine as the midday procession – headed by the institution’s officers and led by Moneyslane Flute Band – made its way from Red Lion Road, past the new headquarters on Main Street and into the country park.

A ‘Leaders’ Legacy’ exhibition – focusing on past sovereign grand masters of the Royal Black – formed part of the event, including the unveiling and dedication of a bust of Sir Norman Stronge.

The bust was unveiled by James Kinghan, a grandson of Sir Norman, and Andy Gray, a Royal Black member, who was a driver for the late senior unionist politician, and dedicated by the Grand Chaplain, Rev Nigel Reid.

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson (centre) with (from left) Imperial Grand Chaplains Raymond Adams and Rev Dr Phil Rimmer, Imperial Grand Treasurer David Livingstone and Imperial Grand Chaplain Rev Nigel Reid

Rev Anderson laid a wreath at the newly unveiled bust and a lament was played on the bagpipes by Joshua Truesdale.

Sir Norman, who led the institution from 1948 to 1971, was a former speaker in the Northern Ireland Parliament and was the holder of the Military Cross for gallantry at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

He and his son James, also a member of the institution, were brutally murdered by the IRA at their Tynan Abbey home in January 1981.

Speaking on Saturday, the Rev Anderson said the organisation was celebrating “building for the future”.

Imperial Grand Chaplain Raymond Adams inside the new headquarters

He said: “Our new headquarters building is a sign of our courage and determination.

“Just like our forefathers had to build strongly, we too must build confidently for the future that is ours through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“We have a magnificent building, one in which we can be proud, one in which we can confidently display our legacy for the future.”

The building project – transforming a B1 listed building dating back to the 1820s into a modern centre for the Royal Black – was completed by Weir Bros Construction (NI) Ltd.

Breaghey Silver Band was one of 10 bands that took part in the parade

Speaking after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Lester Weir said the firm had overcome a number of challenges while doing the renovation and building work.

He said: “There certainly were challenges, but it’s a great property, and we were delighted to be able to bring it right up to date, while restoring the original character of many features.”

More than 2,000 Royal Black members took part in the parade through Loughgall