Warm summer weather was a significant factor in the success of the Royal Black Institution’s six demonstrations on Saturday with the biggest turn-out in Lisburn where 107 Co Down preceptories and 100 bands provided a highly colourful spectacle.
For the 17,000-strong senior loyal order, the ‘Last Saturday’ parades provide the climax of the loyalist marching season, and at demonstrations in Ballymena, Loughgall, Portadown, Castlederg and Raphoe (Co Donegal) a feelgood atmosphere also prevailed.
An estimated 25,000 spectators lined Lisburn streets for the parade of 13 districts, from Wallace Park through the city centre to Barbour playing fields, that lasted for two hours.
Among the marchers were unionist politians MP Jim Shannon and MLAs Danny Kennedy, Jim Wells and Nelson McCausland. Both Largymore (hosts) and Mourne districts had impressive turn-outs with Elijah’s Chosen Few RBP 208, Kilkeel numbering 200 members. Senior flute bands Ballygowan, Ballywalter, Ballylone and Hunter Memorial (Newry) brought a high quality of music as did top melody flute, pipe, silver and accordion bands.
The Co Antrim demonstration in Ballymena involved 79 preceptories, and 75 bands, moving from the Showgrounds to Ballee complex. Districts present were Ballymena, Lisburn, Ballymoney, Antrim, Ballyclare and Larne.
In Loughgall, 60 preceptories from Summerisland (Loughgall), Armagh Primatial City, East Tyrone, Killyman and Aughnacloy districts paraded, with Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master Millar Farr, the main speaker.
Mr Farr said the Black Instution pledged to maintain Reformed Protestant traditions. “We stand firm on the scriptural message in the Holy Bible and Reformation teaching and principles. Our message is simple but firm, providing the template on which we build our life, our home and family,” said Mr Farr.
City of Belfast Grand Black Chapter, with 59 preceptories and 33 bands, paraded through Portadown to the Somme Memorial field at Armagh Road. A number of Scottish bands took part.
In Castlederg, 24 preceptories and bands from Omagh, Strabane and Castlederg districts assembled at Castlegore field. The service was conducted by RBP chaplain the Rev Alan Irwin.
The north-west demonstration at Raphoe had a cross-border dimension, with 30 preceptories and bands from Londonderry city, South Londonderry, Coleraine and Raphoe districts. Main speaker was Ivan Kelly, assistant sovereign grand master.