The Glorious Twelfth

Alan in Belfast wrote about the high point of a Northern Ireland’s summer season, or the Marching Season as it is known. You can catch up on his posts here and here.

He mentions the suggestion that it should become a Cultural Tourist Event.

Before the 12th becomes a Cultural Tourist Event the Powers that be in Tourism and the Orange Order need to step back and take a long hard look at what happens as part of the twelfth of July celebrations.

OK Alan, as a native you have some idea of how it evolved and what it is about, but as a visitor coming in raw, what image do enormous bonfires of stolen pallets and tyres from motor vehicles producing palls of acrid smoke and surrounded by people who seem to have fallen out of a pub, do to sell the province?

This Video is from 2007 but will give you an idea of how a Bonfire is built.

Up to about five years ago a field that bordered my land was taken over and a bonfire built and burned there. Trees on our property were hacked when wood was scarce, but we could have told them, if they bothered to ask, that fresh branches are too damp to burn. Nobody ever asked our permission to chop the trees or place the fire right behind our bungalow. The field was way below us so we had a ringside view of all that went on. Naturally no thought of our feelings were taken into consideration. The drunken squalling that supposedly was the singing of ‘The Sash‘ (one line repeated endlessly) was an insult to any occasion. The fire burned all night and indeed smouldered for nearly a week covering our bungalow and gardens with a layer of soot and bits of half burned tyres. The whole place reeked of burning rubber for weeks and needed to be hosed down on the morning of the 13th.

I have watched 12th Parades both live and on TV over the years. I am sorry; but in my mind a parade is marched with military precision in time to a band. What I witnessed over the years could in no way be called marching but rather slouching along with participants waving to everyone they know. It would be impossible to march properly anyway, as each lodge was preceded by a band, and each band thumped a different attempt at a tune.

The Belfast Telegraph give a flavour of this years main Parade in Belfast.

Alan’s description of what happened at the field further shows that the whole thing is a sham and an insult to Queen and country, as are the Flags that appear all over the countryside at the end of June and are left there to rot and decay all year long at the mercy of the weather.

Marches will take place are regular intervals from now to the end of August across the Province, often culminating with a church service. During my years as a Church Warden I was involved in preparing for and greeting the Orange Men. The church hall was opened for the band to off load their instruments – large drums etc. Regularly the band members stayed in the hall for the duration and quite a few of those who did enter the church were unfamiliar with service or the hymns chosen by the Orange men themselves beforehand.

New Drawing Boards are needed!

I remember as a youngster my father lecturing my brothers and me about having respect for ‘The Flag’, no matter what country you were in. The place for flags are public buildings and they should be removed (never touching the ground) before sundown. The greatest insult is to have a flag with a rip or tear in it. Painting flags on faces or wearing shorts made from fabric that looks like a Union Jack is way off the grid where I am concerned.

17 thoughts on “The Glorious Twelfth

  1. Well fair play GM, it’s not often you get such a clear and frank view from another side of the story. Interesting stuff altogether.

  2. The fact that those bombfires are allowed to burn on the night of the the 11th / 12th while we are all so worried about the enviorment is a crime. Also if I lived in the 6 counties I would be gone on the 12th too.

  3. Wow, people have no concept of what their ideas can do to others. Thanks for sharing and your right about the flags and it doesn’t matter which country or place. The respect should be mandatory as we know men and women have died for our countries everywhere.

    Dorothy from grammology
    remember to hug gram

  4. Grannymar,

    In my last parish, a new police superintendent arrived. Anxious to get a measure of the place, she met with various people and one morning had three clergy for coffee. We discussed the stuff we knew to be going on and the policing problems that concerned us. At the end of the meeting, as we were about to leave, I said that I had been intrigued by the large scale map of the town behind her. I couldn’t correlate the orange dots that had been stuck on the map to any buildings.

    “They are the bonfire sites”, she grimaced.

    Bonfires for her were scenes and opportunities of anti-social behaviour and criminality. I never saw much to convince me that she was in any way mistaken

  5. Grannymar,

    As Darragh says, fair play to you for bringing the “glorious twelfth” up for discussion.

    Growing up as a Protestant in the South with lots of relatives in the North, the 12th July only ever meant one thing to me…

    you avoided Northern Ireland on that date for fear of getting caught up in a protest.

    I remember as a child seeing the bonfires on the news and I honestly thought that those days were over now that we have the peace process in place.

    It seems very much a case of “old habits die hard”.

    I agree, it’s time the Orange Order went back to the drawing board!

  6. Grannymar is back.

    @Darragh – This is the first time in 31 years that I have expressed my views in public of how I feel about the 12th. On many occasions the Catholic Church further along the road from the church I mentioned above, was defaced with red, white and blue paint. Very artistic in the Tate Modern, but full tins of paint flung at the front of a church building are neither fun or artistic. It did draw the community together as the members of our congregation were the first on hand to help clean up!

    @Mike – There is a large exodus of people over the 12th fortnight. In part it is due to factories closing for the two weeks and schools closing for the summer at the end of june.

    @Laura – Both last year and this I heard mutterings about how unhealthy it is to burn tyres.

    @Dorothy – I could write an equally distressing post about the activities on the other side of the divide, but I am not a political blogger.

    @Ian – I am sure you have many tales to tell from your time in Ministry here in Norn Iron.

    @Steph – I am not trying to ‘rise a row’ as my dad would say, but to point out that ‘wanting’ and ‘doing’ need plenty of thinking! Bring on the Drawing Boards.

    Northern Ireland is a very beautiful place to live and there are many fine people here.

  7. Very interesting. I too had thought the bonfire days were long gone and as for burning rubber tyres, here it is a crime . .yep, illegal! It all seems a big excuse for a pissup with little commemoration . . .

  8. @Judy – 😀

    @Baino – I wish they would bring in that law here.

    @Roy – They may have a good song, pity they don’t learn to sing it properly.

  9. As always, GM, these occasions bring out the worst of the messers and blackguards, as my dear Papa used to call them. We were swept up in a 12th a few years ago, out in Bangor. We had forgotten the date and were quite alarmed at the near savagery displayed by the louts and the awful lung-killing smoke of the fires.
    Something frighteningly primitive about these displays.

  10. WWW

    Nowadays no matter what gathering is for rent a mob are never very far away.

  11. Mmm……over here I have my own feelings about these religious differences…and the claims of some to be “loyal”.

    I found watching the videos alternately boring and frightening….. tho’ two bands seemed to play well in my played a lively tune that set my feet tapping (didn’t recognise it) and another played The Yellow Rose of Texas very musically and that set my feet tapping too.

    I read every thing you directed us to GM….and more … and am none the wiser… an outsider looking in I am filled with sadness….yet… I cannot help but remember the effigies of the Pope and Guy Fawkes that are burned over here on 5th November and think then of Glass Houses…….

    But I do love a good bonfire… who bakes the potatoes? 😉

  12. Magpie

    The bands you watched were at the main parade in Belfast. Other parades take place in towns across the province. The local Lodges have fless money to pay these large bands so alas the talent is sometimes missing.

    I agree with you about th glass houses.

    I think burgers, chips and beer are more the fare than baked potatoes

  13. I found this post through the link on Alan’s blog, another very interesting view on the 12th. When I lived in the north I got out of there on the 12th but I would have loved to have seen the big day with my own eyes.
    I don’t know if you have seen the blog Redemption’s Son but there is a series of posts there about the marching season from an OO perspective and it seems from reading that that there is an undesirable element of hangers-on that really ruin the whole thing.
    It is hard for people from the south (like myself) to empathize with the sectarian, Empire British nature of the OO. That’s why I think that they should embrace the cultural event idea.
    About ‘The Sash’, The Wolfe Tones had it on one of their first albums and it was the first song they played live on radio I believe so it didn’t always have negative connotations.

  14. Welcome Aidan.

    I am not familiar with the blog you mention but will now try to remedy that situation.

Comments are closed.