Sunday, 26 August 2018

'Black Saturday'

'Black Saturday', the last Saturday in August, is the big day for the Royal Black Institution and is sometimes seen as the end of the big summer parades.

Yesterday the County Down demonstration was in Newtownards and the town was packed with members of the institution, bands and spectators who had come along to watch the parade.

The parade was well organised, there were many excellent bands and in his sermon Sir Kt Rev Ron Johnstone faithfully preached the gospel.

Of course there's always a social side to the day and it's an opportunity to meet up with people I probably haven't seen for months, or in some cases since last year.  I talked to people that I knew, including politicians from both the DUP, of whom there were quite a few, and the UUP, and got the latest news on what is happening in different Protestant denominations.

There was plenty of time in the field to speak to people and as I had parked my car some distance away there were conversations with people sitting or standing at the side of the road.  It's a relaxed day and people are more than ready to stop and talk.

As well as people I know, I also talked to quite a number of people I don't know personally but who were keen to chat about all sorts of issues including the current political impasse, education and social trends. Overall it was probably a fair reflection of what is sometimes called 'middle Ulster', and affords an opportunity to assess what 'middle Ulster' is thinking.  

That is not the reason I walk on the Twelfth and Black Saturday,  I joined the Orange Order in 1975 and the Black in the early eighties so these days were part of my annual calendar long before I entered politics.  However it is one of the benefits of those days for anyone interested in assessing public opinion.

Social media have their place but it is the conversations in the shopping centre, the community centre or on days such as the Twelfth and Black Saturday which provide the best understanding of mainstream unionist thinking.  You can't beat a 'face to face conversation'.


  1. Why did you wait until you were 24?

  2. Starting a new job, church commitments, buying a house and getting married had taken up a lot of my time.


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