I feel like raining on this Orange Lodge parade

Posted By: July 08, 2014


Ruth Wishart. Heald Scotland. Thursday,  26 June,  2014

Last Saturday, we had a fancy dress parade along the road joining two of the Rosenath Peninsula villages.The average age was about 10. The music was provided by local adults and children showing off their prowess with the newly acquired community Samba kit and a few locals in high-viz gear acted as marshals.

It was full of fun, daft costumes, and everyone retired to the village hall for soup, sannies and family entertainment, including the two community police officers who provided an escort and whose notebooks remained untroubled.

This coming Saturday there will be another parade in our town. Helensburgh, population circa 15,000, is playing unwilling host to the County Grand Orange Lodge Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Argyll.

Some 3,500 are expected to march in their version of fancy dress with almost as many again coming to spectate. Seventy coachloads are expected, with 40 bands. A “robust” police operation has been put in place as will be temporary toilets. Some businesses are closing for the day. Some bars have restricted hours. Others have hired stewards. Roads are being shut to facilitate the procession.

Hundreds of locals signed a petition objecting to this invasion of a small seaside town, in the middle of the tourist season; a town, moreover, where navigation is already complicated by renovation work. The 100 people who turned up in person to object on the day of the planning decision included several local kirk ministers.

As is now de rigeur, the Orange Lodge representative cited the European Convention on Human Rights in support of the march.

The councillors on the relevant committee, six out of 14 of whom apparently found a pressing previous engagement, made it clear they could only throw out the application on grounds of public safety; public order; damage to property, and disruption to the life of the community. It seems to me that at least two of these conditions were entirely relevant. Self-evidently there is a risk to public order and the life of the community will suffer massive, unwanted disruption.

Those who objected on the grounds of stirring up sectarian sentiments on the back of ancient tribal battles got nowhere. All they managed to amend was the original route which, you may not be totally surprised to learn, contrived to pass St Joseph’s RC Church no fewer than three times; this despite the lodge’s website advising that its watchword is tolerance. Aye, right.

We are witnessing global instability, some of it occasioned by Sunni/Shia conflicts, despite both professing allegiance to Islam.

Within the all-too-recent past we have seen innocent civilians blown to pieces on the British and Irish mainlands by Catholic and Protestant extremists who allegedly share the Christian faith.

Those thousands who are coming on Saturday to turn Helensburgh into a ceremony of remembrance of 324-year-old hostilities have a strange way of demonstrating tolerance.

Let them find a park somewhere, with a big fence, where they can bang their big drum to their hearts’ content and leave the rest of us to get on with the 21st century.