Last Saturday: Head of the Royal Black Institution toasts day of culture and pageantry

Host Chapter Moneymore Golden Knights RBP 313 - who are celebrating 150 years - leading the parade at the Royal Black Preceptory demonstration staged in Moneymore. Photo: Adrian Robinson
Host Chapter Moneymore Golden Knights RBP 313 - who are celebrating 150 years - leading the parade at the Royal Black Preceptory demonstration staged in Moneymore. Photo: Adrian Robinson

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson said the annual celebrations highlighted the organisation’s ethos and principled stance on the Reformed Christian faith.

Thousands of supporters turned out to watch the demonstrations held at six locations across Northern Ireland: Artigarvan, three County Tyrone Districts; Dromore, Co Down; Larne, City of Belfast; Lisburn, Co Antrim; Loughgall, three Co Tyrone Districts with two Co Armagh Districts, and Moneymore, Co Londonderry.

Around 17,000 members of the Royal Black took part in the parades, traditionally held on the last Saturday in August.

Rev Anderson said: “The Royal Black Institution appreciates the tremendous support shown to us at each of the venues.

“As usual, our members and those involved in the bands, which provided such a great variety of music, were given a very warm welcome by thousands of supporters who turned out to enjoy the day.”

Rev Anderson praised “the magnificent work done by the organisers at each of the locations, who made the day such a great success”.

He added: “Months of hard work and commitment goes into the planning of the demonstrations, and everyone involved deserves the highest praise.

“Our thanks are also due to the PSNI for their help with traffic arrangements, and the St John Ambulance, which looks after medical cover at the events.”

Rev Anderson, who addressed the demonstration at Loughgall, which is home to the Institution’s headquarters, said the Royal Black celebrations in 2023, including the Sham Fight in Scarva and the annual Fermanagh event, showed the organisation remained “in a strong and vibrant” state.

During his address he said that Northern Ireland must be freed from the tyranny of EU rules.

Rev Anderson made the call as he addressed those gathered in the Co Armagh village of Loughgall for the institution's annual Last Saturday demonstration.

Rev Anderson said the Royal Black Preceptory's constitutional resolution called for the removal of the "continuing controls being exercised over citizens in Northern Ireland", and for the restoration of "full equal citizenship of the United Kingdom to all its citizens as set out in the Act of Union".

He called for Northern Ireland citizens to be freed "from the tyranny of persecution" being exercised by the European Union.

The resolution also referenced Northern Ireland's troubled past.

It sets out "there never was any justification for murder and violence" and refers to a "narrative that sets about the rewriting of such history".

Rev Anderson told the gathering: "Our hurt is being increased by those who are trying to rewrite their evil deeds of the past.

"Today, we need to remain resolute in our stand for those who are victims of violence of the past and ensure their stories are told accurately."

Speaking to the News Letter today Rev Anderson said his speech was well received and he’d had a number of compliments.

He said he was pleased that the weather had been relatively settled for the Loughgall demonstration.

He said: “There was a couple of wee skiffs of rain but nothing to dampen the spirits.

“We had a big turn out in Loughgall, there were big turn outs all over according to reports I’m getting.

“No reports of any incidents have come to me so far I’m taking it that no news is good news.”

Last Saturday marks the end of the parading season but Rev Anderson said he wouldn’t have time to relax: “We starting off a new charity – Operation Hope.

“We’re focusing on the twin pillars of education and wellbeing, helping our members so they can help their families and their community.

"That will require a lot of work. And the work of sharing the gospel continues month by month.

“The parading hat may be put to one side but the work still continues.”

Over a 21-year period the institution has gained a distinguished record in charity work, donating a total of £845,000.