7/12/2005

Its colours they are fine

Three days ago, I posted this entry, called 'Derbwatch'.
The significance of writing 'three days and counting' on the 9th of July was to the annual fiesta of anti-Catholic sectarianism celebrated by the Orange Order in Northern Ireland and Scotland on the 12th of July, the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne of 1690, when the largely Catholic army of James II was defeated by the marginally less Catholic army of William III, thus ensuring the survival of the Protestant ascendancy.
The Orange Order is, like Gerry Adams, Tom Paulin and the coffee-jar bomb, a product of Northern Irish culture which many of the rest of us prefer they'd kept to themselves. What the Togoans have done to deserve the marches of the Kpalime Loyal Orange Lodge No.1 is anyone's guess.
For a Roman Catholic, the sight of an Orange parade can be extremely intimidating. The bands dress in garish costumes which ape the styles of the late 17th Century, even down to cockaded bonnets. All marchers walk with a strange swaying motion, apparently intended to mimic the effect of wading. They fife away such hymns to ecumenism as 'The Sash' to the accompaniment of the lambeg drum, a musical instrument more wielded than played, usually by sweaty fat men with ruddy faces, bull necks and bright ginger hair.
The marchers themselves do not pose any risk to the public. The actual danger is posed by the marchers' hangers-on, tanked up on Buckfast and White Lightning, aye ready once again to fight the (warning - explicit) Taigs for God and Ulster to the shout of 'No Surrender'! One such hanger-on, a pasty-faced youth of perhaps no more than 18, drunk as a lord at noon, challenged me to fight during a march which took place in Glasgow on Saturday June 25, while I was merely trying to make my way to work.
If it were all from a movie, that movie would be 'The Lords of the Rings: The Return of the King'; specifically, the march of the Orcs on Minas Tirith.
And yet, this is their culture, their tradition. In time, demographics will kill it. There are, of course, sectarians amongst the non-Protestants of Scotland - our Muslim brethren are assimilating quite nicely in that department.
Yet we in Scotland shouldn't shed tears for Orangeism when it passes. It makes a fetish of political events which took place 315 years ago in another country, and serves little practical purpose other than to drive citizens apart on account of their faith. In the late summer and early autumn, the banners are packed lovingly away for another year.
One lives in hope that someone, some day, will forget to take them out again.

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