Don’t call it a parade

Sharp-eyed readers will note that we haven’t posted for a long time. This is my fault (Marce.) It fell to me to write about the event below, and I struggled to find an approach that expressed our true feelings about the experience while avoiding offending anyone. The effort led to complete writer’s paralysis and delayed any continued blogging about our experiences in Ireland.

When we sought guidance from Irish friends the advice most often given was “just skip it.” We could have done that but Jack and I both feel that the blog is a chronicle of our life rather than a travelogue, or at least that’s what we meant it to be from the beginning. It’s for us, not for our readers. In the end, I came to the conclusion that worrying about what our readers may think is exactly the wrong approach.

And so, perhaps a little more truncated and diplomatic than I would normally be, here’s a story from July. And this should remove the roadblock and get the blog rolling again.

7 October 2023

We waffled a lot about whether to duck back into Northern Ireland to experience Orangemen’s Day on July 12th. We strive to remain neutral in political issues in the countries we visit and we’re concerned that attending a march will imply support. On the other hand, we reasoned, who doesn’t love a parade, especially one with fifty bands? It was the promise of marching bands that convinced us to go to Ballinamallard. That and the need to swap out a propane tank with UK fittings.

We made a reconnaissance run the night before the march in search of the VIP viewing stand or any obvious place to watch from, and the food booths. We found nothing except a few Union Jacks and a couple of benches commemorating the recent coronation.

By the time we finished our second cup of coffee on the 12th the Ballinamallard football club car park was beginning to fill up with marchers and musicians. The weather, predicted to be cloudy but mild, was instead windy and damp, with intermittent rain showers.

We circled the area for B-roll shots of the preparations and found that not only did most of the participants completely ignore us, but many of the older men pointedly turned away from our lenses. This was a first for us. In every place we visit, most people we ask to photograph respond with a big smile or a thumbs up. We were starting to get the impression that this is not the kind of celebratory parade we Americans grew up with, for example on the Fourth of July.

We walked into town and found a spot along a low wall across from the grocery store and beside the church. It seemed as good a place as any and we could sit, always a bonus.

When the parade started we were focused on the musicians and it was only later that we realized the bands aren’t the point of the march, but rather each band heralds the officers of their lodge of the Orangemen.

It was a long and rather joyless parade. The bands were not the kind of marching bands we expected but rather usually made up of one or two instruments (accordions, flute and drum) and the same few tunes were played over and over, all in march tempo: Jesus Loves Me, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Nearer My God To Thee, Tipperary. One rogue band offered the only levity in the hours-long event by playing Sweet Caroline, a song Jack pointed out was written by an American Jew.

There was no viewing stand, the bands didn’t “perform” in the way we expected and we came to understand that the march is a show of strength as much as a celebration of victory at the Battle of the Boyne as it’s billed.

Scanning the spectators I’m pretty sure we were the only tourists there. And unlike everywhere else we’ve been no one asked us where we were from or welcomed us or thanked us for coming. It may have been my imagination but I felt that we were considered with suspicion rather than interest. We have never felt more like outsiders.

When the last Orangemen passed, we had no desire to follow them to the grounds where there would be prayers and speeches. We couldn’t shake our disappointment. Our expectations and the reality couldn’t have been more different and we trudged back through town to the van where we had lunch and waited until the traffic cleared enough to extricate EV from the car park and head south.


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8 Responses to Don’t call it a parade

  1. Judy Raymond

    Well done Marce. I felt your disappointment but you expressed it with grace and clarity without judgement. The facts spoke for themselves. But the long pause in writing belies how troubling it was. Thanks for the heads up. ❤️

  2. Trudy stolte

    We’ve missed you. Glad you are back and well.


    It is always nice to read what you two explorers
    are up to! Sue & I are at my Colleges 55 yr
    reunion today in NE Nebraska at Wayne
    State College.
    At 77 Sue & I have been recounting our
    own Nomad retirement, boondocking from
    Place to place in North America and also
    using our Fed Agency lifetime 1/2 price
    pass at Fed Agency campgrounds. We’ve
    Now lived/traveled in 30 states &
    crossed Continental Divide 14 times
    between AZ and Canada.

    We are recently investigating a RORO cargo
    Ship voyage to EU with a temporary 6 month
    import license for our van. 5-1/2 months isn’t
    long enough but is better than nothing.

    We love you guys
    Ed &Sue Kelly
    txts at (five one 5) 2 five 7- thirty-2 hundred

  4. Brad Fisher

    Thanks for the post. Fascinating observations.

  5. danagreyson

    Hi Marce (& Jack)
    Welcome back.

    Despite hoping to be a good travel ambassador, some places and events stand out as not particularly friendly. Fortunately, for us and you, they are the exception.

    Most of our time in St. Lucia, where we first started cruising, was that way for us. Fortunately, that didn’t stop us!

    Errr, I was sure when you mentioned Orangeman, political, and difficult to write about you were alluding to a tribute to someone from here (heh heh, you no doubt know who I mean;)). It least it wasn’t a “January 6th!”

    Looking forward to more. Safe (and friendlier) travels.

    I too need to get back to writing on my blog, too, albeit more about domestic stuff these days.

  6. Di Fitzgerald

    My maternal grandfather was an Orangeman from Ulster. It’s a good account Marce, and reflects the reality that it is anything but a ‘parade’, and is set against the political and emotional backdrop of ‘the troubles’. I’ve always thought of it as a sombre affair, so I can understand your confusion and dismay. But, as always, beautifully written.

  7. Diane Sanderbeck

    Glad you’re back. I seldom comment, but do enjoy following your travels. Thanks for sharing pictures and your perspective. I often have to hold my tongue when traveling. Well done on explaining The Twelfth. Funnily, William of Orange was a Dutchman!

    • suzycap4d554d556e

      We love your comments and pics. Just read July. I imagine still love of feeling about the Troubles, famine, Bretian, sein fein etc. People may be a wee bit.paranoid. Have you been listening about pending full on war in Isreal? Of course Ukrain continue. Turkey Syriaete. Here we go with travel bans. Not that I travel Too broke. Keep writing and pictures.

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