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Memories of the Twelfth.

I SAW the ‘Twelfth’ in 1995. It was a cracking day! I came on my own, flying from Brum (Birmingham, West Midlands) to Sydenham in East Belfast. I caught a train from Sydenham to Belfast City centre and arrived at the Ulster Hall around 12 midday. I stayed there till the last band had gone past. The weather was bang on and I got sunburn!

Immediate memories include a fella sitting just off the kerb on a deckchair in the road next to me. He was filming the whole parade with a camcorder. There were young and teenage girls with red, white and blue beads in their hair. Kiddies in pushchairs waving union flags and Ulster flags, or carrying red, white and blue plastic batons. I remember thinking that it would be great to have an England flag, but then I got that nervous, nagging feeling – ‘would it be accepted?’

I thought it was fantastic to see so many people in one place. Families out for the day, young and old. The whole age spectrum out on the streets to celebrate. I remember thinking ‘why don’t we have anything like this in Brum?’ And then, if I’m truly honest, I felt envious of Ulster. In the ‘Twelfth’, Ulster had something that I’d never even experienced before. The only way I could describe it is people united for a common cause.

Before the ‘Twelfth’ parade proper, I remember the religious folks with their ‘Jesus Saves’ banners and children carrying bibles. Some looked like they were wearing bin liners with religious slogans painted on them. Then there was a ‘Free the Prisoners’ demo. A lot of women started handing out leaflets demanding the ‘Release of UVF POWs’. Then the bands and Lodges started coming.

Now if I said I wasn’t nervous I'd be a bare faced liar, because I was! This was my second time in Ulster, but my first time at the Twelfth. I'd heard on the news about the trouble that was kicking off at the ‘Lower’ Ormeau and on the Ormeau Bridge. But before I decided to go, I was thinking ‘am I going to listen to this Government scripted crap that the news tells me – or am I going to see for myself?’ So I went!

I'd heard the one about people moaning if you stood in their spot, which they’ve had for the last decade and so on. But not one person bothered me. I don’t recall any English lodges or bands in the parade, but to be honest I never even thought I would. However, I was surprised to see them from Scotland. I was totally unaware that there was the interchange and invitations between the two countries at this time. But even more surprising to me was seeing lodges from what I call the ‘occupied counties of Ulster’ – Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan. I wish I had taken pictures of these, but I ran out of film.

After the last band had passed I followed the crowd along the road. It was around 6.30 pm now and my flight back was at 8.00 pm. I never reached the Ormeau Bridge, which I was a bit gutted about. However, I did pick up a few items from the stalls. This is where I got my first and only UDA tape (I still have it!) and a tape by an Orange Accordion band from Londonderry.

Then I made my way back to the train station. I had a couple of beers at the station bar, got to the airport, picked up the days news and went back to Brum. I was back in doors by 10.00 pm.

What a day!

West Midlands Loyalist.




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