Today sees what was once described by the Daily Telegraph as “the largest uncommercialised folk festival in Western Europe”. This is the Ulster Twelfth of July – the traditional celebration of the victory of William, Prince of Orange over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
In recent times, the whole theme and atmosphere of the parades and surrounding festivities has become steadily less ‘sectarian’ and more a celebration of loyalist culture and identity, and in particular the memory of the outstanding bravery and sacrifice of the 36th Ulster Division at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916.
As well as parades all over Northern Ireland, the day is marked with bands and marchers on the streets in Scotland, England and even Benidorm, where the parade is getting bigger and (thankfully) more professional every year.
Foreigners need to understand that this incredible event is not sponsored or supported by big business or the State. This is simply what a vibrant and defiant working class culture looks like – and how sensible men organise quietly, legally and effectively to establish their community’s determination to resist and survive.