July 11th Bonfires, July 12th, The Orange Order, and the Marching Season in Northern Ireland
Tomorrow is 12th of July, a day members of The Orange Order commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne when the Dutch Protestant King William of Orange defeated his father-in-law, Catholic King James ll of England and Vll of Scotland.
A couple years ago, Heidi McAlpin, editor of Belfast In Your Pocket, took Liam and me on a tour of the Belfast bonfires held on the eve of the 12th. It was quite an experience. You can watch, read and listen more about our time in Northern Ireland during the marching season by visiting the links below.
What It Was Like
I’m often asked, “Did you feel safe while you were there during the Marching Season?” Truth is, in the days leading up to the visit, I was uncertain what to expect. Someone told me “if something bad is going to happen, it’ll be then.” That convinced me I was doing something edgy.
Once in Belfast, the experience didn’t feel all that adventurous. It was much like any other city during a large festival… roads closed for the bonfires and parades, extra police presence, plenty of people drinking and having a good time. City centre and the docklands were shiny, clean, and eager for visitors. Meanwhile some of the outer neighborhoods were slightly grimy, and the suburbs were lush with gardens and trees that knicked the top of the open top bus tour.
The bonfires on the 11th compared to many 4th of July celebrations in the US (except a large portion of the population simply doesn’t participate). The only things that made me a bit uneasy was the increasing number of drinking party-goers as the night of the 11th wore on… I had been to enough 4th of July festivities in the US to know that people can get a little sloppy when they start the party in the early afternoon.
On the 12th, we spent two hours at the parades. Mind you, the parades went on longer than that. Liam and I simply tired of the endless stream of drums, flutes, and flags after two hours. We slipped off to the Tourist Office to pick up a headset for the self-guided Titanic Walking Tour instead.