Now this is where I have to mention the parades.
As I like to keep politics and religion out of this blog, as I tend to also do in my life, I've decided to treat the 12th July marches as just fun, colourful parades. Knowing little about them, I thought we'd escaped being caught up in them by going to Rathlin Island but on our return, we discovered they march along the streets early on, then meet up in a large park for speeches and drinks and some food and then march off again and that's it.
Well as we walked up Quay Road from the harbour, we saw they were still in the park and the speeches were still going on. Feeling a bit naughty and never having been near 'these people' in my life, I wanted to go down into the park and see what was going on.
I decided to ask a policeman if it would be ok to take photos and I think he wondered why I'd bothered to ask ! So safe in the knowledge that I'd not be regarded as some sort of spy or placed on a hit list, I took a few photos of the colourful uniforms being worm by some of the marchers and spectators.
I still felt a bit uneasy, like Eddie Murphy at a Klu-Klux-Klan rally, so we left the park and headed to Margo's for that bite to eat. Soon after ordering our meals, we heard the distinctive 'music' of the flutes, drums, bagpipes and accordions of the marching bands and soon the whole parade was going right past the cafe window (we'd chosen a table by the window for that very reason).
I went out for a better look..........
Like I said, colourful, bright and gay. In the 'back in the day' meaning of gay of course.
I was given word that my meal had arrived so I nipped back into the cafe to make a start on it whilst we watched the various bands going past. And there were dozens of them. It went on for about 45 mins I think and we had the best seats in the house AND were eating lovely food as well.
I wanted more photos but decided to concentrate on individuals whenever possible. So with my mouth full of assorted items from my Ulster fry, I went out every so often to snap individuals ......
Never having seen these parades up close before, I'm not sure if they've always looked like this but many of the bands seemed to have little affiliation with any religious order or group....at least if you go by their outfits and head gear.
I had the feeling that some members of the Orange Order had stumbled into the wardrobe dept of The Wizard of Oz but hey, it all added to the pantomine.
By the time I'd run in and out of the cafe taking photos and scoffing down more of my meal, I felt knackered and still hungry. I must be the only person to have managed to burn calories whilst eating a meal !
The bands were still marching past when we had to leave. We had been the only customers for the whole time and so when we left, some of the staff took the opportunity to pop out to see the parade too and here they are......
If any of them was Margo, it would have to be the one 2nd from the right as she seemed to be in charge. The caps say "Country Fried Chicken" and that's what appears on the cafe front on Google Street View but it is now called Margo's.
Just then one band member caught my eye and from the look of him, he was well acquainted with Margo's good food as well. Bless. I think he'd lost his drum...or eaten it !
We walked back to the car and left Ballycastle and went to my home town of Ballymoney as I wanted to visit the church there and see my parent's grave. Sadly the church was surrounded by scaffolding as major repairs were going on, both inside and out. Not knowing if the graveyard was open for visitors, I went to the parochial house to ask. The parish priest eventually came to the door and he was Fr. McHugh, who had been the President at my boarding school for most of my time there.
Actually he is Canon McHugh now and despite not having any favourable feelings towards him, he is a very old man now and so I gave him as much respect as I could muster. He said it was ok to go around the graveyard and so we did.
As I'd not been there since my mum was buried, I'd not seen the addition of her name to the headstone as that was done many weeks later. To keep both names looking the same, I'd had dad's lettering redone and I was pleased that after 7 years, the "gold" inlay still matched.
You can never fully explain the feelings you get standing in front of the grave that contains your parents. The one huge plus for being buried as opposed to being cremated is that a grave, or any physical resting place, sure does help to focus your thoughts. I owe my parents so much and was pleased to have had those moments to remember that.
By then it was 7:30pm and we'd had a long and tiring day so we headed back to Magherafelt to plan where to go tomorrow.
To be continued.............