As the marching season gets underway, Alan Morrison takes to the streets and discovers that religious bigotry is still very much alive in Scotland. The photographs were taken at an Orange Lodge
march earlier this month by Douglas Robertson.
Overleafwe provide a beginner‘s guide for the budding
zealot — fashion tips. historical
trivia and those oh-so-witty catchphrases.
woman in her Sunday best stands chatting casually to a bare-chested youth with a Rangers top tied loosely around his waist. Further along the road. a five-yearsold in a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles T-shirt happily waves a white flag with a bold Red Hand and the slogan 'No Surrender'. (‘ountless others — a surreal mix ofgarish uniforms. black suits. bow ties and bowler hats. and everyday clothes — wander around the football park that is acting as a temporary meeting place. pausing at hamburger vans and kiddies‘ roundabouts. browsing at the tables where portraits of Prince Andrew sit side by side with John Knox and William III.
livery now and then a broad Irish accent calls out a greeting and a Scottish voice shouts in reply. Then all the banter is drowned out as the flutes and accordions and the thundering menace of the drums strike up the familiar strains of The Sash. and another Loyal ()range Lodge march takes to the streets of Scotland.
A month or so earlier. the atmosphere is a little too tense to capture the same party spirit. The ﬂute bands are present. the ﬂags are being waved. but the colours. the tunes and the sentiments are completely different. Although this march is ostensibly a tribute to James Connolly. an Edinburgh-born working-class hero who went on to be executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Republican sentiments
run high. and before setting out there is talk of a possible counter-demonstration by Loyalist supporters that may well result in violence.
The history behind the frequent Orange and occasional Republican marches that break the surface of Scottish life lies across the sea in Ireland. In geographical terms. the countries are only twelve miles apart at their closest point: in terms ofpsychology. they are much closer than that. The ()range marching season centres around the anniversary of the Dutch Protestant William of ()range‘s‘ victory over Catholic King James II at the Boyne river in July 1690. The battle itselfwas only one in a long drawn—out but unsuccessful campaign by James to recover the throne that — constitutionally at least — was rightfully his. Over the intervening 300 years. the historical details have been blurred. often by the organisations themselves. so that a factual basis for political rivalry is at times tenuous. As for a religious basis. if this is religion it is the selective belief that prefers ‘an eye for an eye~ to ‘love thy neighbour‘.
As anyone who encounters sectarianism on a day-to-day level knows however. politics and religion play only a minor role in the wider social phenomenon they are born into. In Glasgow in particular. most people find that they are continually forced to choose which side they‘re on. which team they support. which pub they drink in. Conversations on buses will begin ‘Which
school did you go to‘." as will job interviews — creating a genuine cause for concern over job discrimination on grounds of religion. Maybe this isn‘t as immediately dangerous as terrorist sympathies. but this is the type of behaviour that keeps the whole thing breathing from one generation to the next.
Playwright llector MacMillan used his experiences ofgrowing up in the liast find of (ilasgow for his satirical 197” play The Sash. 'Anything that is a cancer working against working-class interests and those of the general population has got to be brought out into the open and dealt with.‘ he explains. ‘People really have it put in with their mother‘s milk. and if you don‘t have other influences or have never been encouraged to question. the chances are you‘ll not be radically different to your mother and father.‘
The most public display of sectarian sentiments occurs during the marching season. The marches themselves have had a chequered career with local councils. as parties split over what is an incitement to hatred and what is a legitimate expression of free speech. Most are given permission to go ahead only if there is no objection from the ChiefConstable ofthe area. and this leads to accusations of bias. ()range marches rarer end up in disorder. whereas Republican marches do— but this is often due more to Loyalist counter-demonst rations.
(‘ouncillor Donald (iorrie of l .othian‘s i Liberal Democrat (iroup has tried to i
g'l'hc List 13— 35July l‘Nl 11