Black is better than Orange

On 13 July, the Royal Black Presbytery gathers and marches to Scarva for the “Sham Fight”. The RBP was founded a couple of years after the Orange Order; members are exclusively drawn from the Order, and it acts as a “senior” establishment. It’s seen as a superior society, more exclusive and less actively political, and promotes itself as a fraternal society. It proclaims:

The Royal Black Institution is totally based on the teachings of Holy Scripture and is committed to the furtherance of the Christian message of the Cross. In adhering firmly to the traditions of the Reformed Christian Faith, no offence is intended to anyone or to any group.

As 13 July 2014 was a Sunday, the demonstration will be today, 14 July.

Prince William, on his journey to the Boyne and the meeting with James, is said to have camped at Scarva, at a large chestnut tree which is still (said to be) extant. Neither type of chestnut is native to Ireland; both grow to become very large trees. The sweet chestnut is from the Mediterranean and was probably introduced to Britain by the Romans; it can live for many centuries. The horse chestnut is unrelated, and not as long-lived.

The “Sham Fight”, the event for which the day is famous, is a miniature reconstruction of the Battle of the Boyne; a number of horsemen take part, as do King James and King William (“King Billy”). William always wins.

There is usually a large audience, perhaps 100,000. It’s generally peaceful, unlike the Orange processions and demonstrations which in the past have been associated with sectarian rioting.


For many years Sir Norman Stronge, 8th baronet, was the Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Preceptory. He was active in politics, and was Speaker of the House of Commons in the N Ireland parliament at Stormont.

He was murdered by the IRA in 1981 at his home, Tynan Abbey, co Armagh. His only son was also murdered with him, both men being shot before the house was burnt down. It was impossible to decide which of the two men had died first; the deaths were taken to be “simultaneous”. A legal fiction recognised that in such cases, the elder of the two had died first. Thus Sir Norman’s son would have become the 9th baronet, though this remains unproven. The baronetcy now appears to be extinct. In such instances of simultaneous death, taxes on inheritance on the second death are given concessionary treatment.



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