History marching the streets of Belfast

√ Belfast Botanic Gardens
√ Belfast triathlon in 12 C weather
√ St George’s Markets
√ Strange parade randomly starting on the street near our accommodation – tick

We were walking back to our accommodation when we hear a fierce beat coming from a couple of streets away.

Naturally, we head in the direction of the noise to see what’s happening.

Before I go on, here are three explanations as to why I had no idea what I was about to see.

  • This event is shown on major media outlets every year, but I lack of abilty to retain knowledge
  • This event does not occur in Australia, therefore it is dead to Australian media
  • I knew about this event, but each fact I knew was filed in different sections of my brain and I hadn’t pieced them together at that stage.

The event –  it’s was Rockhampton’s New Years Day recovery party, meets the ANZAC day parades, meets the wind orchestra, meets 18 year old birthday party after a carton.

There are beer bottles strewn over the street, children with flags, men clinking bottles and men in starched, bright coloured uniforms playing instruments as they march through the streets.

We were baffled. What were we watching?

I look around and see that we are standing on Sandy Row.

The lightbulb hasn’t shown signs of working yet.

I know I read something about Sandy Row in that Ireland Lonely Planet book before I left in Australia.

Sandy Row, Sandy Row.

Nope – still nothing.

The people around me looked friendly and content, but I wasn’t feeling the vibe that it would be appropriate to ask what i was watching.

Twenty to thirty men would march down the street toward us, all immaculately dressed, proud of their badges and march.

They each were playing either a flute type wind instrument or a drum.

Never in my life have I seen so many men, so proud to be playing their flutes together in public.

But the best was yet to come.

In each group was one key drummer.

He would slog the shit out of the drum, walking in a aggravated diagonal fashion, with vain popping, ball breaking passion.

We see a problem.

Two groups are walking from opposite ends of the street and need to pass.

They blow more air into their flutes, puff more power into their chests, lift their legs higher in the march, and bash the drums harder than before.

They pass.

It was the most intense musical battle I’ve seen – far worse than the made up fights between Jessie-J and Delta Goodrem on The Voice.

We decide to get out of there before any shit hit the fan.

We took a Belfast black cab tour through the city the next day to understand the reasons for Belfast’s July Marches.

I felt guilty that I wasn’t more in tune with our world’s history.

The marching tradition has been the backbone to civil unrest in Northern Ireland for more than 500 years.

History had marched past us that day.

 

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