By Eamonn Keyes
Being a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, I had grown up with the yearly disruptions caused by the Orange marches, known in Scotland as ‘Orange walks’ where thousands of men, women and children celebrate the victory of William III over James II by getting very drunk and walking all over the streets of Northern Ireland before getting very drunk again, in a savage blow against the Pope, who had bankrolled William III’s expedition, with the irony being entirely lost over hundreds of years.
My usual collision with life had led to me not only living quite close to where the main march assembles, but working even more closely to it and with the assembly point actually being outside the room where I worked.
So, on the Big Day, July 12th, or the ‘Twelfth’ as it’s known, I would be working-alone-in a room where for hours I was deafened by the sound of dozens of bands walking up and down, flutes and pipes screeching, accordions wheezing and drums being hammered, as people yelled and Union flags and Northern Ireland flags were waved. And I’d be alone, because it was a public holiday, because I lived close by, and everyone else was afraid to make their way through the suspicious scrutiny and beer fumes of several thousand still-drunk loyalists.
I fulfilled this duty for many years, and in January 2010 I arrived in Scotland, firstly in Kilmarnock, and afterwards beginning work in Oban, on the west coast, on July 1st.
As the ‘Twelfth’ approached, I realised that for the first time in many, many years- 35 to be precise- I’d not have to endure the delights of the Orange march outside.
And as it was a weekend, I wouldn’t even be working, so could have a nice peaceful lie in, with no drums, no shouting or waving of Union flags to mar the view over Oban Bay, where I lived at the sea’s edge in a lovely second floor flat.
I celebrated alone, and went to bed quite late that morning, enjoying the quiet, and looking forward to the first peaceful Twelfth of my life.
I was jolted awake next morning by the sound of drums and pipes, and crawled groggily to the window, opening the curtains. There was a crowd, waving their Union Jacks and cheering as the band played, and looking down I, saw a stacked hairstyle familiar from many news reports.
It seemed that Princess Anne had come to visit Argyll.
Not only had she come to visit Argyll, but also to visit Oban.
Not only had she come to visit Oban, but she’d come to visit my street.
And not only had she come to visit my street, but she’d come to visit the building where I now lived.
On the 12th July, with flags, crowds and bands.
I mean, what were the chances?