I ran to the sound of the drums

Protestant Marching band in London circa 2007

“You know J, years ago in the Salvation Army Sunday school we used to sing a song about meeting you in the air and here we are. It is not quite what I had in my head and perhaps I didn’t really believe it.”

“Who you calling J? I am joking. My name changes depending on the language so I can go with J, g. Things are never quite as we expect. There is a beauty in that as we kinda have lived the experience in our heads so it would be a bit of a repeat if was as we thought.”

“What if this was just in my head? Like a dream or a powerful imagination?”

“It is. But that does not take away from the power of it. Viktor Frankl wrote about it. It was the power of his imagination that got him through the concentration camp. You remember it was recalling memories particularly of his wife that took him from the horror to a place that gave him hope. Like you said that touch from your grandmother was in one sense a one-off event though it has remained with you. What you are doing G is revisiting specific moments in your life that have remained with you and on the whole are for your good.”

“You look distracted you are listening to the band playing.”

“From here I am not just listening I am watching. I was always up for something different as a kid and on this occasion, the local flute band was marching around the estate playing their tunes hoping to raise a few pennies.”

“I would always follow for as long as I could. On one occasion I went a bit further than I should. Over the years I had watched the bands with my mother and knew where they would be. If I didn’t know I would hear the drums and run until I found them.”

“This day I ran and I ran into the Catholic area. They were Protestant marching bands usually leading the Orangemen home from a parade. Each Orange Lodge had a hall and they had a tradition of walking from their hall to a central point usually the town centre where they would meet the other lodges. They would then travel to a location and have a big parade, a day out and then return home.”

“I didn’t understand it at the time as I was a kid but over the years, I think they had been doing this for 160 years, what was a country area became more urbanised and part of their walk home was through a Catholic area. The Catholics weren’t so keen on them walking through their area though I had not really understood this. I somehow knew being a kid I could go anywhere and so I stood inside the Catholic area. Then I just enjoyed the bands I had yet to fully understand the politics.”

“Now that I am recalling it a tradition evolved that other lodges and bands would walk with them home and then parade back to the town centre. It was as they were walking back that I got tagged along at the end.”

“There was a police presence at the end and somehow I got swept into the end of the parade. I had a small triangular flag like a football pendant with the word ‘Ulster’ on it this placed me with the Orangemen and I think somehow I became aware that I better get behind them as I was in the wrong place with this little flag.”

“For a kid, it was exciting, the beat of the drums, the sound of the flutes and marching. I could feel hostility and then I was in it. The more enraged Catholic residents had lined this area and were venting their rage holding, if I remember, and were holding high posters of IRA hunger strikers. It must of 1980, I would have been 10.”

“Is that the moment the line appeared placing me on one side and them on the other?”

“I am just listening…”


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