Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Mr Smith Goes to the Marching Season

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Mr Smith Goes to the Marching Season

Article excerpt

Like a superannuated deb, I've lust done the season for another year. At first blush, the social calendar I've been observing couldn't be more different from the too-thrilling balls dashingly MC'd by Mr Peter Townsend. Then again, I don't know so much: in the one case, the name of the game is sidestepping chinless swains; where I've been, it's evading petrol bombs and rubber bullets. For young gels coming out, substitute youths with balaclavas and firearms, accessories as timeless in their own way as the little black dress. The morel I think about it, one of the few rituals as anachronistic and over-rehearsed as the society courtship dance is the marching season in Northern Ireland.

If it were not for the troubling matter of his criminal record, Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair, with his unexampled monarchist sympathies, is the sort of boy who could be presented at court. Even from prison, the loyalist figurehead was commissioning portraits of the House of Windsor for Belfast gable-ends, eye-wateringly devotional studies of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother. Two years ago, and just out of jail, this Medici of the murals was at Drumcree, seeing and being seen. This stop on the route of an Orange order procession down the Garvaghy Road has been the scene of son-et-lumiere thrills and spills in past years, a kind of Glyndebourne of violence. But the security forces have introduced spikes and chainmail between the contending factions, as if to repel medieval siege engines. …

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