Stonehaven retreats in sunshine as Orange Order arrives

Members of the Orange Order arrived in the town to open a new lodge following ban on parade.

It felt like a classic Stonehaven Saturday in the sunshine – and then it didn't.

The harbour area, usually deep with people enjoying lunch or a drink on the wall, was deserted. Pubs, normally in the midst of solid weekend trade, were closed. Cafes and ice cream shops normally upbeat with custom kept their doors locked. Visitors caught out by these odd closures asked police where they could get something to eat.

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Stonehaven at the end of another working week is usually heaving. But it has been an unusual week, or more, in Stonehaven as a largely online campaign to stop the Orange Order to hold a 200-strong procession in the town to mark the opening of a lodge intensified.

Police officers on the patrol in Stonehaven. Picture: Lisa FergusonPolice officers on the patrol in Stonehaven. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Police officers on the patrol in Stonehaven. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

And, it worked, with Sheriff Andrew Miller late on Friday dismissing an appeal by the Orange Order against an Aberdeenshire Council ban on the procession due to the strain on police and unease in the town.

Still, the Orange Order came to mark the opening of new lodge Dunnottar Martyrs Memorial LOL 1685 with a ceremony in the Town Hall. From Lanark, Dumbarton and Motherwell they arrived.

And Stonehaven retreated, at least in part.

Some businesses closed citing the safety of staff and customers amid a widespread perception that with the Orange Order parade would come trouble. Others shut in solidarity in a town simply not acquainted with the religious divides that infect other parts of Scotland.

Down at the harbour wall, one local woman sized up the emptiness of the place.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “On a day like today you would be queuing to get a drink, the pub would be doing lunch all day, people would be coming down for the rugby and getting the atmosphere but businesses have lost all that. People would be getting their sandwiches, their ice creams, the beach here would be full of kids and families. I am pretty disgusted to be honest about the whole thing. They have been told they can’t have the parade but they come any way and here we are.”

Outside the Town Hall, visiting Orangemen largely declined to speak as they filed through a side door. But one did stop, a man in his 70s from Motherwell wearing his Royal Highland Fusiliers’ Glengarry. Asked how he was feeling after the parade ban, he used the same word as the woman at the beach: Disgusted.

On coming to Stonehaven given the ban, he added: “It makes us all feel terrible. There are 80,000 Orangemen and Orangewomen in Scotland and we all feel terrible about it because the people in Stonehaven have denied us our civil liberties. We are really disappointed in the people of Stonehaven. The parade will go ahead in the future, I will tell you that, they can’t stop us walking on the King’s highway. This will probably be taken to Strasbourg. Today, we have come up here to do our business, get the lodge formed, and get back home – peacefully.”

At 2pm, the time the parade had been due to begin, Orangemen came out for a break as locals gathered on the other side of the road to witness. No drums or flutes, just an uneasy kind of quiet.