Lesley Stock ✒ on her misgivings about the Twelfth bonfire culture. 


As we are in the midst of what was lovingly called the ‘Silly Season’ in work, and the constant jibes from loyalists to me for not ‘celebrating’ my ‘culture’, I felt it necessary to put pen - ok laptop to paper. Not to ‘explain’ as such, because I honestly couldn’t care less what people think I’m turning my back on, but more to admonish I guess, those who cannot see where I’m coming from.

I came from a pretty Unionist background, with Gran being lovingly called ‘Loyal Lil’, even though her name was Rachel!! She was, in my eyes, pretty hard core loyalist, but had a heart of gold – and that included her Catholic neighbours, until they were burned out of the street. She and my Granda stood guard on their houses until the savages took over and they could do no more.

So why did that loyalty not transfer onto mum or myself? To an extent, my parents would be classed as liberal Unionists, but me? Well, thankfully, my parents did the same as I did with my kids: they let me decide my own thoughts on the subject, never indoctrinated me, much to the disgust of my Gran. I’m going to be honest and say I did attend the 11th Night bonfires, maybe twice in my teens. But will also be honest and say, it was not out of any ‘duty’ to my culture. It was a way of drinking in the street, without actually walking around with a can in my hand!! The Cregagh Estate Bonfire was basically my closest, so it was chosen for the quick stagger back home!

So now we come to present day. Why do I not feel the need to extoll the benefits of my culture and indeed ram it down every unsuspecting sod on Twitter? I guess it’s like if you go to church, you either do, or you don’t. I don’t hear the same ones in the PUL community who call me a turncoat, Lundy or, just recently, a disgrace to my religion and profession!!

For 28 years, I was forced to watch and police the locals of North Belfast celebrate what they class as their culture. I only unfortunately found it to be a piss up fest, and a time when they rubbed the noses of the Nationalist and Republican Communities into it as they passed the areas. Now, this is where I kind of contradict myself ... I also watched the residents of Ardoyne come out at 6 am on the 12th morning, along with the scores of others from all parts of Northern Ireland who’d been bussed in, to take offence at the bandsmen ‘walking up their road’. 

It infuriated me that both sets of ‘tribes’ battled with shouts of aggression at each other as the 10 minute procession passed the shopfronts. I understood both sets of arguments, believe me I did, but when push came to shove, who were always the ones stuck in the middle? Yes, the police! The PUL community weren’t perhaps trying to kill us, but their orange bricks hurt just as much as the opposing green ones. The PUL community have and had zero allegiance to the Police. So for them to come off with I’m ‘a disgrace to my profession’ quite frankly holds no candle to me! I’ve seen the PUL community turn on police as quickly as the Nationalist/Republican community, purely because we Were impartial and whatever we were enforcing just didn’t happen to go their way!

Perhaps if the PUL community acted more appropriately during this often tense time, I wouldn’t have so much of an issue in claiming ownership for my culture, but burning the Irish flag, effigies of people who I don’t agree with, and pissing in the street, is something I, in all conscience can’t and won’t be a part of! 

I was in the village my aunt lives in just outside of Belfast. A mixed community, but still the flags are abundant on lamp posts and streets. As long as they take them down a few days after the 12th, I’ve no issue with that. The bonfire the village had was reasonably small compared to the other dangerous monstrosities we now see going up. It had bunting on it and a union flag on the top which I’m assuming was taken down before being torched. It was actually lovely to see! No emblems of hate or sectarianism and no offensive boards waiting to be fried to ashes in front of the lovely Catholic community she lives in harmony with.

So, the next time someone in the PUL community feels the need to complain about me turning my back on my culture, I want them to look at themselves in the mirror first. My idea of culture is not one of antagonistic, hate filled bile. My idea of my culture is celebrating all that is good in that community. Community spirit towards their neighbours, helping their friends and neighbours whatever their culture or religion. I want My culture to be one of enjoying With friends without having to worry about bringing my Catholic friends to be subjected to a barrage of insulting actions and pissed up louts.  

⏩ Lesley Stock is a former PSNI and RUC Officer currently involved in community work. 

Cultural Expression ➖ No Thanks

Lesley Stock ✒ on her misgivings about the Twelfth bonfire culture. 


As we are in the midst of what was lovingly called the ‘Silly Season’ in work, and the constant jibes from loyalists to me for not ‘celebrating’ my ‘culture’, I felt it necessary to put pen - ok laptop to paper. Not to ‘explain’ as such, because I honestly couldn’t care less what people think I’m turning my back on, but more to admonish I guess, those who cannot see where I’m coming from.

I came from a pretty Unionist background, with Gran being lovingly called ‘Loyal Lil’, even though her name was Rachel!! She was, in my eyes, pretty hard core loyalist, but had a heart of gold – and that included her Catholic neighbours, until they were burned out of the street. She and my Granda stood guard on their houses until the savages took over and they could do no more.

So why did that loyalty not transfer onto mum or myself? To an extent, my parents would be classed as liberal Unionists, but me? Well, thankfully, my parents did the same as I did with my kids: they let me decide my own thoughts on the subject, never indoctrinated me, much to the disgust of my Gran. I’m going to be honest and say I did attend the 11th Night bonfires, maybe twice in my teens. But will also be honest and say, it was not out of any ‘duty’ to my culture. It was a way of drinking in the street, without actually walking around with a can in my hand!! The Cregagh Estate Bonfire was basically my closest, so it was chosen for the quick stagger back home!

So now we come to present day. Why do I not feel the need to extoll the benefits of my culture and indeed ram it down every unsuspecting sod on Twitter? I guess it’s like if you go to church, you either do, or you don’t. I don’t hear the same ones in the PUL community who call me a turncoat, Lundy or, just recently, a disgrace to my religion and profession!!

For 28 years, I was forced to watch and police the locals of North Belfast celebrate what they class as their culture. I only unfortunately found it to be a piss up fest, and a time when they rubbed the noses of the Nationalist and Republican Communities into it as they passed the areas. Now, this is where I kind of contradict myself ... I also watched the residents of Ardoyne come out at 6 am on the 12th morning, along with the scores of others from all parts of Northern Ireland who’d been bussed in, to take offence at the bandsmen ‘walking up their road’. 

It infuriated me that both sets of ‘tribes’ battled with shouts of aggression at each other as the 10 minute procession passed the shopfronts. I understood both sets of arguments, believe me I did, but when push came to shove, who were always the ones stuck in the middle? Yes, the police! The PUL community weren’t perhaps trying to kill us, but their orange bricks hurt just as much as the opposing green ones. The PUL community have and had zero allegiance to the Police. So for them to come off with I’m ‘a disgrace to my profession’ quite frankly holds no candle to me! I’ve seen the PUL community turn on police as quickly as the Nationalist/Republican community, purely because we Were impartial and whatever we were enforcing just didn’t happen to go their way!

Perhaps if the PUL community acted more appropriately during this often tense time, I wouldn’t have so much of an issue in claiming ownership for my culture, but burning the Irish flag, effigies of people who I don’t agree with, and pissing in the street, is something I, in all conscience can’t and won’t be a part of! 

I was in the village my aunt lives in just outside of Belfast. A mixed community, but still the flags are abundant on lamp posts and streets. As long as they take them down a few days after the 12th, I’ve no issue with that. The bonfire the village had was reasonably small compared to the other dangerous monstrosities we now see going up. It had bunting on it and a union flag on the top which I’m assuming was taken down before being torched. It was actually lovely to see! No emblems of hate or sectarianism and no offensive boards waiting to be fried to ashes in front of the lovely Catholic community she lives in harmony with.

So, the next time someone in the PUL community feels the need to complain about me turning my back on my culture, I want them to look at themselves in the mirror first. My idea of culture is not one of antagonistic, hate filled bile. My idea of my culture is celebrating all that is good in that community. Community spirit towards their neighbours, helping their friends and neighbours whatever their culture or religion. I want My culture to be one of enjoying With friends without having to worry about bringing my Catholic friends to be subjected to a barrage of insulting actions and pissed up louts.  

⏩ Lesley Stock is a former PSNI and RUC Officer currently involved in community work. 

8 comments:

  1. This, and it's incredibly boring. Bonfires and bands marching? I'd rather be in the pub.

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    Replies
    1. Sensible thinking. Especially when the football is on.

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  2. Very well written Lesley!! My sentiments exactly! X

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, it seems to me to be in actual fact the majority now in the PUL community who would rather see a better more inclusive culture

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  3. Totally agree Lesley. Drumcree was the watershed, we had to choose between the RUC and the OO. I backed the RUC. Then we saw evangelical christians sharing the stage with the LVF, the Quinn boys etc and the bond was snapped for good. I haven't been to a bonfire or parade since.

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  4. The residents of Tigers Bay sent over a pile of sweets to the catholic weans across the way on the 11th night and they loved them. That should be a standard tradition for all of them. But like Peter I was disgusted after the Quinn boys and have no time for the OO or the bands.

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  5. Steve R - see THAT is what should be highlighted within both communities. The MSM has a LOT to answer for in my opinion. It's just a pity that the residents of Tigers Bay and their catholic neighbours had to go through the shit portrayed in the first place!!

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    Replies
    1. Lesley,

      It should and will change with the kids, but it'll help if the parents had a titter of wit and showed compassion and respect for themselves and others. Hasten the day!

      Delete