Is somebody in either Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace playing a joke on this part of the United Kingdom?
Now, you might ask why me, as a life-long Royalist and true believer in the role of the Monarchy in the life of the UK, am posing such a negative question as we enter the high point of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this week.
The answer is amazingly simple - Bangor, Co Down’s wee seaside picnic stopover, has been named Northern Ireland’s newest city as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. This means Bangor will join Belfast, Londonderry, Lisburn, Armagh and Newry in the prestigious club across Northern Ireland.
My initial reaction on hearing the news was - surely, somebody has got this one wrong as Bangor is already a city? The Bangor I’m referring too is Bangor in Gwynedd in North Wales, which became a city in 1974.
Having visited the Welsh Bangor on a number of occasions, I can testify that it boasts one of the most historic cathedrals in Britain, dating back to the 6th century.
But as for Bangor, Northern Ireland, it can boast … well, there is that glorified duck pond with the swan boats where in my younger days, I used to go on the swans and act out a famous scene from the Biblical movie blockbuster, Ben Hur, when Charlton Heston as Ben Hur was a galley slave and the Roman commander would shout ‘battle speed!’ - and we would peddle the swans across the glorified duck pond at breakneck speed.
Lisburn is now my adopted city. I was born in Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, and my home town is Ballymena, often referred to as the City of the Seven Towers.
But what the blazes has Bangor, Co Down, done to warrant the prestigious honour of having city status conferred on it in such a momentous year for us diehard Monarchists?
Ever since my late dad became Mayor of Ballymena in 1993, he campaigned over the years with other elected representatives and lobbyists to have Ballymena elevated to city status.
Did someone accidentally push a wrong button and instead of re-affirming Bangor Gwynedd as a city of the UK, they pressed Bangor Co Down?
Or, is it that while the dreadful pandemic has seen many events cancelled, somebody decided to cancel April Fools Day and make it during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations instead? As with various elections in the UK, can we demand a recount into Bangor Co Down’s city status?
If being a quaint seaside town is an essential criteria for city status, then why not confer that exclusive status on Portrush, Portstewart, or Newcastle? I’ve holidayed in all three and can categorically state that any of these seaside towns warrants the honour of city status.
Then there’s my home constituency of North Antrim - we have three super towns in that region, again, any one of which would warrant city status.
Ballymena hosts the famous agricultural show, which in my honest opinion, is one of the best in Northern Ireland next to the Balmoral event. Up the road is Ballymoney, which also hosts the famous North Antrim Agricultural Show as well as being the home region of the Dunlop family, famous throughout the globe for their achievements in motorbike racing.
Further up the road and on the North Antrim coast is Ballycastle, home of the world renown Auld Lammas Fayre.
In short, Ballymena’s People’s Park, Ballymoney’s Dunlop Memorial Gardens, and Ballycastle’s seafront could give Bangor’s glorified duck pond a run for its money any day!
Put bluntly, what was a prestigious honour of the conferring of city status has been relegated to a complete joke with Bangor Co Down being named as a city.
Now the Bangorites will be up in arms at a Ballymena man slamming the honouring of their wee duck pond, perhaps yelling ‘sour grapes’ at me. They may well have a valid point, but surely someone in the coming days as we get the Platinum Jubilee celebrations into full swing could whisper into Her Majesty’s ear - ‘Look Ma’am, somebody has made a real cock-up in Northern Ireland by awarding city status to a town with a duck pond; let’s rectify it by giving it to Ballymena!’
Or equally valid, in my adopted constituency of Lagan Valley, we now have the honour of Royal Hillsborough for that famous village. So why not have Royal Ballymena, or Royal Newcastle in Co Down?
Indeed, I’m sure the towns of Larne and Warrenpoint with their thriving ports will want a say in the race for the next city status, as well as Carrickfergus town with its historic castle.
In fact, let’s go the whole hog and upgrade Maghaberry village to ‘Big Town’ status so that in future years it can compete for city status because of the famous - or notorious - inmates which the prison has housed over the years, and not forgetting the American forces who were stationed in the village during the Second World War.
No doubt, the legions of elected representatives and lobby groups who inhabit Bangor Co Down will be jumping at the bit during the formal conferring of city status to give excuses for their quaint wee town achieving this honour.
But it reminds me of that scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian - what have the Romans ever done for us? What the heck has Bangor Co Down ever achieved for Northern Ireland? Apart from a duck pond with swan boats and a marina? As a fuming Ballymena man, I rest my case!
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.