The annual parading season in Northern Ireland came to a triumphant conclusion at the weekend with the traditional "Last Saturday" parades.
Across the Province, at six main locations, the Royal Black Institution put on a tremendous display of religion, culture and pageantry, accompanied by the excellent music of around 300 marching bands.
Many, many hours would have gone into the planning and preparation of each Last Saturday event, and the organisers - all them volunteers - got their reward at the weekend when they saw the streets of Artigarvan, Dromore, Larne, Lisburn, Loughgall and Moneymore lined with spectators, showing their support for those on parade.
The Royal Black estimates that approximately 17,000 members of the institution took part in the day's events. According to its website, the Royal Black gives these members the opportunity to study Holy Scripture; increase knowledge of the Reformed Faith; engage in Christian and charitable outreach; and continue and further develop social and responsible citizenship.
In today's secular and materialistic world, these are noble objectives, and it was heartening to hear the Sovereign Grand Master, Rev William Anderson, tell this newspaper that the loyal order remains “in a strong and vibrant” state.
Of course, the Last Saturday does not signal some yearly "shutting down" of the Royal Black. Like the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys, the work goes on 12 months of the year - meetings, smaller parades, charity fundraising, church services and social events. The three loyal orders provide valuable channels for social cohesiveness in their communities, add to the rich cultural tapestry of Northern Ireland - and can look back with pride at a successful summer marching season.