The building was officially opened by the Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson on Saturday, April 2, after a colourful and dignified parade of more than 2,000 Sir Knights and 10 accompanying bands.
Rev Anderson hailed the event – a milestone in the Loyal Order’s 225-year history – as one that would deliver an enduring legacy for future generations. He said: “There can be no doubt that this day marks an important point in our journey as an Institution.
“It is a time in our journey to give thanks for the past, to be assured of the present and to look forward in anticipation to the future.”
Rev Anderson said the organisation – founded in 1797 – was celebrating “building for the future”. “Our new headquarters building is a sign of our courage and determination,” he said.
“Just like our forefathers had to build strongly, we too must build confidently for the future that is ours through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” “We have a magnificent building, one in which we can be proud, one in which we can confidently display our legacy for the future.”
A ‘Leaders’ Legacy’ exhibition – focusing on past sovereign grand masters of the Royal Black – formed part of the event, including the unveiling and dedication of a bust of Sir Norman Stronge.
The bust was unveiled by Bro James Kinghan, a grandson of Sir Norman, and Sir Knight Andy Gray, who was a driver for the late senior unionist politician, and dedicated by Imperial Grand Chaplain Sir Knight Rev Nigel Reid.
Sir Norman, who led the Institution from 1948 to 1971, was a former speaker in the Northern Ireland Parliament and was the holder of the Military Cross for gallantry at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He and his son James, also a member of the Institution, were murdered by the IRA at their Tynan Abbey home in 1981.
The headquarters is the first property the Institution has owned, having been a tenant at Brownlow House, Lurgan, from the 1920s until 2017, when it moved to temporary premises in Loughgall.
The building project – to transform a B1 listed property dating back to the 1820s into a modern centre for the Royal Black – was completed by Weir Bros Construction (NI) Ltd.
Sir Knight Lester Weir handed over the keys of the property to the Sovereign Grand Master. The headquarters includes administrative offices, an exhibition space, a library to house the Institution’s collection of books and artefacts, meeting rooms and an outdoor memorial area.