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Sir Knights planning to walk and cycle ‘Centenary Circuit’

Members of the Royal Black Institution are planning to go the extra mile – on foot and bicycle – to celebrate 100 years since the foundation of Northern Ireland.

Small relay teams of Sir Knights are set to embark on a sponsored lap of the Province later in the year.

All money raised during the special “Centenary Circuit ’21” will be donated to the Institution’s Designated Charity Appeal, the Somme Nursing Home in Belfast.

The sponsored walk and cycle forms part of the Loyal Order’s programme of events to mark the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland.

The “Sir Norman Stronge Memorial Project” will see the Institution celebrate Northern Ireland’s centenary and also commemorate the life of a former Sovereign Grand Master who was murdered by the IRA.

Sir Norman Stronge led the Institution from 1948 to 1971.

During a remarkable life characterised by the twin pillars of “Service and Sacrifice”, Sir Norman fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross. He later became a senior Ulster Unionist Party politician, and served as Speaker of the House of Commons of Northern Ireland for 23 years.

He was murdered, alongside his only son, James, also a member of the Institution, on the evening of January 21, 1981. An IRA gang burst into Sir Norman Stronge’s home, Tynan Abbey in Co Armagh, and shot the pair dead before firebombing the historic property, leaving it totally destroyed.

Last month, on the 40th anniversary of the heinous murder, the Institution launched the “Sir Norman Stronge Memorial Project”.

In addition to the sponsored lap of Northern Ireland, the Institution also announced plans to unveil a bust of Sir Norman Stronge, produce an exhibition and booklet detailing his life, release a special centennial jewel, and compile a Book of Remembrance recording all Sir Knights who paid the supreme sacrifice during the Troubles.

Further details about the “Centenary Circuit ’21” have now been released.

The event will take place in late summertime and, of course, will abide by all coronavirus regulations in place at that time.

The overall route will largely follow the Ulster Way, and will showcase some of the best scenery Northern Ireland has to offer.

Small teams will choose to walk or cycle their designated trail, before handing over to the next set of participants to complete the following stretch of the journey.

The route will be designed to accommodate as many different abilities and teams as possible, and organisers are also encouraging friends and supporters of the Institution to get involved, as well as members.

Sovereign Grand Master, Rev William Anderson, said: “The Centenary Circuit ’21 is a fantastic way to celebrate our wonderful country’s centenary.

“It will be a fun and healthy event, and I’m sure those taking part will enjoy some amazing scenery – they might even see parts of Northern Ireland which they never did before!

“The money raised will go to a very worthwhile cause, the Somme Nursing Home in Belfast, and I’m looking forward to supporting the teams along the route.”

Further details about the Centenary Circuit route and how to get involved will be released at a later date.