Brownlow Castle, the local name for Brownlow House, is where the 1987 Orange Parade was held for the County Armagh area. The ‘field’ was actually the gardens of the house, and the word ‘demonstration’ refers to the assertion of strength and loyalty demonstrated by the parades themselves. No Surrender, one of the rallying calls of Unionism and Orangeism, elegantly encapsulating the sense of being trapped in time; or having nowhere to go; of living in a past which is no longer relevant. It depicts a No Surrender banner whose centrepiece is an oval portrait of a cavalier in armour and neck ruff. The image of the warrior has an effete quality, signalled by the blue eye shadow and the red lipstick which, together with the ruff and the antiquated armour, suggest the ineffectiveness of the No Surrender mentality today.
This head-and shoulders portrait, encircled by a swathe of white, gives it the quality of an enlarged Elizabethan miniature. A small boy, his back to us, is staring towards the figure. Part of his head is within the circle, as if to say that he has been indoctrinated by attitudes which date from the seventeenth century, despite the outmoded attitudes. Both the Orange Lodge individual, and the small girl, both of whom are at the bottom right, are faceless, representatives of the average person; of the masses. The man’s ‘face’ is rent by the cracks in the space-time fabric (cf Drumming), which is perhaps an indication that the older generation should bear the brunt of any criticism, whereas the girl’s face is ‘washed out’ as if brainwashed by the ideology.
The scene in Bowler Hat and Umbrella is the balcony of Brownlow House where various speakers assemble to give speeches to the waiting crowd, including the two politicians who are pictured here. The heavy stone blocks and the shuttered windows of the mansion can be read as a reference to a traditional theme in Irish fiction, that of the big house – in this case one belonging to a member of the Ascendancy. The shutters suggest obsolescence: the mythology is out of date.
There is a penchant for black humour in some of Sloan’s work (think of the image of the R.U.C. and the donkey) which emerges again in this work. Two politicians are flanked by a circled, empty chair: waiting for Godot in the shape of a guest speaker. The chair, the two men, and the Union Jack flag are linked by scoring lines into a triangulation of obsolescence, trapped in their Union Jack mentality. Both the men and the flag are encompassed by a vortex or whirlwind, not unlike the transmitter effect in Star Trek. ‘Beam me up Scottie’, they seem to say, but to where? As for the guest speaker, the leader, is he really coming? Is it a biblical visitation, or will the assembled congregation and the acolytes continue to wait in hope, for the improbable?