Drew Nelson: Final tributes to leading Orangeman

The funeral service of senior Orangemen, Drew Nelson, will take place in Co Down
The funeral service of senior Orangemen, Drew Nelson, will take place in Co Down

Senior Orangemen from across the United Kingdom will be among hundreds expected to pay their final respects to Grand Secretary Drew Nelson at his funeral service, which takes place on Thursday afternoon.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, will be joined by his peers from both Scotland and England as the Institution – across its jurisdictions – comes together to remember one of its most influential members of modern times.

Mr Nelson, 60, passed away on Monday following a short illness.

His funeral is to be held at St John’s Church, Upper Kilwarin, near Hillsborough.

In a touching tribute, prior to the religious service, hundreds of Orangemen and women will take part in a symbolic procession, accompanying Mr Nelson as he makes his final journey.

Among the large Orange fraternity present will be the grand masters of Scotland and England respectively, Jim McHarg and Ron Bather.

Ahead of the funeral, both senior brethren paid their own personal tribute to the leading Dromore Orangeman.

Mr McHarg, who assumed his role last month, maintained Mr Nelson was held in the “highest esteem” by all of the membership of the Institution in Scotland.

“I always found him articulate,” he said.

“Drew was an absolute gentleman. His commitment to the Institution was second to none. Everything he tried to do was for the betterment of the membership. His enthusiasm knew no bounds and it was clear to see.”

Mr McHarg added that Drew had left an enduring legacy for Orangeism, which will be forever maintained.

“He will always be remembered for driving the Institution forward and for taking it into the 21st century.”

Acknowledging his “massive” contribution, Mr Bather insisted the late grand secretary had played a leading role in setting Orangeism in the “right lane” going forward.

“Drew worked for the best interests of the Institution worldwide. His influence extended beyond the confines of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland,” he said.

“He did a lot for the wider community, as well as the Orange Order. He will be sadly missed.”

Since his death earlier this week, numerous tributes have been paid to Mr Nelson from not only within Orangeism but across the entire community, including senior politicians and opinion formers.

Among those, Grand Master Edward Stevenson hailed the Orangeman as the Institution’s “greatest ever advocate” of modern times.

Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning described his close friend as the “modernising force” of the Loyal Order.

As a mark of respect, the Union Flag has been flown at half-mast this week outside Orange headquarters. Staff at Schomberg House also held a memorial service ahead of the funeral.