The guest of honour at the Twelfth celebrations in Limavady said yesterday that there is no event in the British Isles that brings such huge numbers of people on to the streets for a family pageant.
Grand Master of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, was one the guests of honour at the largest Co Londonderry parade, with 3,000 Orangemen from 60 lodges headed by 50 bands. Limavady District was joined by Coleraine, Macosquin, City of Londonderry and Raphoe (Co Donegal) districts, with Scottish brethren also attending.
Mr Stevenson paid tribute to those who died in the Battle of the Somme and also to HM The Queen, who celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this year.
He said it was wonderful to be in Limavady and praised the family-friendly atmosphere and pageantry.
“The large numbers of participants and huge crowds lining the route are testament to the enduring strength of our Loyal Institution and its continuing relevance,” he said.
“We are immensely proud to play host to Northern Ireland’s largest annual festival. On the 326th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, tens of thousands are once again maintaining a long-standing tradition and expressing their cultural heritage in a manner befitting of the occasion.
“Surely there is no other event on these islands that can bring such huge numbers of people on to the streets to enjoy our parades, either by taking part or simply to watch them go by. The Twelfth of July is truly a day to savour and to be cherished.”
As a tribute to those who served and died at the Battle of the Somme, Mr Stevenson applauded the wearing of poppies as a potent symbol of the immeasurable sacrifice on the battlefields of France 100 years ago.
“We remember with pride those servicemen from the 36th Ulster Division, and all who fought for King and country, and reflect on the many tens of thousands of members of our Institution worldwide who bravely enlisted at that time,” he said.
“Earlier this month, I had the privilege and honour to pay my respects at the Ulster Tower and at the Orange memorial in Thiepval. Naturally, I thought of the Orange brethren from across the globe, many who donned their sashes before leaving the trenches, whose heroism and selflessness knew no bounds. A century on we remember with great pride those members of the Institution who didn’t and couldn’t parade. We dedicate this Twelfth to their everlasting memory.”
He also recalled the visit earlier in the year by Prince Charles to the Museum of Orange Heritage, where a tree was planted in memory of murdered brethren and went on to stress that, as a major stakeholder in the Province, the Orange Institution was committed to playing its part in a truly shared future for Northern Ireland.
Mr Stevenson condemned attacks on Orange halls and properties, calling them “hate crimes” and appealed for them to stop.
“We would encourage others to follow in the footsteps of Royalty and learn more about the Orange tradition through our outreach museums, so to increase understanding and mutual respect,” he said.
District Secretary Jonathan Holmes said: “Overall the day was a success for Orangeism in the Roe Valley and we were very pleased to have the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge on parade with us.”
The parade started at noon from Church Street and moved through the town centre to Limavady Orange field at Roemill. Platform proceedings began at 2pm under the chairmanship of Samuel Calvin, Londonderry Deputy County Grand Master, while the service was conducted by the Rev Joe Andrews, County Grand Chaplain. The return parade left at 4.15pm.
The religious service took place in a marquee, having suffered heavy rain two years ago and in light of a doubtful weather forecast for yesterday. However, the event stayed dry, having missed an early heavy shower.