A permanent commemoration has been set up in honour of eight Orangemen murdered during the Troubles.
The memorial, unveiled at a service yesterday, recalls the deaths of the brethren from the city of Londonderry and its surrounding area who were among those killed in atrocities such as the Claudy bombings and Greysteel massacre.
The black granite tablet is engraved with gold lettering, and will eventually go on permanent display at the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall once renovation work is finished. In the meantime it will sit in safekeeping.
It was dedicated at a remembrance and thanksgiving gathering at St Columb’s Cathedral, attended by top Orangemen and relatives of the dead.
The service was preceded and followed by parades, and according to one organiser, yesterday’s whole event went “perfectly”.
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, led the tributes, and condemned the “inhumanity” of the republican paramilitaries who were behind the bulk of the bloodshed.
He said: “We must never forget the Orange Order suffered the largest institutional loss for a civilian organisation during the Troubles.
“This was the result of barbaric, deliberate and calculated murderous attacks, predominantly by republican terrorists, which should be condemned without reservation.
“Whether it be the heinous crimes of Claudy and Greysteel resulting in the multiple murder of innocent civilians, or cold-blooded attacks on members of the security forces in Londonderry and beyond, there can be no justification whatsoever for such inhumanity.
“We owe it to the memory of our murdered brethren to never bow to the perpetrators of such terror.”
A memorial stone to remember all 332 members of the Orange Institution who lost their lives in the Troubles is permanently displayed at the Order’s headquarters, Schomberg House, in Belfast.
The Londonderry memorial was jointly funded by funeral directors Adair and Neely and D&R Hay.
An offering was also taken up for the Lord Enniskillen Memorial Orange Orphan Society and the City of Londonderry Orange Widows Fund.
James Hetherington, the City of Londonderry’s Grand Master, hailed those who had “paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Troubles”.
He added: “This memorial, once on display following refurbishment of the Memorial Hall, will be a permanent and lasting memorial to each of the eight brethren listed.”
Those being remembered are:
l James McClelland, of Kilaloo True Blues LOL 621, was among nine fatalities of the Claudy bombings. He died on July 31, 1972.
l David Miller, of Tullintrain Purple Star LOL 1969, was killed in the same atrocity.
l George Hamilton, of LOL 1969, died on December 20, 1972. A part-time UDR member from Kildoag, he was shot by an IRA gunman at Croppy Hill reservoir.
l James Hood, also of the same lodge, died on January 4, 1973. He was second-in-command of C Company of the UDR’s 5th battalion, and was shot as he returned home.
l Robert Stott, of Harmony LOL 858, died on November 25, 1975. He was a UDR man and Young Unionist and was gunned down as he returned to his Fountain Street home.
l John Olphert, of Churchhill LOL 871, died on January 18, 1983. He was an RUC reservist, and was shot by IRA gunmen at his shop in the Waterside area of Londonderry.
l Cecil McKnight, of Culmore True Blues LOL 1866, died on June 29, 1991, after being shot at his home in Melrose Terrace.
l John Burns, of Hope of Eglinton LOL 764, died on October 30, 1993. An ex-UDR man, he was one of eight murdered in the UDA’s Greysteel massacre.