The majestic Mourne Mountains blessed the opening of the Twelfth in Kilkeel with generous soft rain on Saturday – but there was no dampening the sashes of the faithful.
In fact there were substantial traffic jams of folk pressing to get into the traditional fishing town, even after the parades got under way at 11am from Kilkeel Orange Hall, where a protest statement from Grand Orange Lodge was read to begin proceedings.
The crowds were out as usual, sheltering wherever possible, and the rain soon passed, defeated by bright sunshine.
No matter the weather this was yet another traditional demonstration of the Kingdom of Mourne’s annual declaration of independence; the people of the area proud of having been tempered over many generations of splendid isolation – caught between rugged mountains on one side and the open sea on the other.
So, as usual, the Mourne men proudly stayed at home for the Twelfth, parading through their own streets in a close-fit family-style Twelfth where every face knows the next and ‘auld worthies’ in sashes stopped on the street to catch up with friends.
The largest individual lodge stepping out anywhere for the Twelfth was also on parade here – Ballyvea LOL 343a, which boasts 150 members. Upwards of 1,500 people were estimated to have taken part in the formal procession, with many more watching the spectacle pass by.
The district also observed a six-minute stoppage and has made an emergency application for a small procession through the town on Saturday night, in line with central order requests.
For full report and pictures, see Monday’s News Letter.