Coagh Twelfth: Tiny Tyrone village hosts ‘absolutely brilliant’ day

The colour party at the head of the parade through Coagh
The colour party at the head of the parade through Coagh

The tiny Tyrone village of Coagh welcomed in a crowd many times greater than its own population on Tuesday.

The village, in the east of the county, has a population of less than 700 according to official figures, and saw several thousand bandsmen and Orangemen flocking through its streets during the Twelfth gathering.

This bands uniforms chimed with the theme of the day

This bands uniforms chimed with the theme of the day

One of those on the roughly three-and-a-half mile round march was UUP councillor Kenneth Reid.

Mr Reid is an Orangeman with Newmills LOL 187, and also the drum major of Newmills Silver Band which was on parade.

He estimated that perhaps 5,000 or more people were on parade during the day, which involved more than 40 bands and perhaps 70 Orange lodges.

He said while the village probably has a Protestant majority, it would still be reasonably mixed, but that there was no trouble whatsoever.

Carrying the banner.

Carrying the banner.

“It was absolutely brilliant,” he said.

“The Lord and Saviour was good to us – we only had one small shower. Everybody was doing their bit and had a good day all round.”

In contrast to the more urban parades, which he said could be beset by “rent-a-mob” objectors, this rural celebration showed “you can go out, have your day, go home and leave the place the way it is, having no hassle”.

The parade set out at about 12.30pm from the assembly field on the Ruskey Road, en route to the Drumconvis Road. It began the return leg at about 3.45pm.

'Double Jobbing' as this song man takes responsibility for both strings.

'Double Jobbing' as this song man takes responsibility for both strings.

Among those on parade were Orange marchers from Stewartstown, Cookstown, Castlecaulfield, Pomeroy, Benburb and Killyman.

Mr Reid added that among those watching the spectacle – which returns to the village once every seven years or so – were people from Scotland, Wales and Orange supporters from the Republic of Ireland, as well as some Americans.

In common with other marches elsewhere in the Province, there were signs that the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme was close to the hearts of the participants.

Mr Reid said that there were perhaps half a dozen members of a Dungannon-based Somme association, parading in khaki period uniform.

One lodge, LOL198 from the east Tyrone townland of Tamlaghtmore, had prepared a new Somme commemorative banner ahead of the parade.

Rev William Anderson addressed the crowds during the event, and focused his message on the importance of remembrance.

The Anglican cleric, based in Newmills, said: “We remembered the past of the Somme, and how Ulster’s finest died in that battle – members of the 31st Ulster, and the 16th Irish, and others in other regiments.”

He also spoke of the victims of the Troubles, adding that amongst the remembrance of the pain and loss of generations past, it is also important to recall “the supreme sacrifice of made by Our Lord on the cross”.

He added that the day had been “much more relaxed and much more familiy-orientated” than many other Twelfths which he had been to in the past.

UUP chairman of Mid-Ulster District Council, Trevor Wilson, congratulated those who planned the day, saying: “Plenty of colour, and the village was packed.

“Everybody had a great day, and well done to the organisers – Coagh district.”

Jason Crawford, secretary of Coagh district (and member of LOL 10) in turn thanked all the brethren from neighbouring areas “for their help and support in making today a success”.

“Everybody enjoyed the day, the weather was good, it passed off peacefully – that’s all we can ask for,” he said.

He said it bodes well for next year, when he believes it is likely a Twelfth parade will be staged in Cookstown.