In pictures: Junior Orange mark Larne gun-running centenary

Despite the damp and dismal weather, crowds still turned out to see many of the young Orangemen of the future take to the streets in Co Antrim yesterday.

Hundreds upon hundreds of Junior Orange members marched through Larne during the afternoon, in what was the latest annual expression of a tradition dating back to 1919.

Belfast Junior County lodge parade in Larne

Belfast Junior County lodge parade in Larne

Last year’s event was held in Newtownards but this year’s location was chosen as a way of marking the centenary of the Larne gun-running, when the original UVF received a huge cache of weapons through the port town.

The Belfast county lodge of the Junior Orange Association of Ireland set off at around 12.30pm from Circular Road – close to the gigantic depiction of a Royal crown at the roundabout – to Bay Park in the east of the town, via the centre of Larne.

The parade brought out an estimated 2,000 or so participants according to county secretary Noel Liggett, and around a dozen bands were in attendance.

Among the bands taking part in the event – which was one of the first Orange processions of the year – were South Belfast Young Conquerors, Newtownabbey 1st Accordion, and the Constable Anderson Memorial, Larne, alongside the junior lodge members themselves.

Shankill Road Defenders won the accolade of ‘best band’ on the day.

DUP councillor Gregg McKeen said: “It was a very damp day for them, you know – the rain came on fairly heavily. But I’d say there was a fairly good turnout.

“I suppose the weather was slightly disappointing for the juniors, but apart from that I’m sure they all enjoyed themselves.”

Junior Orange groups have been in existence since the 19th century, and their structures became more formalised after the First World War.

Presently there are 59 such lodges – and still growing.

The members are aged seven to 16, as a rule, after which point they can look at becoming part of the fully-fledged adult lodges.

Mr Liggett said: “I was well pleased with the arrangements. The boys seemed to enjoy it, and it’s just a pity the weather didn’t hold out for us – but we can’t have everything.”

Despite the rain forcing some onlookers to flee indoors, he was still heartened by the crowds which gathered.

Yesterday’s event came on top of Monday’s large scale parades across Belfast. It also comes ahead of a parade at 6.30pm tomorrow by Larne District LOL No 1, running from Church Road to Chaine Memorial Road and back.