Lodge Life: Rossnowlagh's seaside special sets up Twelfth
The rolling hills of Co Donegal and a magnificent coastline provide the backdrop to what must surely be the most attractive setting for any Twelfth parade.
The annual Rossnowlagh procession will be held this Saturday, five days before the demonstrations in Northern Ireland.
Upwards of 50 lodges from Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan, as well as visiting Orangemen from Northern Ireland and further afield, will step out in magnificent summer sunshine.
The main parade will commence close to St John’s Parish Church at noon. It then makes its way down a narrow country road, thronged with onlookers, to the demonstration field, on the edge of the shoreline.
The annual gathering is renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere and minimal security presence.
A religious service, only yards from the rolling breakers of the Atlantic, will be held at 3pm. The service will be conducted by the local Church of Ireland minister, Canon Brian Russell.
The guest speaker will be Wallace Thompson, secretary of the Evangelical Protestant Society. Also, on the platform will be senior Orangemen from the Republic, including Co Donegal Grand Master David Mahon.
The service will incorporate an act of remembrance to remember those Orangemen, and others, from across the British Isles and beyond, who paid the supreme sacrifice during the First World War.
Orangeism remains vibrant in the border counties and there are 40 Orange halls in the Republic. Newtowncunningham Orange hall is due to reopen later this year after being destroyed in an arson attack in 2014.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met a delegation of Orangemen from the Republic during his visit to Orange headquarters in Belfast last month.
Rossnowlagh is the annual precursor to the traditional Twelfth of July parades, scheduled to take place next Thursday. A total of 17 venues across Northern Ireland are holding processions to mark the 328th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
The largest gathering will take place in Loughgall – the birthplace of Orangeism – which is hosting the Co Armagh demonstration.
A large Scottish contingent is expected in Belfast, as the city hosts the longest Twelfth parade on the day, with participants walking over six miles to the field.
Other significant parades will take place in Londonderry, Brookeborough (Fermanagh), Ballyclare (Antrim), Donaghcloney (Down) and Stewartstown (Tyrone).
Meanwhile, breaking with tradition, over 1,000 Orangemen from Mourne District will join their neighbouring brethren at the Newcastle demonstration.