Lord Laird: Orange Order gives thanks for life of ‘proud Ulsterman’

The Orange Order held a service of thanksgiving in Belfast on Saturday afternoon to remember long-time Orangeman and former parliamentarian Lord Laird of Artigarvan, who passed away earlier this year.

Members of the Orange Institution, including grand master Edward Stevenson, joined with family members and friends at St Mary Magdalene Church to celebrate the peer’s life.

Rev Mervyn Gibson, Orange Order grand secretary; Ellie Mae Donnelly; Alison Laird Donnelly; Lady Laird; David Laird and Rev Iain Jameson, assistant grand chaplain, at the thanksgiving service

Rev Mervyn Gibson, Orange Order grand secretary; Ellie Mae Donnelly; Alison Laird Donnelly; Lady Laird; David Laird and Rev Iain Jameson, assistant grand chaplain, at the thanksgiving service

During the service, a portrait of the former politician and PR man was unveiled by his wife, Lady Carol Laird. The artwork was specially commissioned by Royal York LOL 145, of which Lord Laird was a member for over 50 years.

The 74-year-old, who died in July following illness, was an active and well-known member of the Orange Order in Belfast throughout his life.

He was also a founder and active member of Boyne Obelisk Lodge LOL 1690, and the Houses of Parliament Lodge at Westminster.

Paying tribute at the thanksgiving service, grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rev Mervyn Gibson, described Lord Laird as “someone special” and a “true friend” to all.

Viewing the portrait of the late Lord Laird are (from left) Lady Laird, William Smart, worshipful master LOL 1690; and Graham Barton, treasurer LOL 145. Pics by Graham Baalham-Curry

Viewing the portrait of the late Lord Laird are (from left) Lady Laird, William Smart, worshipful master LOL 1690; and Graham Barton, treasurer LOL 145. Pics by Graham Baalham-Curry

“Many descriptions were used to describe John Laird at the time of his passing by those who knew him. A gentleman; a committed Unionist; a wind-up merchant; an inspiration; an Orangeman to the core; a proud Ulsterman; visionary; and lateral thinker. But foremost of all these descriptions was a great dad and a loving husband,” he said.

“We meet as Orange brethren and friends to honour him and give thanks to God for the privilege of knowing John. It is at home that John’s loss will always be most acutely felt, and our prayers, thoughts and sympathy remain with Carol, Alison and David.”

Rev Gibson, a personal friend of Mr Laird, recalled the peer’s political career and public service, as well as highlighting his pioneering work in public relations and as an advocate for the local Ulster-Scots sector.

“We all will recall how John was extremely generous; generous with his time, generous in sharing his experience and expertise. Generous to a fault. It was our privilege to have known him,” Rev Gibson added.

The service was conducted by Rev Iain Jameson, assistant grand chaplain, and incorporated music and performances, highlighting Lord Laird’s association with the Ulster-Scots movement.

Tributes were also paid by Mervyn Bishop, the Orange Order’s imperial grand secretary, and Ulster-Scots enthusiast Maynard Hanna.