Another glorious Twelfth is enjoyed across the Province
It was yet another glorious Twelfth of July yesterday.
Across Northern Ireland, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the colour and pageantry of the parades that mark the 328th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne.
There a few spectacles like it in Europe, as the growing number of visitors to Northern Ireland are finding out.
In Belfast, the magnificent parade snaked its way five miles from Carlisle Circus to Barnett’s Park, via the city centre where homage was paid as ever at the cenotaph to those who died serving their country. And while the Belfast parade is the longest of them all, in part because it has so many bands, the Loughgall event had the most Orangemen.
Belfast and Loughgall were two of 17 venues across the Province that celebrated a victory in 1690 that had consequences for Europe and the shape of the then emerging Americas.
The Orangemen, women and juniors were accompanied by over 600 marching bands. As ever, a large Scottish contingent travelled to Northern Ireland for the day.
The retired Ireland rugby player Brian O’Driscoll was among the spectators who enjoyed the prominent role of Lambeg drums in the festivities at Loughgall. An Irish government minister Brendan Griffin watched the celebrations in Belfast.
Cooler weather yesterday too was ideal for such an occasion: the recent unusually hot conditions, often over 25 Celsius, have been a rare early summer treat for Northern Ireland but such temperatures would have been too hot for a long walk.
Never has thuggery or terrorism been able to destroy an event as happy and huge as the Twelfth, not even during the Troubles, and nor was it able to do so this year.
There was one sad and notable loss however in 2018: Lord Laird, who died on Tuesday, was one of the date’s most devoted advocates. Always a colourful presence in the Belfast parade, he also played annual host to at the Field to visitors from near and far.
He was much missed yesterday.