Brethren and their supporters enjoyed a “relaxed, family friendly” Twelfth in Kilrea yesterday, where the turnout exceeded expectations.
Upwards of 3,000 Orangemen representing eight districts descended on the village, which was hosting the demonstration for the first time since 2010.
Hosts Kilrea and Tamlaght O’Crilly were joined by neighbouring participants from Moneymore, Magherafelt, Garvagh, Ballyronan, Castledawson and Tobermore.
They were accompanied by approximately 50 bands as the main parade set off at 11.30am, accompanied by glorious sunshine.
Around 4,000 spectators lined the parade route, soaking up the relaxed, welcoming and family-friendly atmosphere.
The parade proceeded from New Row, via Maghera Street, Fair Hill, Church Street, The Diamond, Bridge Street, Mill Row, Coleraine Street, Maghera Street to the demonstration field at Kilrea mart.
Kyle Pinkerton of Lisnagrot Temperance LOL No 1517 said the parade was “a real family affair that had something for everyone”.
He told the News Letter: “The weather was great all day and the field was absolutely packed, with lots of families having a good time.
“There were bouncy castle and other activities for the kids, and everyone was chatting away and enjoying the atmosphere.
“The craic was mighty.”
Bro Pinkerton, who is also secretary of Kilrea district, added: “This was the first time Kilrea hosted the Twelfth since 2010 and it all went off without a hitch, as was expected.”
This year’s Twelfth celebrations coincided with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
And guest speaker at the Kilrea demonstration, Assistant Grand Master Lewis Singleton, said now was a good time for the institution to look back and “draw inspiration from the fact that one man of great courage, could by his actions, change the face and history of a continent”.
He added: “Martin Luther turned the key in the door of the Reformation and left it for others to open further.
“We should be inspired by the past, but we also need to look forward. We need to think strategically – not just in months and years, but on behalf of the next generation. It falls to us to meet the challenge for the future of how we take our community forward over the next 25 to 50 years.”
Bro Singleton said only the Orange Institution has the capability to take up that challenge.
He added: “I believe within our ranks we have the network to do it and also people with the ability to do it. But the question is, have we the vision to do it?
“The challenge has been set – we must exceed our own expectation levels and ensure our institution is fit for purpose, and remains vibrant and relevant for the foreseeable future.”