Huge credit is due to those responsible for the planning of the Twelfth of July demonstrations in Richill, Co Armagh.
The scale of the demonstrations could have been a logistical nightmare, but the day ran “like clockwork”.
The Co Armagh brethren are rightly proud of the distinction of holding the world’s largest gathering of Orangemen and this year’s Twelfth celebrations proved similarly impressive.
With 5,000 brethren on parade, over 150 districts and dozens of bands, County Grand Secretary Roger Gardiner declared himself delighted with the welcoming atmosphere and the huge crowds who lined the route.
“Certainly things went very well,” he said. “It was a very successful, very enjoyable day today, right from start to finish.
“There were big, big, crowds in the village – tremendous crowds really.”
He added: “At one stage they were probably eight or nine people deep in places. Every vantage point was taken up. It was a first-class parade.”
He was also keen to give credit to the host district for the smooth operation of the day’s celebrations.
“Everything went very, very well with no complaints whatsoever. It went like clockwork and a lot of credit for that has to go to Richill District who put so much planning into the whole thing.”
The organisational accomplishment was no mean feat when you look at the numbers involved on the day.
A total of 11 District lodges were on parade, along with a total of 154 private lodges.
In addition, ladies from the Women’s Institution stepped out, along with several Junior lodges.
County Armagh Grand Orange Lodge has had a significant increase in membership over the past year and many brethren were on parade for the first time.
The Armagh demonstration usually attracts upwards of 15,000 spectators, including many visitors from across the border, and a rough estimation of yesterday’s crowds means the figure for this year’s Twelfth was more than likely in excess even of the usual high turnouts.
Mr Gardiner said: “We are fortunate in that we are a fairly compact county and we do demonstrate as a county.
“Some other counties do split two or three ways as a county but we have a combined demonstration.”
He added: “That makes it the largest gathering of Orangemen and we are very proud of that fact.”
The main parade, led by Battlehill Pipe Band, began at 10am, headed by the County Grand Lodge officers.
Richhill District was followed by Portadown, Killylea, Keady, Lurgan, Armagh and Markethill Districts. The remaining Districts – Loughgall, Newtownhamilton, Bessbrook and Tandragee – paraded as they arrived, and by 12.45pm, all Districts were at the demonstration field.
The large procession began from the Legacorry Road to proceed via Tandragee Street and Main Street to the demonstration field at Tirnascobe Road.
There were six new banners on parade this year, namely those for Wesleyan Temperance LOL 161; Derrykeevan Temperance LOL 352; Cavanapole Purple Star LOL 297; Lisnafeedy-Stronge Memorial, Defenders of the Nation LOL 318; Madden LOL 972 and Divernagh Ancient Heroes LOL 77.
Mr Gardiner described the atmosphere as “tremendous”.
He added: “The weather certainly would have helped with that. The temperature must have been in the low 20s so that was just perfect. We had families, children, picnics, you name it.”
Earlier in the day, the four lodges of Bessbrook LOL No11 also held a short memorial service at the Kingsmills memorial in the south Armagh village before making their way to Richhill. Two Bessbrook Orangemen - Joseph Lemmon and James McWhirter - were among ten Protestant workmen murdered by the IRA in January 1976. The Orange memorial ceremony has been held every year since the massacre.