Twelfth: Ballymena District on parade

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Over the past few weeks, the quiet summer evenings in the countryside around Ballymena have been a little more noisy than usual.

As local Orange lodges made their final preparations for the biggest day in their marching year, the men with the select skills needed to get the giant ‘lambeg’ drums ready to roll out the rhythm on the Twelfth Day have been plying their esoteric skills.

And that requires a lot of elbow grease as the various ropes are pulled and slackened to adjust the tone of the drums - and of course they have to be tested for volume too!

Around half of the 30 lodges in Ballymena District - like Ballymarlow LOL in our picture - are led by lambeg parties and while the rattle of the big drums is not to the taste of many, it is part and parcel of the almost unique flavour of the Twelfth in Mid-Antrim.

In recent years, mounting running costs have been a major factor in the decline in the number of bands in the area but this period has also seen a boom in fifing and drumming.

They say that drummers from Mid-Antrim are the creme de la creme but without the shrill notes of the jigs and reels played by their accompanying fifers, their traditional sound would lose much of its attraction.

In Ballymena, past Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Robert Saulters, joined the 30 lodges, 15 bands and drumming parties which assembled at Waveney Road at 12.30pm.

Large crowds, particularly in the bunting bedecked Harryville area watched the parade which took 40 minutes to pass any given spot. This year’s parade was hoted by Crimson Banner LOL 961.

The long walk brought the Orangemen, around 1000 in number according to the Order, to Ballee playing fields for a religious service at 3pm conducted by Grand Chaplain, Rev Ian McClean.

For full report and pictures, see Monday’s News Letter.