A huge turn-out of up to 30,000 people attended Twelfth celebrations at the north Down seaside town of Donaghadee yesterday.
The setting is rich in Orange history with the Duke of Schomberg – King William’s second-in-command – and his army having arrived in nearby Groomsport to pave the way for King William III to cross from England ahead of the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
Yesterday’s north Down parade was headed by Upper Ards district followed by Newtownards, Holywood and Bangor districts.
Fifty-two lodges and 35 bands paraded and Orangemen from England and Scotland attended. To mark the Battle of the Somme centenary, the parade was led by re-enactors dressed in period World War One uniforms.
Stephen Donaldson, District Secretary of Upper Ards District, said up to 30,000 people attended.
Asked why Donaghadee draws such massive crowds, he explained: “I think it is a combination of the scenic setting and good road communications which proves very attractive for spectators.”
Visitors from Australia, England and Scotland attended the parade and a couple of people from France came along from the nearby motor home park.
“They [the French] had never seen anything like it before. They really enjoyed it,” he said.
The day also saw the Greyabbey Lodge launch a new banner – a scene from the Battle of the Somme, he said.
“The whole day went off really well – we were all delighted.”
It was no surprise that such a vibrant event spilled over on to social media, with Taylor Angus posting a 33-minute clip of the parade, prompting positive feedback – and a reminder how people can feel especially homesick on this date.
After watching the clip, Donna O’Bryan, who was not able to make the parade, commented: “Thanks Taylor ... you guys made me really home sick I really miss you guys xxx”.
Guest speaker for the day was Grand Lodge services and outreach manager David Scott.
He opened by quoting Marcus Garvey: “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
The leading Orangeman said: “Not everyone feels a connection with their cultural heritage, but many people do.
“What is it about cultural heritage that draws people to it?” he asked.
He added: “Culture can give people a connection to certain social values, beliefs, religions and customs. It allows them to identify with others of similar mind-sets, and today is a reminder of our cultural heritage. A day to put on display our colourful and unique Protestant heritage.”
He noted that Captain Wilfred Spender of the Ulster Division’s HQ staff after the Battle of the Somme was quoted in the press as saying: “I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world.”
This was the legacy left by Ulstermen following their heroic actions at the Battle of the Somme, and he added. “What will your legacy be?”