Tandragee will be the venue for the biggest 12th July parade in the country this Friday as over 5,000 Orangemen from the 11 Districts in County Armagh converge on the historic town to celebrate the 329th anniversary of William of Orange’s victory in the Battle of the Boyne.
About 160 lodges from the eleven districts will be accompanied by around 70 bands, including four from Scotland, and if the weather permits, the famous Lambeg drums will thunder their traditional Twelfth message, this county being one of the strongholds of the big drum..
Tandragee District LOL No 4, hosting the County Twelfth for the first time in eleven years, is one of the largest districts numerically, with some 700 members who belong to 21 lodges.
It has a special tradition on the morning of the 12th July when the brethren from all the lodges form a large ‘ring’ at the top of the hill in the town.
The route to the Field at Scarva Road is marked by bunting and scores of Union Jacks and Ulster flags, and the lodges and bands will parade under a magnificent Arch erected at the upper end of the town.
The District Master of No 4, Mr Mervyn Adair, is confident that Tandragee will live up to its long tradition of hosting the County Armagh Twelfth with a great display of loyalty and enthusiasm for the Orange cause.
The Tandragee District is wide ranging, and the 21 lodges include Scarva Sons of William LOL No 60, which recently unfurled and dedicated a fine new banner.
It is one of three new banners which will be carried through the town for the first time this Twelfth, the others being Greenisland True Blues LOL No 10, Portadown, and Corkley LOL No 219, Keady.
Bro Denis Watson, County Grand Master, said, “I am delighted that the Orange Order in our county continues to flourish.”
He said that this year they would remember with gratitude, those from the ranks in County Armagh who paid the Supreme Sacrifice in various conflicts for their liberty and freedom.
This, the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France, they saluted those who played their part in that historic and very important conflict.
Among the 400 first Orange warrants issued after the Battle of the Diamond in 1795, a total of 14 were given to lodges in Tandragee district, and those lodges paraded the town and took part in the first ever 12th July demonstration, held in Lurgan Park in 1796.
The County Armagh parade, with over 5.000 Orangemen taking part, is the largest in the British Isles.
The Portadown District, with 28 lodges and 850 Orangemen will be the largest on parade, and other huge Districts include Loughgall, Markethill, Lurgan, and Killylea.
Today all the Orangemen go by bus to Tandragee, and none of the Districts travel by train. In 1956, when Tandragee hosted its first post-war demonstration, three, districts, Portadown, Lurgan, and Armagh travelled in special trains to Madden railway station, and paraded from there to the town.
The venue that year for the County Armagh 12th demonstration was the demesne within the walls of the Duke of Manchester’s estate, close to the famous castle which shortly afterwards became the base for the highly successful Tayto potato crisps industry.
This Friday’s massive Twelfth rally gets under way shortly before 9am when the brethren of Tandragee lodges hold their famous ‘Ring’ at the top of the town.
The parade the 11 Districts will get under way at 9.45am, when Tandragee District will form up and parade left into Cornmarket Street. From there it will proceed on to Montague Street, finally coming to a halt at the roundabout at the top of the Ballymore Road.
There the Tandragee brethren will meet up with Orangemen from five other districts taking part – Richhill, Killylea, Portadown, Keady and Lurgan.
The other districts, Armagh, Markethill, Newtownhamilton, Bessbrook, and Loughgall, will parade later in the morning.
The parade route will be lined by an estimated 20,000 spectators.
In the afternoon a religious service will be held in the Field, with leading Orange chaplains taking part.
The platform chair will be taken by County Grand Master, Denis Watson, and proceedings will commence with a religious service, conducted by the Rev.Dr. Alan McCann, county grand chaplain.
The address will be given by Pastor Gordon Graham, Tandragee District chaplain.
International mezzo-soprano, Emma Brown, will lead the praise and perform a solo during the proceedings.
Alcohol free zones will operate in the demonstration Field, and throughout the town, and police have praised the co-operation received in the past for the implementation of these bans.
The return parade leaves the demonstration field at 3pm.
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