“SPECTATORS at the Belfast Twelfth from around the world were full of praise for the young musical talent on display.
The parade started off from Clifton Street at 10am before winding its way through the city centre to the cenotaph at the City Hall and then along to the Field at Barnett Demesne.
The local contingent was boosted by a host of bands from Scotland including Glasgow and Paisley.
As well as receiving a rapturous response from the local crowd, both American and English guests told the News Letter yesterday they were impressed by the playing of the band members and the passion for music among young people.
Susan Anderson, who is visiting from California to trace her roots back to Ballymena, said she had “never experienced anything like it”.
“There were so many young people playing, and then even young throwing the batons and even pretending to play too in hope that one day they will be in a band too, it was excellent,” she told the News Letter.
Meanwhile Martin Kerry, an off-duty soldier from the Sherwood Rangers, said he was “astounded” by the number of bands, adding that his regiment often found it difficult to find a band to play with them during commemorations.
“I have been coming over for the Twelfth for three years, I’ll be heading to Scarva for the first time this year,” said the Nottingham man, who despite being in the military, never served in the province.
“Northern Ireland is a misunderstood place, in England even well educated people think it is just Protestant against Catholic, but I have been very impressed with the Twelfth demonstration.”
On the Lisburn Road, friends Rita Lewes and Rita Thornton were well organised with camping chairs, rugs and flasks of tea.
“We have been watching from this spot for the last ten years. They are all quite tidy looking this year, although the lodges seem smaller,” Ms Lewes said.
Health minister Michael McGimpsey was also watching the parade with his wife Maureen on the Lisburn Road and said he felt the Belfast demonstration was becoming “more successful each year”.
Billy Armstrong from Newtownabbey cycled all the way to Balmoral Avenue to watch the parade with an Ulster flag sticking up from the back of his bike.
“I have been coming for up to 30 years, I particularly enjoy the pipe bands,” he said.
“I don’t think the Twelfth has changed too much over the years, it’s still got that unique Twelfth spirit.”
Balmoral Avenue resident Ken McWhinney was in his driveway watching the parade pass. He recalled watching it from the same area as a youngster when his parents brought the family up from Holywood for the day.
“The residents along here don’t mind too much, it’s only for a couple of hours and it’s all in a good spirit.”
‘Twelfth drawing tourists’
SENIOR Belfast Orangeman and deputylord mayor councillor William Humphrey said there was no doubt that, without King William’s arrival in Britain, the United Kingdom, as currently constituted, would simply not exist.
“In celebrating the 320th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne we should never forget the tremendous privileges which flowed for this United Kingdom from the Glorious Revolution – privileges, which were hard, won and privileges we must never take for granted,” he told Orangemen in Belfast..
“Orangefest is the perfect occasion to appreciate aspects of Ulster’s rich heritage and culture. Diversity is strength not a threat. Diversity provides a real opportunity for a tolerant, inclusive society to be established within this city.
“In recent years, the Orangefest committee, working with the County Grand Lodge of Belfast, has been developing the 12th July celebration as an increasingly family friendly event.
“Last year we witnessed city centre shops opening for the first time in many years. The results were extremely positive. The Twelfth is the largest tourist attraction, not just in our capital city, but across Northern Ireland.”
He added: “We know that along with indigenous population, there are many national and international visitors who travel to Northern Ireland in July, ensuring that their visit to coincides with our celebrations.
“The colour, pageantry and music of the Twelfth in Belfast is enjoyed by over 250,000 people. The number of tourists travelling to Northern Ireland for the Twelfth has grown exponentially. The three Belfast Welcome Centres have all witnessed an increase in terms of interest in July.”
Mr Humphrey said that unfortunately the right to assemble and parade as Orange brethren has been curtailed by the Parades Commission.
“We must recommit ourselves to ensure that the Parades Commission is no more. Their processes are incoherent, their decisions inconsistent and their approach is incompetent.””
Article taken from the The News Letter