The Orange Order are a modest bunch, not wanting to cause a song and dance about some of the sterling work they do within their communities.
However, year on year, an awards ceremony designed to do just that – recognise those important contributions of Orangemen and women to wider society – is growing.
The 15th annual Orange Community Awards take place next month in Lisburn.
Outreach Officer David Scott is one of the proudest Orangemen you will meet, also taking great pride in the work of others: “If you look at LOL 20, one of our previous winners of the Lodge Community Involvement Award, they raised £21,000 for charity through a 130km walk along the Western Front.
“They’re attached to Banbridge Orange Hall where another lodge (LOL 423) have done a lot of big walks for charity carrying a Lambeg drum, they’re going to do the West Highland Way next year. LOL 20 are doing Killimanjaro and the money is all going to the same charities. It’s an unreal collective effort.
“This is something we go unrecognised for, this is the whole driving force behind the Orange Community Awards, the fact that our membership are quietly, unassumingly going about their daily businesses raising money for worthwhile causes.”
David added: “It’s the generosity of their nature, but they don’t sing and dance about it, they don’t shout it from the rooftops.
“The awards in many ways are about exposing the good work that people do and giving them recognition, not only for their Orange life but wider into the community.”
Nominations for next month’s awards closed on Friday.
“The nominees won’t know until the evening if they’ve been successful. I call it the Orange Oscars,” said David.
Discussing some of the awards, David said: “The Best Banner Award is probably one of the biggest sought-after awards.
“We try and encourage lodges to think a wee bit more creatively about their banners. They last for maybe 20 up to 30 or 40 years depending on how they’re kept or preserved so we could have maybe 10 or 12 new banners a year.
“I always refer to the Orange banners as being the movie storyboards of our institution. There’s a message in our banners, each banner will have the townland where the lodge is based, and that in itself is quite significant as there are very few organisations that retain the use of townland names.
“Then you’ve got the identification of the lodge by its number. The number is a bit of a giveaway because it will give you an idea roughly when that lodge was founded after the foundation of the institution in 1795. The smaller the number the closer it is to 1795.”
David, who is a member of LOL 153 Drumlough Heroes in Rathfriland district, said: “Some banners would have just been repeats of previous banners, with King Billy on the front and the Bible, the Crown again.
“We try to encourage a wee bit more creativity, getting lodges to think about their own personal history, maybe historical figures attached to the lodge, stories in their local townland.
“Because of our conservative nature we tend not to value who we are sometimes.
“If you take my lodge, a past master was Thomas Rowan Morrow, he was the only third class passenger from Ulster to perish on board the Titanic.
“That man was never remembered in our lodge for no other reason than people just saw him as a Titanic victim along with thousands of others.
“He’s the only Orangeman we believe to have perished on the Titanic. It’s rumoured there were Orangemen in the engine room who were Scottish, we can’t verify that.
“We commissioned a new bannerette in his memory back in 2012, that’s the sort of thing we encourage our lodges to do, think about their historical past and unearth those stories and put them on a public bit of art, which for us is our banners.”
Other awards recognise musicians, sporting inspirations and Christian outreach work: “We’re not just members of a marching tradition, whenever we join this institution we’re encouraged to apply ourselves and our skills to the wider broader community be that in your local church, your sporting club, your community development group, in schools as member of boards of governors, parents teachers association, we’re inspired and driven and encouraged to make a wider positive contribution to community.
“It’s quite significant because they’re all volunteers, nobody is being paid for any of this.”
David added: “As you’d expect music is a big part of the Orange institution. Musician of the year last year was Gary Hull, a Lambeg drummer and flautist with William Sterritt Memorial and Lisnaward Flute Band.
Band of the Year was the Hollymount Pipe band. After being recipients of the award they were getting invites to come and play at various events because they were the band of the year, it raised their profile.”
David said: “There’s a new panel of judges every year, people have been nominated twice but no one has ever won twice.”
Tickets remain on sale for the Orange Comunity Awards which take place in Island Valley in Lisburn on March 14 at 7.30pm.
The final award of the night is the Grand Master’s award, often given as a lifetime achievement award.
Past recipients include businessman Roy Kells who passed away recently and Walter Love, the voice of the Twelfth coverage on the BBC.
Looking ahead to the awards next month David said: “This isn’t a black tie thing. It’s very much about the membership, the people, creating an evening of fun, entertainment, and motivating people to leave that building and think, ‘I want to do what he has done’.
“It’s about making people better Orangemen, Orangewomen and Junior Orangemen.
“It’s about how we can motivate people to push on and do that wee bit more for their community so we can become a better organisation.
“This is about instilling a wee bit more confidence in our people.
“We are unashamedly Orange, we are unashamedly Protestant. We’ve nothing to be ashamed of.”
He added: “The message we want to send out from the community awards is this who we are and this is what we do.
“There isn’t a sectarian bone in my body, I wasn’t brought up to be like that.
“This is about people leaving the building being inspired to do better and more. Year on year the energy is building around the event.
“People will ask me when it is coming up and they’re already thinking about nominations for 2021.”
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