After 44 years as bass drummer with Tullyvallen Silver Band, Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy has made the reluctant decision to down sticks.
On the Twelfth, instead of stepping out in the colours of Tullyvallen, Danny donned his sash and went on parade with his family lodge (LOL 959) in Bessbrook.
He decided it was time to step down as, at 62, he was beginning to find the aches and pains associated with carrying a bass drum too much to bear.
He commented: “I’m not getting any younger. For the sake of my health I decided to retire after 44 years.
“I had 44 very good years with Tullyvallen. They’re a great bunch of people. There’s been great camaraderie.
“It hasn’t been an easy decision. It would have been nice to make it to the half century but it just wasn’t practical.
“Through band parades and through other loyal order parades I’ve had a great experience. The band strive to achieve a good musical level, their music has certainly been appreciated over the years.
“I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to prosper and I wish my successor every possible success.”
On September 1, 1975 five Orangemen were killed and seven injured when two IRA gunmen opened fire in an Orange hall in Tullyvallen. Danny joined the band as an 18-year-old in 1977, two years after the massacre.
He said: “I came into the band in the aftermath of that. The band had been deeply impacted by that atrocity and was having to adjust to that.
“There’s a special resonance in the community with the band, the way they recovered after what had happened.”
Danny had previously been a side drummer in Bessbrook True Blues Flute Band: “It was quite a transformation to go from the side drum in a flute band to a bass drum in a silver band.
“An older brother at the time was a member of Tullyvallen, he encouraged me to join. I was very much welcomed. My first Twelfth was 1977 in Killyleagh.
“I haven’t missed many on the drum since then. A couple of years when I held district office in the Orange in Bessbrook I walked with the Orange as opposed to the band, but there weren’t many occasions on the Twelfth that I wasn’t in the band.”
On Monday, Danny paraded with his family lodge in Bessbrook and Newtownhamilton.
He said: “We’d a great day. There was a great family atmosphere.
“Almost the entire Kennedy male clan were out. On parade there were two brothers, one son and our two grandchildren who walked with us for part of the procession in Newtownhamilton.”
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