THE summer sunshine finally arrived on Thursday (July 12) as Orangemen from more than 20 local lodges made the short journey to Carrickfergus for the East Antrim Combine Twelfth demonstration.
Hundreds of Orange Order members from the Carnmoney, Cloughfern and Sixmilewater Districts joined brethren from Larne, Randalstown, Staffordstown, Killead, Antrim and Carrickfergus for the ‘Flagship Twelfth’ - one of the biggest gatherings in Northern Ireland.
Some 8,000 Orangemen from more than 70 lodges, accompanied by 60 marching bands, took part in the annual commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne. Members of the Junior Orange Order, Ladies Orange lodges and members from England and Scotland were also on parade.
Following weeks of rain, Thursday’s glorious weather helped attract huge crowds of spectators to the town, with police estimating that more than 50,000 people lined the streets along the parade route.
Hundreds of Orangemen from the 10 lodges of the Sixmilewater District were among those who enjoyed the celebrations in Carrick.
District Master, Aaron Weir said there had been an extremely good turnout of Orangemen from the local lodges, including members of Garryowen LOL 221 who were on parade with the Sixmilewater District for the first time.
“It was a very enjoyable day and the whole thing was very well organised by the Carrickfergus District,” he told the Times. “It was an extremely warm day, there were good crowds about the town and everyone behaved themselves as far as I know, so it was a great day.”
Carnmoney District Master, Albert Steele commented: “It was a really good day. It was really enjoyable and it all went very well. There were great crowds out, obviously helped by the fine weather, and we couldn’t have been blessed with a better day.”
Mr Steele stressed that preparations are already well under way for the 2013 East Antrim demonstration, which will be hosted by Carnmoney District LOL No. 25 in Glengormley.
“We’re really looking forward to next year. We’re hoping for a big turnout and hopefully we will be blessed with the same weather as we had this year and it will all go well,” he added.
John Stringer, Cloughfern District Master, said this year’s demonstration had been one of the best in recent years.
“The weather was fantastic, the crowds were fantastic and the whole thing was really well organised. It was an absolutely brilliant day.
“There was so much happening in Carrick over the Twelfth, not only on the day itself, but right up until the Saturday night (July 14) with the re-enactment of the siege of the castle and the walking tours. It was a really well organised programme of events,” he said.
PSNI Area Commander for Newtownabbey and Carrickfergus, Chief Inspector Stephen Reid, confirmed that there were no arrests at the parade and commended everyone involved in this year’s celebration.
“I have nothing but praise for how everyone involved with this year’s demonstration conducted themselves and I was really encouraged with the way in which organisers, participants, spectators and the local community came together to ensure the festivities were safe and enjoyable for everyone,” he commented.
See full coverage of the East Antrim Twelfth demonstration in this week’s Times...