Over 300 hundred years ago Loughbrickland was a rendezvous point for King William’s troops on their way to the Battle of the Boyne.
And on Friday thousands followed in the Prince of Orange’s footsteps as lodges, bands and spectators lined and walked the village’s streets for the Twelfth which hasn’t been staged in Loughbrickland since 2005.
Keith Murdoch, Loughbrickland District’s Worshipful District Master, told the Leader that the demonstration had been a “superb and brilliant” day, which attracted visitors from as far afield as America and Holland, with the latter certainly made to feel right at home surrounded by swathes of orange!
In all, eight districts were present - Lower Iveagh, Rathfriland, Banbridge, Lower Iveagh West, Bann Valley, Gilford, Newry and Loughbrickland - with upwards of 100 lodges and 80 bands visiting.
Said Keith, “I’ll never feel about the Twelfth the same way again. There was a superb atmosphere.
The weather was fantastic and there was a lot of children about - despite the very hot weather. Stall-holders told me they had never done such a great trade as early on and the car parks were full.
“There was a great bit of banter to be had, even if the weather was sometimes hard to cope with. There was praise from other lodges and bands who said Loughbrickland was looking really well.
“I’d say between 80 to 90 percent of Orangemen were wearing their short sleeves, including those on the platform.
“And there seemed to be more people listening to the speeches this year.
“I know the speeches wouldn’t interest everyone but there were more faces out there this year.”
One of the speeches was delivered by Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary, whose podium message was to warn of the “threat to Protestant education in the Republic”, in reference to the Irish Government’s plan to “reduce the number of Protestant primary schools from 200 to 70”.
He told spectators, “No community can sustain such a savage attack on its educational ethos.
“This Institution believes that the Government of the Republic of Ireland is failing to fulfil its obligations under the framework convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
“We now call on the government of the Republic of Ireland to stop the closure of Protestant schools.”
Other notable platform dignitaries included African Orangeman Foli Bruce, a former Grand Secretary of the Loyal Orange Lodge of Togo, Samuel Walker, Deputy County Grand Master of County Down as well as other senior district officers.
Preparations for the Twelfth, began, Keith revealed, before last year’s demonstration was even held. “There is a lot of organisation which goes into staging it. We observe what others have done and then we see what we can do. (Friday) was just tremendous fun with the fete, and the Orange week of events staged by the rural association in the lead up to the weekend.
“We had a great number of volunteers who helped put the bunting up and marshals who helped organise the car parks. It’s surprising how many junctions Loughbrickland has!”
Keith continued, “It’s impossible to express my gratitude to each individual person but on behalf of the organising committee, we would like everyone who helped in any way.”
He added that now the excitement was over for another year, the district has now refocused its interest on a long-term project. “Our Orange hall had fallen into a bad state of repair, so now we’re working towards getting a new one.”