THE threatening clouds overhead did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the thousands who lined Tobermore’s long Main Street yesterday.
Raincoats and umbrellas (and fleeces) appeared an essential part of the ‘regalia’ for those watching and taking part in the colourful procession through the south Londonderry village. In fact the weather – probably the most popular topic of conversation - was so bad in the past week that the host district, Tobermore, was forced to change the demonstration ‘field’ on the Draperstown Road because of severe flooding.
However on the ‘big day’ it remained dry and the sun eventually poked through the cloud cover as the 60 bands and lodges made their journey from the Maghera Road along the immaculately clean procession route to the ‘field’ at the other end of the village.
For visitors it was plainly obvious why Tobermore has been so successful in Northern Ireland’s best kept competition over the years. It has won the small village award four times and large village prize once. Most recently in September last year it won the Translink Ulster in Bloom village category for the third year in a row.
Nestling in the foothills of the Sperrin mountains, Tobermore is a popular venue for local Orange brethren because of its long, wide street giving spectators a good view of the bands and lodges taking part. It is seven years since the Twelfth was last held here and the village’s popularity was reflected in the good turnout – upwards of 5,000 spectators.
Old friendships were renewed and among the crowd were visitors from overseas, including some from Canada and Australia, who had returned to be with family and friends for the holiday.
Leading the procession was a carnival float with a smoking canon and King William and King James locked in a sham ‘Battle of the Boyne’ fight – occasionally stopping for a chat with someone they recognised in the crowd!
The spectators, particularly the children, enjoyed the good natured humour and banter and many clapped and cheered as the float made its way along the route.
The parade itself was led by County Londonderry Grand Lodge officers, followed by the first of the eight districts – Garvagh.The other districts on parade were Tamlaght O’Crilly, Kilrea, Moneymore, Castledawson, Magherafelt, Ballyronan and, of course, Tobermore.
After the mile-and-a-half walk to the demonstration field, many welcomed the opportunity to rest their feet and recover with the help of a sandwich or two and cup of tea. The speeches over, the bands and lodges headed back through the village just thankful that they did not need those raincoats and umbrellas.