Stewartstown, Ballyronan and Randalstown ready to host Twelfth parades

MORE than 10,000 spectators are expected for the Twelfth in Stewartstown this year.

Indeed it is seven years since the big day came to Stewartstown.

Situated in the picturesque Sperrins, the Orangemen will be working with local organisations and business to maximise the tourist potential of the Twelfth.

It is expected that there will be 50 bands leading Orangemen from seven districts – Killyman, Stewartstown, Cookstown, Castlecaulfield, Pomeroy, Coagh and Benburb.

The big day will start with the playing of the lambeg drum at various locations along the parade route.

The parade assembles on the Coagh Road at 12.15pm and will be led by Stewartstown Flute Band as it parades thorugh the town with new banners including Sandholes LOL 274 and Kilnaslee LOL 364. The 70 lodges will go to the demonstration field on the Coalisland Road where the service will be conducted by Rev. Robert Boyd, Rector of Killyman Parish Church.

The guest speaker will be Ron Bather, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of England.

A commemorative badge has been struck as a collector’s item for the big day.

In the field there will be two platforms, one to recognise the cultural traditions of the day with Ulster-Scots music and other forms of entertainment, and one to hold the religious service.

More than 60 bands will take part in the South Londonderry demonstration in Ballyronan. It is expected that 4,000 people will be on parade and about 5,000 spectators will come to the small village.

It is seven years since the Twelfth was held in Ballyronan.

There are eight districts on parade – Tamlaght O’Crilly, Moneymore, Castledawson, Tobermore, Magherafelt, Ballyronan, Garvagh and Kilrea.

The parade will begin at 11.30am and return from the demonstration field at 3.30pm. The parade route will take in Shore Road, Main Street and Ballyneil Road.

The religious address will be given by Rev. Stanley Gamble, a Grand Chaplain, and the guest speaker will be Robert Saulters, Past Grand master.

The chairman of the platform proceedings will be the Deputy County Grand Master, Hugh Stewart.

Randalstown has the privilege of hosting the East Antrim Combine Twelfth every 10 years and has been chosen as one of the Flagship Twelfths for 2011.

The Combine is made up of nine district lodges, with more than 70 private lodges and approximately 8,000 members. The districts are Larne, Randalstown, Staffordstown, Killead, Antrim, Sixmilewater, Carnmoney, Cloughfern and Carrickfergus.

Members of the Junior Orange Order, Ladies Orange lodges and members from England and Scotland will also be present.

More than 60 of the finest marching bands from Northern Ireland, England and Scotland will be on parade and this will add to the spectacle planned for the day.

Over the past two years Randalstown District Orange Lodge has worked closely with both the local and wider communities to raise funds for the Armed Forces Benevolent Funds. Since March 2009, more than £25,000 has been raised and the district has received recognition for their fund raising efforts, winning the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Community Award for fund-raising and the Antrim Borough Council Community Excellence Award.

Randalstown District has nominated the Help for Heroes as its charity for 2011 and there will be an opportunity for people attending the Twelfth to contribute towards the charity.

This year is the 95th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme which resulted in a huge loss of life for Ulster regiments.

This takes on particular significance for Randalstown as the site for the Twelfth at Dunmore Park was used as a training camp for soldiers prior to them going off to fight in France. The camp at Dunmore Park was built for a number of battalions of the 36th Ulster Division who were based at Finner in Donegal. Lord O’Neill of Randalstown made 80 acres of Dunnore Park available for the construction of a camp.

The march from Finner to Randalstown was a massive recruiting exercise, through towns, villages and hamlets of the province recruiting men as they went.

It took seven days to march the 120 miles from Finner to Randalstown. Over 4,000 soldiers were encamped at Randalstown, prior to leaving for the battlefields of France.

The district lodge is planning a number of events in relation to the Somme within the Twelfth Festival. There will be an exhibition of artefacts relating to soldiers’ kit, weapons and uniforms.

Randalstown and the surrounding area is well known for its lambeg drum and fife tradition. Currently there are two drumming clubs in the area – Caddy and Grange Corner with numerous other players not associated with either club.

Caddy and District Community Group, of which Caddy Fife and Drum is an affiliated member, has recently been involved in a cross community project which has seen the restoration of Red Hugh, an Ancient Order of Hibernians lambeg drum from Randalstown which although owned by Hibernians, had in previous years been shared by both the local Hibernians and Orange lodges.

Randalstown was originally known as An Dun Mor – the Great Forest. In 1666, Lady Rose Ann O’Neill obtained a charter from King Charles 2nd granting that the town be constituted a free borough and she renamed it Randalstown in honour of her husband, Sir Randal MacDonnell, the 2nd Earl and 1st Marquis of Antrim. The O’Neill family still live in Shane’s Castle and Dunmore Park which is part of the estate will be used as the venue for the Twelfth Field.

The parade will start at the entrance to Shanes Castle at 11.00am and go on a two mile route through the town to Dunmore Park, where the platform proceedings will take place. The Rev. William McCrea will preach the sermon.

For one Orangeman, the Rossnowlagh Parade will be the end to an arduous sponsored cycle run.

George Ruddock, Worshipful District Master of Gilford, Co. Down is doing the cycle run to raise money for Orange funds in his area. He will begin his trip on Monday, July 4, from the harbour steps in Carrrickfergus where William landed in 1690 and travel through Belfast, Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown, Maghery, Stewartstown, Tullyhoge, Cookstown, Omagh, Enniskillen and Ballyshannon finishing at Rossnowlagh on Saturday, July 9, to join County Donegal’s annual parade.