Gearing up for a ‘Glorious Twelfth’ in Tandragee

The booklet promoting the Twelfth in Tandragee.
The booklet promoting the Twelfth in Tandragee.

Tandragee - widely acknowledged as a bastion or Orangeism for more than 200 years - will play host to this year’s Co Armagh Twelfth demonstration.

The 160 Armagh lodges, comprising 5,000 Orangemen, will feature in the largest parade of the day in Northern Ireland, with 70 bands and up to 50 Lambeg drums making it a highly colourful spectacle in the hilly picturesque mid-Armagh village.

Tandragee District LOL No 4, with 21 lodges that stretch from Laurelvale in the Portadown direction; Tannaghmore towards Markethill, and Drumbanagher, Acton and Poyntzpass on the Newry Road, has been putting in place extensive arrangements over recent months.

With a parade 10,000-strong, 20,000 spectators are also expected to line the almost two-mile parade route from the rallying pints on the Portadown and Armagh roads to the demonstration field at Scarva road.

Before the main parade starts, the Tandragee lodges will be on the march in the town from 8.30am and will enact the traditional ceremony of forming the ring of lodge banners at Market Street beside the war memorial.

The local lodges will then join the County Arrmagh Grand Lodge officers at Church Street, to be followed over the morning by the lodges from Richhill, Killylea, Portadown, Keady Lurgan, Armagh, Markethill, Newtownhamilton, Bessbrook and Loughgall.

In the afternoon, the return parade will begin at 3pm.

The religious service at the field will be conducted by the county chaplains, with County Grand Master Denis Watson presiding.

Several Orange lodges from Co Monaghan are expected, along with several bands from the Republic. Four Scottish bands will parade with Portadown and Lurgan districts.

Sisters from lodges in the Loyal Orangewomen’s Association will also be on parade, together with junior lodges, both boys and girls.

Tandragee is a district with a huge drumming tradition, with about half of the lodges boasting a formidable array of Lambeg drums. The other main drumming districts in Co Armagh are Loughgall, Portadown, Markethill and Lurgan. Weather permitting, the drumming brethren will ensure that the Lambegs are in fine fettle.

In the run-up to the Twelfth in Tandragee, a varied programme of events has been arranged. This will include a songs of praise service in Ballymore parish church on Thursday night June 27; a band tattoo on the Main Street on Monday night July 8; and a family fun night with vintage cavalcade, fancy dress parade; it’s a knock-out and a fireworks’ finale at the demonstration field on Wednesday night July 10.

The Tandragee District officers are: District Master - Mervyn Adair; Deputy District Master - Alan Wilson; Chaplain - Pastor Gordon Graham; Lay Chaplain - Noel Berry; Secretary - Kyle Quinn; Treasurer - Douglas Cowan.

District Master Mervyn Adair, in a cordial Twelfth greeting, says it “an absolute pleasure” for him to welcome the many thousands who will congregate in the town for the 329th anniversary of the Battle of Boyne.

“I would warmly welcome our visiting brethren and sisters from across Co Armagh, and especially those who will be with us from Scotland, England, and the Irish Republic. The Twelfth is a very special day when the demonstration is held in a town like Tandragee, steeped as it is in Orange history and culture,” said Mr Adair.

Tandragee District dates back to 1796, the year after the Orange Order was founded following the Battle of the Diamond near Loughgall in September 1795. In 1834, the District had 27 lodges with 810 members; in 1900 25 lodges with 750 members, and today the 21 lodges comprise more than 700 members.

The first Orange parades in Tandragee took place on July 12, 1796, before and after the inaugural Twelfth demonstration at Lurgan Park. There were 14 lodges in the district then.

The Belfast News Letter reported on July 15: “A great body of Orangemen amounting to upwards of 2,000 assembled in Lurgan Park and spent the day with utmost regularity and good order.”

The lodges had travelled from Portadown, Loughgall and Tandragee to meet up with the Lurgan brethren.

* Tandragee District LOL No 4 has published a very impressive 148-page full colour brochure for the demonstration. Edited by senior Tandragee Orangemen and Past District Master Richard Whitten, the brochure outlines a graphic history of the 21 local lodges and of 14 Protestant churches in the locality. The publication costs £5.