GLORIOUS sunshine and a crowd better than the organisers had anticipated converged on Ballycastle on Tuesday to mark the North Antrim Demonstration of the 321st anniversary of The Battle of the Boyne.
Speaking on behalf of the organisers, Ballycastle District LOL 23, John McGregor, the assistant County Grand Secretary, said he was delighted with the way things had gone and felt it was down to the good work of five years ago when the Parades Commission described the parade as conducted in a “dignified, orderly and peaceful manner.”
On this occasion, there were no restrictions imposed by the Commission while the organisers opted for the traditional route of passing along the top of the town on the outward parade and returning via the Diamond and Market Street.
“People saw what we achieved then and I believe this prompted them to come today. The weather is perfect, the bands look great and, all in all, we couldn’t have asked for better,” Mr. McGregor said.
Making up the several thousand participants were Lodges and bands, including Lambegs, from the five districts of Cloughmills, Ballycastle, Ballymoney, Rasharkin and Bushmills who moved off just ahead of time, led by Stranocum Flute band and Lodge 749.
The parade, which began at Ramoan Church, took the procession through the town where many sat in deck chairs along the one-and-a-half mile route and on to the platform proceedings at the Quay Road Playing Fields which provided a welcome respite for marchers many of whom were glad of a refreshing drink to quench their thirst.
Some had feared that crowds would be down, but that was far from the case. Car parking spaces were few and far between and a carnival atmosphere prevailed throughout the day.
Rumours of a bomb scare before the parade began, quickly spread throughout the assembly field, but police. who had earlier been patrolling along the route with sniffer dogs, allowed the proceedings to go ahead while ATO sealed off an area on Novally Road to deal with what was described as a crude device. It caused no disruption and many were unaware of the situation.
Bandsmen and Brethren came from all parts including several from Scotland to lead Lodges and visiting brethren were from as far away as American and Canada and the turn out was commented on by the guest speaker, Bro. Drew Nelson, the Grand Secretary of the Orange Order.
He said he had clearly picked one of the best locations and was delighted to be a guest at the parade.
For many it was the first time they were on parade and for others, including veteran, John Swan, it was his final Twelfth. At 79 and still playing the pipes for Rasharkin, Mr. Swan had notched up more than 62 years as a piper and described it as a “sad moment.”
He has never missed a Twelfth demonstration in a career that has seen him tutor the Topp, Cullybackey and Cromkill bands.
The Independent demonstration in Ballymoney was also a massive success. Hundreds - much more than would normally attend such a parade - lined the streets of the town to enjoy around ten bands.
The turn out was welcomed by the organisers and demonstrates that Ballymoney is one of the best supported places in the marching calendar.
The Eleventh night was marked by a number of bonfires throughout North Antrim with one of the best in Stranocum where several hundred people witnessed a marvellous fireworks display put on the by local Ulster Scots Group.
Meanwhile, a Moyle Councillor has hit out at tourist promoters in Dublin who, she alleged, had warned an Australian visitor that he should not travel to the North for ten days over the Twelfth period because of the potential security threat.
Cllr. Cara McShane described it as “unbelievable behaviour from bodies which are tasked with promoting tourism in this island.”
“While this incident proves that the recent violence in the lead up to the Twelfth has had a massive negative impact on the tourism industry, I am calling on those working within the tourism industry to ensure that they relay accurate information to those intending to travel to the North.
“Scaremongering on this scale is both inaccurate and extremely unhelpful to those trying to make their living in a sector.”
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