A retired couple who carved out a successful business career in America are to foot the bill for a new Orange Hall in North Antrim.
James and Irene Huey have made the generous offer to Stranocum LOL 791 and on Monday of last week the first steps in the construction were taken with an official sod-cutting ceremony.
The hall will be sited on the grounds of the former Reading Room in the village which is opposite the existing hall.
It will be a state of the art building with facilities including a spring-loaded dance floor, kitchen, store rooms, Lodge room and separate washroom facilities for men, women and the disabled.
The original design was altered so that larger facilities could be made available not only for Lodge members but for the general public.
There will be a strong American theme in the design and Mr and Mrs Huey have insisted that the work will all go to local tradesman with the JSC Building Supplies in Armoy providing all the materials.
The principal builder is a nephew of Mr Huey.
Mr Huey’s association with Stranocum and Orangeism stretches back many years. His father and uncles were all in the Order as were his brothers.
Indeed, Mr Huey is also a member of the Stranocum Lodge and flies in every year with his wife from his home in Philadelphia for the Twelfth.
He is also a Past Grand Master of the Orange Order in the USA, a Past Grand Master of the RBP in America and an Imperial Deputy Grand President of the Grand Orange Council of the World.
Mrs Huey is Grand Mistress of the USA Ladies Loyal Orange Lodge.
She has close associations with Lodges in the Republic and on Saturday past at the Twelfth celebrations in Donegal there was another visible indication of the couple’s generosity when a new banner for local Lodge Doorin was unfurled.
Mrs Huey paid for the cost explaining that the Lodge didn’t have much funds and could not afford a replacement.
She revealed that a number of her family members had been connected with the Lodge stretching back some 60 years and that it was a pleasure for her to do something good for the existing members.
The Hueys are not seeking any glory from their gesture.
Mr Huey told the Times: “We have been fortunate in life and the fact that we have no children means we can use or money in other ways.”
The new hall in Stranocum should be finished in time for the official opening around the Twelfth and will be called the ‘Huey Memorial Orange Hall.’
Mr Huey, who made his money from the packaging of corrugated containers, told the Times: “These are hard economic times and we calculated that it would take the Lodge many years to come up with the necessary finances.
“That’s when we decided we would pay for it ourselves.”
It is a gesture that has been warmly welcomed by the Lodge and removes a hefty burden from the building committee.