Thousands attend Orange Order parade in Donegal

Members of the Orange Order march along a country road, grey skies in the background
Around 50 lodges were at the gathering in Rossnowlagh [BBC]

Thousands of people have attended the annual Orange Order parade in the seaside village of Rossnowlagh, County Donegal.

Around 50 lodges were at the gathering which traditionally takes place on the Saturday before the main Twelfth demonstrations in Northern Ireland.

The lodges were from Donegal as well as the border counties of Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan and brethren from across Northern Ireland.

Forty bands were also on parade.

Some visitors travelled from overseas to take part. They were there to attend the Imperial Orange Council in Enniskillen this year and have taken the opportunity to come to Donegal to sample the parade.

'Enjoyable day'

Donegal Grand Master David Mahon, centre of the photo, with an Orange Order parade walking behind him
Donegal County Grand Master David Mahon said it would be an enjoyable day [BBC]

Donegal County Grand Master David Mahon said it was always a family-friendly day for all with the major concern usually the weather.

Prior to the march, Mr Mahon told BBC News NI ''we expect to have a good day here in Rossnowlagh."

"We also have lots of visitors from across the world who’re here for the Imperial Orange Council which is meeting in Northern Ireland.

"So we’ll have people from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ghana as well as England, Scotland and Wales. They are really looking forward to the parade and they’ll be right up at the front as we set off."

The Imperial Orange Council is a triennial gathering of delegates representing World Orangeism.

A close up image of Stuart Brooker, standing outdoors
Stuart Brooker said hosting the parade in Fermanagh was "particularly special" [BBC]

Stuart Brooker, the deputy Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, was delighted Enniskillen could host the gathering after it had to be postponed due to Covid.

“The objective and the aims of the Imperial Orange Council are to take into consideration the state of Orangeism and Protestantism generally," Mr Brooker said.

"It is particularly special for us to host this in beautiful Fermanagh in the west and get out of the city environment."

Members of the Orange Order march along a country road
Forty bands were on parade in the County Donegal village [BBC]

Homesick

Ian Kells, who is originally from the Springfield area of Enniskillen, left Fermanagh 56 years ago shortly after the death of his father.

He was homesick and contacted the Orange Order in Australia.

He has since risen to become Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Australia.

Mr Kells said that when he first went to Australia they used to have parades through the centre of Sydney but now the lodge has formal dinners and get togethers.

“I was a member of a little lodge which at one time only had three members. But it has since grown as it's been helped by the immigration of young people from Scotland and Northern Ireland," he said.

"We now have 22 members and I’m the oldest.”

Ian Kells, centre of the photo, taken outdoors, with a path and grass in the background
Ian Kells left Fermanagh 56 years ago [BBC]

'Good relations'

Donegal Grand Master David Mahon said the Orange Order was in a buoyant mood in the county and members looked forward to this day from one year to the next.

“The atmosphere and the mood here in Donegal is always very good and some of our lodges are now seeing new members joining this year. So it’s all looking good," he said.

Mr Mahon said there were always good relations between the organisation and the local Catholic community which he said worked in harmony.

In keeping with tradition, the parade started from St John’s Parish Church and made its way along the picturesque narrow route down into the seaside village.

Hundreds of spectators were out along the way taking up vantage points to watch the demonstration.

After the parade many marchers enjoyed a stroll along the vast beach which is popular with holiday-makers and surfers alike.

A close up image of Hugh Reynolds
Hugh Reynolds enjoyed meeting old friends at the event [BBC]

Hugh Reynolds travelled from Ballymena to watch the parade.

“It’s great to get down to see all the different bands and meet old friends. It’s a good day out," he said.

Vanessa Martin from Kesh in Fermanagh said she would not miss the Rossnowlagh parade.

“Its a lovely, relaxed day and I love it. As well as the parade you’ve got a lovely beach too where you can go for a stroll,” she added.

A man holds his sleeping granddaughter while they sit on a blanket at the beach
William Ritchie with 8 week-old granddaughter Ella Livingstone having a snooze after taking in the parade [BBC]

Anniversary

This was a special year for Raphoe District Orange Lodge.

Spokesman Stewart McClean mentioned a new bannerette that was present at the march.

"The bannerette celebrates the 190th anniversary of the district lodge which was formed in 1834," he said.

"So a special day for the lodge and all its members and supporters and we’ve been looking forward to displaying the bannerette to everyone in Donegal. It’s been dedicated during the week before its unveiling at this parade."

After the religious service at the field, there was a return parade in the village.