PORTADOWN Orangemen (District No 1) will be one of the first of the County Armagh 11 districts to ‘quick march’ on the Twelfth morning as they head for the annual ‘County of the Diamond’ demonstration, which is being held in Keady.
Arguments still rage whether the Armagh County demonstration, or that in Belfast, is the biggest in Northern Ireland. But whatever the numbers, there will be tens of thousands from all over the county congregating in the south Armagh town.
And there is no argument that Armagh is the only one in the province totally contained within a county, and that the Orange Order was formed Sloan’s House, Loughgall, in 1795 in the aftermath of the Battle of the Diamond.
Portadown’s 27 lodges will be on the move at 8.15am on the Twelfth, the starting point, as ever, being Carleton Street. Portadown District Master Darryl Hewitt and his officers will lead the Portadown parade down to the buses at Edenderry - stopping on the way to lay a wreath at the War Memorial - and the buses will depart from Bridge Street (opposite Edwin May’s Garage) for the main demo in Keady. Tickets, priced £7, are available for the general public.
The lodges will be accompanied at both venues by nine or 10 bands, with bands being a thinly-spread commodity throughout Northern Ireland on the Twelfth, with a plethora of demonstrations - from Limavady in the north to Keady, and from the County Down coast to the Tyrone-Donegal border.
There will, of course, be many more bands at the Friday ‘Thirteenth’ event at Scarva - read all about it in today’s Portadown Times - as there aren’t many ‘Black’ demonstrations in Northern Ireland on that particular day. Elsewhere, the traditional ‘Black Saturday’ is at the end of August.
Lodges at the Twelfth will have the beat-beat of the Lambeg, though, to help them keep in step, Portadown being a renowned centre of the loud, proud drum, like most of County Armagh, not least neighbouring Tandragee which is a hot-bed of the art.
Buses will be leaving from Edenderry at 8.45am, and Portadown will be among the leading District to go on the march in Keady. The rest are Loughgall (22 lodges), Lurgan (21), Tandragee (21), Armagh (14), Markethill (12), Killylea (12), Newtownhamilton (10), Keady (7), Richhill (6), Bessbrook (4).
The Portadown District leaves the field at Keady at 2.40pm, the buses depart for the town at 3.10pm and the return parade in Portadown will leave from the usual place at Brownstown at 4.30pm, marching into the town centre, doing a ‘lap’ down to Edenderry roundabout and uptown and returning to the morning starting point for dispersal.
Then it’s off to the various orange halls for chat and dinner. And most will be preparing themselves physically and mentally for more of the same for Scarva and the ‘Black’ extravaganza, the next day.