Village prepares for world’s biggest Twelfth

The Orange order in Armagh are set to stage the largest gathering of Orangemen on the Twelfth. Pictured are some of the event organisers District Secretary Alec McCartney, Worshipful District Master Lawson Burnett and Deputy District Master William Hutchinson. Picture by Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press
The Orange order in Armagh are set to stage the largest gathering of Orangemen on the Twelfth. Pictured are some of the event organisers District Secretary Alec McCartney, Worshipful District Master Lawson Burnett and Deputy District Master William Hutchinson. Picture by Mark Marlow/Pacemaker Press

The largest Twelfth in the world takes place in Richhill this Wednesday and a senior member of the organising committee told the News Letter it will be at least Friday before he can properly relax.

Worshipful District Master of Richhill Lawson Burnett explained why the Twelfth attracts such big numbers in Co Armagh and how much planning has gone into this year’s celebration in Richhill.

He said: “The reason this is the biggest Twelfth is because we run it as a county and it’s the sheer number of local, rural lodges and the number within each of those lodges.”

Mr Burnett said that his own lodge – Richhill True Blues LOL 665 – has the added distinction of being the largest lodge within Co Armagh with a total of 80 members.

Of the planning for such an event he said: “You start about a year and an half before the event. The first things you consider are your route, the demonstration field and you have a rough idea of what events you’re going to have leading up to the day itself.

“It progresses from that to meeting with Translink, police and you’re getting everybody on board going down the same road together.

“Later you’ll start putting together plans to get the council on board because an event like this is attracting thousands of people – not only from County Armagh but from other counties and across Ireland and GB and the world as a whole – so therefore there’s a benefit to the council to have that sort of footfall coming in.

“It’s a huge team effort. I’m only one of a lot of people who are involved.”

There are two committees who have helped organise this year’s demonstration in Co Armagh – a steering group of four to five people and another larger committee with two or three from each of the lodges within the district.

Mr Burnett, a member of the Orange Order for 40 years, crunched the numbers ahead of Richill’s celebration.

“We have 65 bands, 157 lodges and six of the districts will have Lambeg drums.

“There will be somewhere in the region of 6,000 to 7,000 on parade with anywhere between 25,000 and 40,000 spectators.”

He said the cost was upwards of £35,000 which was paid for by the Orange Order with money raised through events and supplemented by funding through other agencies.

The district master commented: “Pressure isn’t the word for it. We’ve had the added distraction that there’s major regeneration works going on in the village though we’ve had a great relationship with the contractors.

“Normally we’d have had village already decorated but we’ve had to stall that as the work has been taking place. The tarmacing only finished last week.”

Asked when he would be able to relax, the 58-year-old father-of-four said: “Initially it’ll be the Twelfth evening at I would say 7pm whenever all the districts have departed and everything has hopefully gone off according to plan.

“But I’ll not be properly relaxed until at least a day or two after it because bearing in mind there’s a fair bit of cleaning up.”

Looking ahead to the Twelfth he said: “It’ll be a fantastic day, we just hope now that the weather holds up.”