Belfast Telegraph

Antrim: Twelfth bands in tribute to murdered soldiers

By Lesley-Anne Henry

It was the first time in 10 years that a Twelfth of July parade has been staged in Antrim.

And the historic town was obviously pleased to welcome the 60 bands and 70 private lodges from Larne, Randalstown, Staffordstown, Kilead, Antrim, Sixmilewater, Carnmoney, Cloughfern and Carrickfergus.

Around 25,000 people lined the streets to watch the 8,000 participants snake their way from Fountain Hill to Castle Road yesterday morning.

As the procession passed Massereene Army barracks bandsmen lowered their instruments and marched to a single drumbeat as a mark of respect to the two Royal Engineer soldiers who were gunned down by the Real IRA last year.

Earlier in the day three wreaths were laid in honour of Sappers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21).

The North Irish Dragoon Society led the procession with King Billy on horseback and members dressed in period costume.

In the field there was a real carnival atmosphere with stalls selling everything from dinky doughnuts to deckchairs, a bouncy castle, a living history village, ice cream vans and, of course, chippy carts.

Dozens of families had set up camp with gazebos and barbecues brought in specially for the event. The mood was jovial and relaxed.

However the ‘zero-tolerance’ on alcohol consumption was not being enforced.

Among those listening intently to the addresses in the field was South Antrim MP Willie McCrea.

“It is a very special day and it is absolutely thrilling to see so many people enjoying the Twelfth,” he said.

Peter Chestnutt, Worshipful Grand Master of Antrim District No 13, added: “We are always confident in Antrim that we will have a peaceful procession. We don’t cause any trouble and we don’t expect any either.”

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