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Twelfth 2015: Smiles and aching feet as 100,000 defy rain

By Rebecca Black

As the final bonfires smouldered their last, more than 100,000 Orangemen and women along with supporters took to the streets for what turned out to be a largely peaceful Twelfth.

In total 19 demonstrations took place in cities, towns and villages across Northern Ireland, each with the same core of loyal displays, but each with their own distinct flavour.

Ballymartin offered the stunning backdrop of the Mournes and Broughshane lived up to its reputation for beautiful flowers with scores of Orange lilies in bloom in honour of the 325th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Fivemiletown offered chuckles and a spot of friendly competition with a 50m dash to find the "fastest Orangeman in the west".

King William even made a few appearances, leading several of the parades on horseback, including in Kesh and Antrim.

But the largest parade and flagship of this year's Twelfth took place in the south Armagh model village of Bessbrook.

Grand master Edward Stevenson led the way in Bessbrook, speaking of his pride at parading in the county of Armagh which is recognised as the birthplace of Orangeism.

The flagship event was the culmination of a week's worth of activities including a pipe band tattoo, children's fancy dress parade and firework display.

At the parade some of the top marching bands, including pipe, accordion, silver and flute outfits accompanied the lodges as cheering supporters lined the streets. However, the Belfast demonstration remained one of the most popular with crowds of supporters up to four deep in places along the route from Clifton Street to Belfast City Hall where wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph, then through the city centre along the Lisburn Road to the field at Barnett Demesne.

Encompassing around six miles each way, the Belfast route is the longest of all the parades and no doubt resulted in a few blistered feet by the end of the hike. The morning parade in Ardoyne passed off peacefully, but descended into violence last night after the return leg was halted as per the Parades Commission ruling, while at the other regular flashpoint at St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street, only one of the 60 bands flouted the determination by playing music instead of a single drum beat. Finaghy True Blues said they played a hymn while passing a place of worship.

Meanwhile, this morning will see the turn of the Royal Black Preceptory at the Co Down village of Scarva, which will include the famous Sham Fight between kings William and James.

Belfast Telegraph

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