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'We'll just have to make the Twelfth bigger and better next year'

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Ivan Duff with his daughter Gwen (left) and granddaughter Emma

Ivan Duff with his daughter Gwen (left) and granddaughter Emma

Ivan Duff with his daughter Gwen (left) and granddaughter Emma

Last year, July 12 marked a real family occasion for Ballygawley man Ivan Duff as three generations of his family took part in the annual parade in nearby Augher.

This year the Co Tyrone Orangeman said his family will try to find a new way of celebrating the Twelfth.

And while there was disappointment at the decision to call off this year's parades across Northern Ireland, he said Orangemen would completely understand the reasons behind the decision of the Grand Orange Lodge.

Now 70 and member of Dergina Accordion Band for 60 years, this will be the first time he hasn't taken part in the demonstration since he was 10 years old, and the first Twelfth he has missed attending since the year he was born.

"Of course it's a disappointment to us and to all the other families. It's a big part of the year, but we know it would be impossible to hold it this year.

"It just can't go ahead in the current climate.

"It would have caused a big problem had we all gone ahead with our plans for the day then got to the week before then had to cancel it all.

"There's just too much preparation for the event.

"The band practices which we can't attend, the people coming from all over to watch the parade on the day which, given current restrictions, simply can't happen.

"Even if restrictions were lifted by July 12, it's likely to be only small groups allowed to get together, so having thousands out on the streets to celebrate just isn't going to happen.

"We'll miss the festivities but for this year there are important things to worry about."

Three of Ivan's children - Gwen Bartley (45), Winston Duff (44) and Beverly Hylands (41) - are all in the band. His other son Stephen (40) was also a member before he moved to Scotland.

Now Ivan's grandchildren are involved - Zoe Hylands (15), Emma Bartley (14) and Sarah Hylands (12) are all band members.

Emma plays the side drum and Sarah has the role of drum major while Zoe plays the accordion, and they all come together for the Twelfth.

"It's just the tradition that you went into the band as soon as you were able to go into it," said Ivan.

"It was always a real family occasion for us all, and for so many more families, even more so now with so many of us involved.

"There are hundreds of families like us across Northern Ireland who will be sad to miss out on the occasion this year.

"But without the crowds and the organisation needed to bring everything together on the day it would never be the same.

"I'm sure we'll all spend the next few weeks thinking of ways of making something happen across social media.

"That's the way everyone is having to do things these days.

"I'm sure someone will come up with a way of celebrating a virtual Twelfth.

"I'm told the only Twelfth I missed was in the year I was born, but while we're all disappointed, we'll just have to do it bigger and better in 2021.

"There will be other days for the family to get together."

Belfast Telegraph