Belfast Telegraph

Carnival atmosphere in Donegal sun for the annual Rossnowlagh Orange parade

By Leona O'Neill

Orangemen were out in force on Saturday as a sea of sashes descended on the coastal village of Rossnowlagh for the traditional 'Donegal Twelfth' parade.

The rolling hills provided the most scenic of backdrops as members representing some 50 lodges from across Ireland paraded down the narrow country road from St John's Parish Church to the demonstration field, applauded by spectators reclining in camping chairs six rows deep or perched on fences.

Stalls selling everything from battery-operated yappy dogs, novelty drums and sports gear to airsoft rifles, teddy bears, toffee and Union flags lined the route, alongside vans selling foods from around the world.

Members relaxed on deck chairs in the demonstration field to listen to the words of Co Donegal grand master David Mahon, who had to compete with the roar of the rolling Atlantic breakers just beyond the sand dunes behind him.

Check out pictures from last year's marches: Belfast - Annalong - Beragh - Cloughmills - Ballymena - Cookstown - Lisbellaw- Hillsborough Bangor - Kilrea - Ballynahinch - Coleraine - Cullybackey - Clogher Richhill - Newtownabbey - Broughshane - Banbridge Ardoyne

Mr Mahon said: "It lifts my heart to see people coming from the north to support us.

"There are many people whose family were originally from here so they love to come back to Rossnowlagh for the Twelfth.

"We are carrying on a tradition that has been here for hundreds of years."

After the speeches many negotiated the sand dunes, rolled up their trousers and took a paddle in the sea, still wearing their sashes.

Others nestled into the soft sand dunes with flasks of tea to people-watch or take a snooze before the return parade.

Among those enjoying the festival atmosphere was DUP leader Arlene Foster.

"It's always a hugely enjoyable Twelfth in Rossnowlagh," she said.

"It's always very relaxed and family-focused, so it's great to be here again.

"It may be the Donegal Twelfth, but you have bands and lodges from Tyrone and Fermanagh and even lodges from Belfast coming to support them."

Robert Brady from Rathfriland in Co Down said it was important Northern Ireland-based Orangemen supported the parade in the Republic.

"It's a special day, the southern brethren celebrating their culture just like ourselves and it's nice to be here to support them," he said.

"The Orange Order is a family tradition in our house. I followed in the footsteps of my father and I have three sons and they are all members.

"Our family is steeped in the Orange tradition."

Roy Hanna (78), from Drum in Co Monaghan, has been an Orangeman for 60 years. He says a lot has changed in those six decades.

"I joined the Orange Order when I was 18. My father was in the Orange Order in the early 1900s. It was stronger at that time," he explained.

"It lifts my heart to see it so strong in the south. The village of Drum is very strong in Orange. It's a whole Protestant village. On the Friday night after the 12th of July there's a parade with 24 bands.

"It's great to see so many young people here today. It keeps Orangeism going."

Henry Latimer, county master of Co Cavan Grand Orange Lodge, said there was a transition happening in Orangeism.

"In our county, Orangeism is as strong as it ever was this last 10 years," he said. "There was once a time we had Orange halls burned down. These last couple of years we have had a few Orange halls built in Co Cavan.

"There's a transition happening. The bands are going strong, the young people in the bands want to get into the lodges and there is more activity in the halls.

"It's fantastic to see so many people from all over the north but from the south as well here in Rossnowlagh today. It's a reflection of how well it's going."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph