Lodge reroutes parade past home of ill member who missed first Twelfth in decades
An Orangeman who missed his first Twelfth in 34 years due to ill-health was deeply moved by a heart-warming gesture from his lodge last Thursday morning.
Bertie McMinn (60) has been a member of the Duke of Manchester lodge for 35 years, the same lodge his father-in-law was in for most of his life.
But the father-of-two has been using a wheelchair after beginning treatment for a tumour on his spine which has caused problems with his nervous system, and has spent the last three weeks in a hospice for rehabilitation.
"He hasn't been able to make it to any parades this year and everything has been really tough on him. It's been bad for all of us," his son Ryan said.
"But the boys in the lodge and the band have been fantastic - they made plans to divert their route past the house, which was very emotional."
Sadly Bertie, who had hoped to be allowed home to spend the day with his wife Sharon, missed the personal tribute which was performed outside his home at Oregon Gardens in Belfast.
"He was too ill to get out in the end, but it had already been planned so we took a video and showed it to him afterwards," Ryan explained.
The 31-year-old said his dad knows he is in the best place and is focused on staying positive to ensure he makes it out to march in time for next year.
"He knows he is there to get better and he has a great attitude, but this really lifted all our spirits," he said.
"Me, mum, my daughter, sister, niece and uncle were all there to watch it. It was especially moving because this is a real family street - my late grandfather used to live on it and he used to be in the lodge too, my family has been steeped in it for over 80 years."
Bertie's grandson Mason (15) is a junior member of the lodge and took part in the emotional parade.
"It was very touching, especially for my nephew to be a part of it," Ryan said.
Bertie was also missed at this year's celebrations by his granddaughters Harper (4) and Taylor (20) and his nine-week-old great-granddaughter Ariyah.
"My wee girl, who was only three last year, loved walking down the Lisburn Road with him; we have all been humbled by the difference a year can make," Ryan added.
Bertie, who played football for Distillery for more than 20 years and has the club record for most appearances, has also been moved by the outpouring of support from throughout the entire community.
"From Irish League players past and present, international football managers, colleagues and friends from across the divide.
"They've all been amazing and commented on what a lovely thing the lodge did," Ryan said.