Belfast Telegraph

Thomas fifth generation of family to march on Twelfth with the 'sash his great, great grandfather wore'

By Mark Bain

As Loughgall hosts the biggest Twelfth parade in Northern Ireland today, for one family the event is carrying on an extra-long tradition.

Five generations of the Walker family from the Co Armagh village have clocked up the miles along parade routes for more than 100 years.

Mervyn Walker (52) will join his father Tommy (80) and son Thomas (11) to celebrate the Twelfth in their home village with Kinnego LOL No5 Loughgall District.

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

And grandfather Tommy revealed the family connection means for young Thomas it's a case of the sash "my great, great grandfather wore".

"My grandfather Isaac Walker started the tradition," Tommy told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He joined the Orange Order aged 18. He led a very charmed life and served with the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers in the trenches during the First World War.

"He went with his two brothers and all three came home without a scratch.

"He was also in the Home Guard in the Second World War, but all along was a loyal member of Webb's Chosen Few 352 and was Worshipful Master for 51 years and was also Worshipful District Master of Summer Island RBP No4 for 24 years. He was 91 when he died, so he was marching for 73 years.

"My own father, also Tommy, joined the Orange Order when he was 18 and was in the lodge for over 60 years. I've been a member myself since 1956, so we've all walked a good few miles between us. Now the younger members of the family are keeping the tradition going and it's lovely to see. It makes it a very special day for us all.

"We're all really looking forward to it."

This year grandfather Tommy won't have as far to go, with the demonstration field just 100 yards from his home - though he will be tasked with laying a wreath at the war memorial during the parade.

"It's a day the whole family comes together," Tommy said. "My two brothers and their families are involved and my own son Mervyn has been in the lodge since he was 18. It's a day we all join in. The best of the year."

For Mervyn, the Twelfth is a wonderful day for the whole Walker family to come together, though he says they may spend a lot of it apart.

"My father is always heavily involved, as am I, but this year my son Thomas will be joining me," he said.

"My 13-year-old daughter Rebecca plays the flute in the lodge band and my wife Mary will have her hands full back in the church catering for the crowds.

"Even though the parade passes our own front door, I don't think much of my day will be spent there, but we'll see each other along the route."

Before all that, Mervyn had his hands full marshalling the fun night for the village, which took place on Tuesday.

"It's great to see the community come together like this," he said.

"It's a special event, not just for the Walker family, but for Loughgall as a whole."

Today's Twelfth parade in Loughgall will pass the Museum of Orange Heritage at Sloan's House, where the Orange Order was formed after the Battle of the Diamond in 1795.

Belfast Telegraph

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