I had a magnificent day at the Ulster Covenant Centenary Parade on Saturday 28th September 2012.
I resisted the opportunity to get the Lodge bus up from Newtownards, however I elected to travel by train from Bangor to Great Victoria Street train station. When I arrived it was a surreal experience, Orangemen sitting with their sashes and collarettes on reading the paper, having tea & coffee and relaxing.
The crowds I witnessed were extraordinary, tens of thousands of people - patiently waiting at Sandy Row Belfast to rake part in the parade. Each County was allocated a side street along Sandy Row, I was with County Down. Now I have been to many rugby internationals, premier league football and huge outdoor concerts and I personally estimated the crowds at Sandy Row to be in excess of 50,000 !
We marched proudly through the streets of Belfast, where many, many thousands of Ulster folk lined the street to watch this magnificent spectacle pass by - I am told it took over 4 1/2 hours for the parade to pass any one spot, a truly wonderful sight.
I stood and took part in the religious service and I was greatly heartened to hear my Presbyterian Ministers in great voice and spirit - especially the Rev. Mervyn Gibson who shouted NO SURRENDER at the end of his address - hear hear I say!!
I have selected a few snaps from the day...... I could have posted another dozen or so, however to give you a flavour of the day I have posted the pictures below.
Co. Down Orange waiting at Sandy Row.
Newtownards District entering the Stormont Estate
Older and wee brother Clarke and myself at Stormont
Magnificent view of the parade entering Stormont grounds from the Carson Monmunent
The platform party - Bro Drew Nelson reading the Ulster Covenant
The crowd at the religious service
A drummer in full flow - Lord Carson drum
The hustle and bustle of the drummin men
Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Standard
The parade resembled and leaving to head home
The magnificent - Dunloy Accordion Band