My father's father, grandpa, was an Orange Man. Not sectarian, it was more of a cross between a social club and the masons for him. I can remember him marching on the 12 July, his sword out, his slash bright and proud. He had his oath framed on the wall, signed in his own blood. He ran the Londonderry chapters in the 1950s, which may explain the difficulty I had getting government security clearance. I remember how he smelled, old, musty, peppermints and pipe tobacco.
He raised 15 children, with no education, a small farm and a farm house with 3 bedrooms. He saw another 3 children die, 2 from fever, and 1 who fell down a well. He didn't complain. He had around 30 grandchilden, and another 20 great grandchildren. He knew all our names. The government wouldn't let him sign up during the war, he was a farmer, he was necessary. He watched his brother die 2 years after returned from a Japanese internment camp, refusing to eat, as the Japanese would mix the Red Cross parcel drops in with the food, letters, tobacco and medicine. He had his pictures on the wall of his little terraced house.
He died when I was 12. It rained. All 14 of my uncles were there, each taking it in turn to carry the coffin down the road. My father has always had a bad back, he was ran over by a tractor when he was 8. When it was his turn to carry the coffin, I did it. Walking at the front right hand side, my arms high above my head, I was too small to shoulder it. I remember it being light, I guess now my uncles took the weight, but I remember at the time thinking how proud he would be to see me grown up.