I attended the annual 12th of July parade in Coleraine this year. It was performed by the Orange Order, one of Ireland's Marching Orders. The parade comprised some 80 bands and orange lodges and took around 2 hours to pass. Here is some of what I saw.


The streets were lined as far as I could see by well-wishers waving Union Jacks and Northern Ireland flags.

The Orangemen

The Orangemen were organised by county, district and lodge. Each district was preceded by a small banner bearing the district's name. Each lodge was lead by a band (see below), a banner, and two orangemen carrying drawn swords in white-gloved hands. Each lodge had between 20 and 40 members. Most of them wore suits and bowler hats. They all wore collarettes, the so-called sashes. These are thick v-shaped orange strips worn round the neck such that the point of the V is level with the navel, and the arms of the V go over the shoulders. They are typically adorned with silver badges of their lodge number, and religious symbols such as Jacobs' Ladder, the cross and an open bible.


The main banners are carried by each lodge. They are hung from a cross bar supported on two long poles, which are carried by two orangemen. The banners measure about 8x8 foot, and identify the lodge to which they belong. They have a colourful image on the front and back, often a scene from Ulster history or from the bible (some are described below). The tops of the poles often display a silver star. They are similar in form (if not in content) to the banners carried by the trade union movement in Great Britain, and are made by the very same craftsmen. Some common banner images are described below.

King William Comes Ashore

This is the iconic image of orangeism. It features King William III of Orange arriving in Ireland on horseback. His pose is heroic, his horse is white. It is the most common picture.

King William Returns to Camp

King William, again on his white horse, returns to his camp after victory at the Battle of the Boyne.

The Secret of England's Greatness

People of various skin-colours and national costumes kneel before a young Queen (apparently Elizabeth II, but this is not clear), and offer her gifts from jewelled boxes. I don't get this one at all: What's the secret? Does this poster give it away?

Crown and Bible

The British crown rests atop an open Bible. A shaft of light from heaven illuminates the crown, and in particular it's cross. In some versions, an eye (presumably the Eye of God) can be seen gazing down. The slogan "This We Will Maintain" appears on some versions.

Notable Orangemen

A few lodges carry pictures of their notable late members. In some cases the slogan "Murdered by Enemies of Ulster" is interposed.

Signing of the Ulster Covenant

Shows a number of men waiting to sign the Ulster Covenant in 1912. Around half a million did so. The document committed the signatories to oppose the formation of an independent united Ireland.

The Relief of Derry

Shows a ship arriving with supplies for the besieged city in 1689.

Moses Receives the 10 Commandments

Shows the scene from the Old Testament.

The Somme

Shows the 36th (Ulster) Division at the Battle of the Somme (WW1) in 1916.



As in bagpipe. Accompanied by Snare drums. The players tend to wear Busby's and kilts.


These are similar to the silver marching bands found elsewhere in the world, playing four-square tunes with loads of offbeats. My very favourites.


These are the loudest of the bands; when they pass your whole guts vibrate. Lambegs are huge goat-skin drums, basically as large as can be carried and played by one man. They beat out highly complex and syncopated rhythms, but any subtlety is drowned out in the din. They are accompanied by fifes, which can just be heard. I quite like the sound of Lambeg bands - when they practise in the next village. Thankfully, there weren't any Lambeg bands at Coleraine this year. The prominence of Lambeg bands in my own home town of Ballymena was one of the reasons I wasn't there.

"Blood and Thunder"

Another noisy bunch, but with much more sensibly sized drums. They revel in taking huge liberties with the tunes they play in a brash and forceful manner. I heard one butcher Annie's Song in a fairly amusing way. They seem to be playing at you rather than for you. They are often lead by a military-style colour party. Their uniforms are brightly coloured and festooned with epaulettes and lanyards.


Many of the accordion bands are made up of schoolchildren. They tend to play hymn tunes.


Bands made up of flutes, playing traditional marches. The most popular march played by these guys (and many of the others too) is The Sash.

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