Tonight it was time for the last and biggest parade in Belfast before the 12th July Parades; tonight it was the East Belfast Somme Memorial parade and it the last year has flown in and its hard to believe its this time again!
The parade has been going on for over 80 years, first started by a private Orange Lodge in East Belfast and now has grown over the years and is always well supported by visiting Orange Lodges and bands from across the City of Belfast; it is know in the City as the ‘Battle of the Somme Parade’ in every sense of the word!
This year the parade was boasted by two large floats at the head of the parade, one being a ship called ‘The Mountjoy’ a replica of the ship that broke the Siege of Derry and mighty fine replica it was! Everyone seemed to enjoy the ship and the actors inside put on a good show for the spectators.
The second float and probably the most talked about was the Battle of the Somme Scene; it was complete with actors dressed up as WW1 soldiers. Full regalia of Vickers machine guns, rifles, sound effects, smoke machine, sandbags, message boards!
The float was fantastic looking and was well worth tribute to head the parade; well done to the East Belfast Festival Committee for arranging this very fitting tribute; it was truly a sight to see.
Tonight as usual we meet early at our band hall to prepare for the big parade, unfortunately right on queue the heavens opened up and a thunderstorm completely drenched everyone. We thought this was going to spoil the night’s events but thankfully the rain eased off then completely stopped, I’m almost certain many a bandsman in shirts alone was very glad of the rain stopping.
We left the band hall around 6:45pm to our band mural on the Newtownards Road to lay a poppy wreath; this year it was even more an occasion as recently the band lost one of their own, young Gareth Keyes.
Gareth was a young man off only 27 years of age, sadly Gareth died in a accident only 6 weeks ago and the band still have not come to terms with this tragic events. Gareth was truly a big loss to all his friends in the East Belfast Protestant Boys Flue Band. Rest in peace Gareth.
A full two minute silence was held at the mural and then we headed to meet up with our lodge for this evenings parade.
This year we had the honour of taking the East Belfast Woman’s Orange Lodge, whom I might say were all looking very well tonight and of course being woman they had the sense to bring their own umbrellas!
It was also a nice surprise to the band to be the 4th band out in the parade; this is a position we are not used to we are usually in the back of the parade so this was a nice treat to get away at the start and get back to dry ourselves out!
I was able to see quite a lot of the parade tonight and a good lot of bands where sporting new uniforms; bands like North Down Defenders, Gertrude Star, Shankill Road Defenders, Pride of the Hill Carnmoney, all looking very well for the big night.
It was also good to see a band from the past taking up again; Tullycarnet Flute Band where once again out on the road and they still have a few of the old faces within the ranks and that’s great to see. Well done lads.
The mighty Shankill Protestant Boys had a big band out tonight as did the Rathcoole KAI, UVF Regimental Band and Mourne Young Defenders all playing to a very high standard for both the Blood & Thunder tunes and Melody tunes that the different bands play.
Great to see the Whitewell Defenders out in bigger numbers as where most bands tonight; lots of bands tonight where wearing shirts but the band that stood out for me was the Shankill Road Defenders in their new Black & Gold trim uniform, very nice indeed and well suited to the band.
Great crowds out tonight and I am glad to report that the infamous Blue Bag Brigade did not take the headlines; hopefully people are slowly but surely starting to get the message that they are not wanted at out family orientated parades on our streets of East Belfast and indeed the rest of Northern Ireland.
Tonight out own band walked with a Colour Party of 7, 19 Side Drummers, 3 Bass Drummers, 33 Flute Corps and 3 Cymbal boys. Below are a selection of photographs of the band in action.