Video: Gracehill LOL keep up their arch tradition

Not so long ago, the sight of an orange arch spanning a roadway was nothing unusual in the run up to the biggest day in the marching calendar.

But a mixture of stringent health and safety rules combined with the need to meet adequate insurance requirements have witnessed the decline of this very traditional symbol of orangeism.

Haul together now .. Gracehill LOL's arch goes up for another year.(Editorial image)

Haul together now .. Gracehill LOL's arch goes up for another year.(Editorial image)

Nowadays, an arch across a main road is a rarity but despite all the obstacles in their way, the brethren of Gracehill LOL have managed to maintain the ritual of erecting their colourful arch over the main road between Ballymena and Ahoghill.

Lodge members reckon the first arch on the spot went up in 1904 but there are stories of an earlier arch which was positioned over the gates to a nearby property.

It’s a long time since 1904, but, believe it or not, the methods of ‘papering’ an arch for display have hardly changed at all.

“A lot of people have no idea that we use a stiff paper to decorate the ropes and frame of the arch,” says Bob Green, who has become the driving force behind the annual preparations. “We do it all by hand with a little guillotine, a stapler and in the end by sheer hard work! It can be sore on the fingers by the time you are finished.”

Bob Green - Gracehill LOL. Editorial image

Bob Green - Gracehill LOL. Editorial image

And it’s not a matter of doing it once and being able to re-use the arch over and over again for a few years.

Each year, the same painstaking process has to be followed to ensure the arch is in pristine condition.

Adrian Kirkpatrick, who has been responsible for the preparation of the securing ropes which help to support the arch, says it is a tradition which must be kept up.

“There used to be lots of these arches around the country. For various reasons, they’ve fallen away but we are determined to keep the tradition going at Gracehill.”

The tiny 'ship of life' - one of the symbols on Gracehill's orange arch

The tiny 'ship of life' - one of the symbols on Gracehill's orange arch

Finishing touches - the team get ready to put up the arch (editorial image)

Finishing touches - the team get ready to put up the arch (editorial image)

Examples of the paper 'ribbons' which are used to cover the arch and bracing ropes. (Editorial image)

Examples of the paper 'ribbons' which are used to cover the arch and bracing ropes. (Editorial image)

Adrian Kirkpatrick - Keeping up tradition

Adrian Kirkpatrick - Keeping up tradition