Randalstown is set to play host to the East Antrim Combine for this year’s Twelfth celebrations.
Staffordstown District No. 15 have been tasked with organising this year’s festival, with a number of events taking place in the run up to the main parade on July 12.
A total of 68 Lodges from across Antrim, Carrick, Larne and Newtownabbey will parade through the town, and it is anticipated that in the region of 15,000 people will be in attendance for the event.
Darren Richardson, Worshipful District Master of Staffordstown District, has been charged with overseeing the event organisation, including traffic arrangements, to ensure the event passes off smoothly for both local residents and parade-goers.
“It is a great honour for the District to be hosting this year’s Twelfth, particularly in such an historic year,” Darren said.
He added: “The 100-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme is at the forefront of our Twelfth celebrations.
“It is a huge opportunity to recognise and commemorate the sacrifice of the men who so gallantly laid down their lives in France 100 years ago.
“We also pay humble gratitude to our own Brethren who over all conflicts have with honour and bravery served their communities.”
Darren explained that the historical importance of the Somme commemorations extend to the significant location of the Twelfth field at Dunmore Park in Randalstown.
In 1914, following the the declaration of war, Dunmore Park, part of the Shane’s Castle estate, was established as a training camp for those setting off to fight for King and country.
The troops trained at Randalstown were mainly from the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, mainly from counties Tyrone, Londonderry, Donegal and Fermanagh, and the 14th Royal Irish Rifles, mainly from Belfast.
“Obviously, with such an important link between the field venue and the 100th anniversary, it further reinforced our desire to commemorate the Somme centenary as part of our Twelfth programme,” Darren said.
This will be reflected with a WWI exhibition at Dunmore Park on July 12. In collaboration with local collector Gary Campbell, the exhibition will include various artefacts and memorabilia including uniforms, medals and a replica of a WWI trench system.
There will also be plenty of fun for all the family at the field with bouncy castles and musical entertainment, including gospel group Justified, and Willie Drennan & Friends.
The platform party for this year’s demonstration includes Jim McHarg, Deputy Grand Master Grand Lodge Scotland; Rev. Robert Campbell, Deputy County Grand Chaplain; William Thompson, County Grand Secretary; East Antrim Combine Chairman Albert Campbell; East Antrim Combine Secretary Harry Carter; Staffordstown District Master Darren Richardson; Deputy District Master Ivan Houston; District Secretary Allan Millar; District Chaplain Dessie Dickson; and District Treasurer David Burnside.
Darren added: “The District has been working hard over the past 18 months and we trust this is reflected in the many events planned.
“I would like to pay tribute and thanks to everyone involved in organising this year’s events programme.”
With in the region of 15,000 people attending the event, Darren is reminding those attending of the family ethos surrounding the proceedings.
“The Staffordstown Twelfth is a series of events celebrating our culture, faith and identity,” Darren said.
He added: “All events are family orientated and will be visited by all ages.
“Please respect those attending and conduct yourself in an appropriate manner.
“Thank you for your co-operation and we hope you enjoy the events.”