As the Decade of Centenaries draws to a close The Independent Orange Institution travelled to Belfast to commemorate the end of the Great War, and returned to their roots in East Belfast.

The Order has taken its place alongside the other Loyal Orders, bands community and political parties on the Unionist Centenary Committee and helped organise a Decade of Events which commemorating and celebrated the Centenary of Events which defined our nation, saw the defeat of Home Rule for Ulster, the sacrifice of the Great War and looks forward to the creation of Northern Ireland.

This event was to mark a Peace Parade, which saw the men who had served and sacrificed so much return home. Many were wounded, others traumatised and this was their home city’s chance to welcome their boys back. The parade began at Craigavon House and paraded through Belfast ending at the site of the former Independent Orange Hall in Dee Street.

Craigavon House 

The former home of Sir James Craig and the operational headquarters of the UVF and location for the proclamation of the Provisional Government it provided a fitting backdrop to the launch of the event. Residents of the nearby Somme Nursing Home were treated to an impromptu concert from the UVF Regimental Band in period dress. It was a poignant moment to see the old uniforms which would once have been a common sight protecting the ground of the house and the Unionist leadership.

Grand Lodge and County Officers assembled as part of the colour party which would escort a torch representing the flame of peace and in memory of those who fell. This symbolic start to the day saw the Imperial Grand Master James Anderson carry a specially prepared wreath with the traditional poppies woven into a bed of Orange lilies and purple ribbon.


East Belfast

The Decade of Centenaries allowed the ILOI not only to reconnect with the events of one hundred years ago but also to reconnect with their own roots in Belfast. For many members, it was the first time they have ever paraded in the city and the last time Independent Orangemen had organised their own parades and Twelfths in the city had been in the midst of the Troubles in the late 1970s. Sporadic events such as the Anglo Irish Agreement protests brought them back to the city, and again in the 1990s with a revival of lodges in the city. By this time the old divisions of the past had been forgotten and the Orangemen of East Belfast invited their Independent cousins to join them on the July 1st parade across East Belfast.

In recent years the Independents have been involved in a number of initiatives from Joint Loyal Orders Working group, tasked with looking at areas of mutual interest and concern, through to a common approach on many aspects of parading and emblems. Most recently the ILOI have probably travelled furthest to attend and contribute to the planning of the Unionist Centenary Committee events. The final event of this phase of the Committee’s work has seen the organisation of the Peace Parade.

The parade weaved its way from the suburbs of the Circular Road to the Belmont area, interestingly it passed close to the site of at least three former Independent Orange Halls, or lodge locations at Garnerville, Belmont and Dee Street. Garryduff Flute Band set the pace and the parade took a particularly martial feel.

Remembering the Fallen

We often forget the sacrifice made by other nations in the First World War, particularly the French who fought alongside us in the trenches. Many French and Belgium villages were destroyed by war and still have a special place for those who visit each year. One such village with a particular connection to the war and to the Ulster Division is Bertrancourt. Grand Lodge Officers had the pleasure to welcome Celine Jasiak Deputy mayoress of the French village of Bertrancourt to Belfast as she explained how she had many friendships built up over years due to the village’s long association with the commemoration of the Somme. 

At the War Memorial on the Belmont Road, which was incorporated into the Unionist Association’s Strandtown Hall, wreaths were laid in memory of the Fallen of the Great War. The Portland stone war memorial was installed adjacent to the building in the aftermath of the war as a memorial to the residents of Strandtown who gave their lives during the war. The memorial, which is 10ft 6in in height and 4ft 6in in width, was commissioned by the Strandtown & District Unionist Club.

Back to Where it All Began

After parading through East Belfast the parade finished in Dee Street, where at the corner of Wye Street once stood an Independent Orange Order Hall. Originally built for the Belfast Protestant Association which was eclipsed by the Independent Loyal ornage Institution where this was their Head Quarters in East Belfast. We are currently trying to trace the later history of the building which may have been destroyed in the Belfast Blitz. After the parade, brethren assembled here the hall had once stood to pay tribute to their forefathers and were welcomed back to the city by Rev Mervyn Gibson of the Grand Orange Lodge and a prominent Orangeman and cleric from the area. After some tunes by Garryduff Independent Flute Band the two Orders reflected on their shared and divided past and how they had learnt to work together.

Dee Street Event