Some 30,000 spectators turned out to watch 7,000 Orangemen retrace the footsteps of King William as they paraded through the historic village of Hillsborough – the Northern Ireland residence of the Queen.
Lagan Valley has special significance on the Williamite trail, given King William stopped at the nearby fort on route to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
A total of seven districts – totalling more than 70 individual lodges – participated in the parade, led by the Hillsborough brethren, who were followed by members from Aghalee, Glenavy, Magheragall, Ballinderry, Derriaghy and Lisburn.
Orangemen, women and juniors were accompanied by approximately 50 bands for the colourful occasion, which typically attracts a large number of spectators.
Many of the bands had travelled especially for the occasion from Scotland.
Hillsborough District Secretary Douglas Hoare said: “Today has gone like clockwork. As usual the turnout was amazing. The number of people who attended was second only to the typical turnout in Lisburn.
“We are only in Hillsborough once every seven years but it seems people are particularly keen to attend the Twelfth in Hillsborough.”
The crowds were so much bigger than expected that the field set aside for parking was quickly full with around 750 cars, and a second field had to be opened, which was also nearly three-quarters filled.
However, the crowds were so large that coaches and cars were parked right along the route from the village out to the A1 roundabout.
“The crowds have just been amazing. They were about six or seven people deep right up the road,” Mr Hoare added.
The parade assembled at Sloan’s field and moved off at 11.30am via Culcavy Road, Lisburn Road, Lisburn Street, Ballynahinch Street, Ballynahinch Road to the demonstration field on the Carnreagh Road.
It also passed under the notable Orange arch which is erected every summer in the village.
Traditionally the order has used the fort in Hillsborough Park, however due to changes in ownership this year it was not possible.
Platform proceedings begin about 2pm with the return parade beginning at 4.15pm.
An impassioned keynote speech was given in the field this year by Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who had marched along the route with his fellow Orangemen.
In his platform sermon, Rev Dr Stanley Gamble noted that this Twelfth marked the 327th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in this, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
“In 1517, an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in Saxony, Germany,” he said. “Luther was professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg at the time. His 95 theses, or propositions, questioned the suspect practices of itinerant preachers such as Johann Tetzel who sold plenary indulgences for the remission of sins. Luther argued that only God could forgive sins and that a person was justified by faith in Christ, and not through their own religious works or efforts.”
The actions of Luther and the rediscovery of “the Gospel of Grace” throughout Europe, lead to a re-examination of Christendom and gave birth to what we now know as Protestantism, he said.
“Luther would have been nothing without the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He was far from perfect, and readily admitted his failings. God gave him a wonderful insight into the good news of Jesus Christ – that we are loved unconditionally from beginning to end by a good and gracious God, who wants us all to come to a place of faith, forgiveness and freedom.”