Ulster set to bloom orange this summer

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Lisburn will play its part as a record number of Orange lilies look set to bloom throughout the country this summer.

As many as 180,000 lily bulbs will be planted across Northern Ireland in a creative bid to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and to commemorate the heavy losses suffered by the 36th Ulster Division.

Orangemen with green fingers are aiming for their flowers to symbolically bloom on July 1, in a colourful tribute on what will be the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War battle on The Western Front.

Appropriately, the lily bulbs have been imported from Holland. Recipients will be encouraged to plant the bulbs in early April so their blooming corresponds with the actual summer centenary.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said whilst one of the most “ambitious and vibrant” tributes ever undertaken by the Institution, he believed it would also be one of the most “poignant.”

Chairman of the Orange lily organising committee, Robert Cummings, said the project would have a particular personal significance for many members of the Institution:

“The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of the Orange family. A phenomenal number of Orangemen served their King and country, with many wearing their colours as they went over the top. “Many brethren will have relatives who answered the call of duty, and fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today. Their courage and sacrifice must always be remembered, and we trust the Orange lilies will be a fitting tribute.”

The bulbs, available in packs of six bulbs for £5, can be pre-ordered through relevant District lodges or by emailing sommeorangelilies@aol.com or calling 07555 576489.

Mr Cummings added that he expected lilies to also be planted in other Orange jurisdictions, including the border counties of the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England and further afield.

As well as the Orange lily initiative, the Loyal Institution will also be marking the Somme centenary through a number of official events.

Special commemoration parades and church services are planned to take place across Northern Ireland in late May.

In June, the Orange Institution will join other Loyal Orders at Bannerfest in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in a unique gathering of banners, bannerettes, standards and flags to mark the 100th anniversary. Later in the month, Belfast County Grand Orange Lodge will host a commemoration service at St Anne’s Cathedral in the city.

There are also plans for an exhibition at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Belfast, to showcase various artefacts in relation to the First World War and to highlight the contribution and sacrifice of Orangemen at the Somme and other battlefields.