An engraved communion chalice gifted to the church in Glenavy by the Duke of Schomberg’s army in 1690 will be the star attraction in a exhibition set up to celebrate the return of the Twelfth to the village.
Glenavy last hosted the South Antrim Twelfth demonstration 14 years ago and this weekend’s exhibition is intended to mark the run up to the Orange celebration as well as offer members of the community a chance to look at a culture which may be alien to them.
District Master of Glenavy LOL No 4 Ken Harbinson said the communion silver would take “pride of place” in the exhibition in Glenavy Protestant Hall.
He said: “It’s kept in storage all year round and only comes out once a year for the Sunday before the Twelfth. It’s too valuable to have out all year round.
“It was given to the church as a thank you for letting a detachment of the Duke of Schomberg’s army camp here on their way to the Battle of the Boyne.
“Obviously there wasn’t a village or anything at that stage. They would have camped around about the grounds of the church. We’re not sure how long they were here for, it may have been just overnight or maybe two days at the most.”
Details exist of a church at Glenavy dating back to the time of St Patrick. The current church building dates back to 1815, though it was largely destroyed by an accidental fire on Christmas Eve 1938.
District Secretary Roy Farrell, who is also a member of Glenavy Church of Ireland (St Aidan’s), commented: “The communion silver belongs to the church though it’s something that is very much part of our history as well.
“The chalice and paten (plate) would have been used for communion, although I’ve never seen it used for that purpose in the church.
“It comes out for our Twelfth Sunday service when the district joins with parishioners for worship.”
The silver chalice bears the inscription: “This plate was given to ye Church of Glenavy by the officers of ye Queen’s Regmt of Horse, commanded by ye Honble, Major General Sir John Lanier, in the year 1690. In honorem Ecclesiae Anglicanae.”
He added: “It’s amazing the work that has gone into it, you can see some of the hammer marks on it.
“They would have had to engrave it while they were here. They could well have used it for communion while they were here as well.
“Some of William’s men would have come this way and on through Moira, others would have come through Lisburn and Hillsborough.
“The regiment who passed through Glenavy fought at the Boyne in 1690 and Aughrim in 1691.”
During the 1700s the church at Glenavy would have been situated in a dense wooded area.
Mr Farrell said: “There would have been a lot of woodland around here. It’s probably why they camped here.
“At the time King James was going around burning churches, that’s probably why this church was saved, because it was surrounded by trees.
“The church in Crumlin, the next village over, got burned by King James’ army.”
The communion silver forms part of an exhibition on Friday from 5pm to 9pm and Saturday from 11am to 4pm with refreshments available for visitors.
The exhibition takes place in Glenavy Protestant Hall which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.
Other artefacts in the display include banners, photos, band uniforms, instruments, and Lambeg drums. There is also a mystery teapot.
Mr Harbinson said: “The King William teapot has been passed down from one district to the next, nobody knows where it came from.
“Some of the stuff we’ll have on display is kept in lodge rooms, other bits and pieces belong to individuals.
“One of the district banners is dedicated to Dr Arthur Mussen. His lodge is known locally at the Doctor’s lodge. He was a JP, GP, everybody went to him, he was the coroner as well, and a member of LOL No 227. A book has been written about him by ‘The Digger’.”
Funders for the exhibition include Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and Peace IV.
During the two-day exhibition the Glenavy District LOL No 4 will be collecting for NI Hospice, its designated charity for the year.
Seven districts from South Antrim will be represented at the Twelfth in Glenavy.
Approximately 69 lodges and 23 bands from the greater Lisburn area are expected to attend in what organisers say is a predominantly nationalist village where there is a good community relations.
Mr Harbinson said: “As the village has grown it has become more predominantly nationalist though there is a big Orange culture in Glenavy.
“We have good relations within Glenavy, we try to do a lot to be inclusive. This is one of the things we’re trying to do with the exhibition, we want people to call in and see what we’re about.
“We’ll also be dropping leaflets around the houses to let people know what’s happening ahead of the Twelfth.”