Lisburn’s Island Hall last week played host to the Orange Community Awards, also known as ‘The Grands’.
The ceremony was held to showcase the community work undertaken by members of the Orange Institution.
Recognising and rewarding excellence within the Order and the marching bands fraternity, The Grands were held in the same venue last year.
Alan McCormick, from Irwin’s True Blues LOL 1924, received the Individual Community Involvement Award.
The award recognises the positive and engaging role members of the Institution play within each of their own lodges and respective communities.
Alan received the award in recognition of his integral role in the refurbishment of Drumbo Orange Hall, making it the centre of community regeneration in the small village.
The local Orangeman was instrumental in securing appropriate funding and also led meetings with various agencies, ensuring greater support for the community project.
David Jeffrey – best known for his hugely successful spell managing Linfield Football Club – was the recipient of the coveted Grand Master’s Award on the night.
The former footballer and Orangeman (53) was just one of a large number of individuals, as well as lodges and musicians, to be formally acknowledged by the Loyal Order for their community work and achievements over the past 12 months.
Mr Jeffrey received the award from the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson.
Mr Jeffrey said: “I am very proud and privileged to receive this award. To be recognised by the Orange Institution and the Grand Master personally is a tremendous honour. I am extremely humbled and immensely grateful to be acknowledged with such a prestigious accolade.”
Among the prize winners at ‘The Grands’ were Ballindarragh LOL 689, Co Fermanagh, who claimed the coveted Best New Banner Award.
Their banner includes an artistic portrayal of an Ulster Defence Regiment patrol coming under attack from IRA terrorists near Ballagh Cross in 1974. None of the soldiers, including members of the lodge, were seriously injured in the incident. Five of the six surviving members attended the banner unfurling last year.
Other notable winners included the ‘Orange Buddies’ who claimed the Lodge Community Involvement title.
The drama group, comprising Orangemen from Banbridge District and their families, have raised substantial funds for charity through their various productions. Over the past five years the group has staged a Christmas pantomime, with plays including Cinderella, the Wizard of Oz and the aptly named Snow White and the Seven Orangemen!
Portadown Orangeman and stock-car world champion, Adam Hylands, scooped the Sporting Excellence Award for his outstanding success on the Hot Rods circuit.
Meanwhile, Omagh Protestant Boys Melody Flute Band and Wilby Hanna (Upper Crossgare Pipe Band) struck the ‘right note’ with judges, winning the group and individual Musicians’ Merit Awards respectively.
Mr Stevenson paid tribute to the winners and nominees in all of the respective categories.
He said: “I would like to personally congratulate each and every one of them for being standard bearers for the Institution as well as in their own communities.
“The aim of the awards is to recognise and reward excellence, and we are delighted to once again showcase the tremendous community work undertaken by individuals and lodges across the Province.”
Entertainment at this year’s event was provided by Stonewall, the Thompson Brothers and Major Sinclair Memorial Pipe Band.