Orange Order’s £1m tribute to former Grand Secretary

Drew Nelson.
Drew Nelson.

The Orange Institution has announced plans for a £1 million initiative in memory of its former Grand Secretary, Dromore man Drew Nelson.

Details of the ambitious ‘Drew Nelson Legacy Project’ were unveiled at a gala dinner in Co Tyrone on Friday evening.

Family, friends and peers of the senior Orangeman were told of the Loyal Order’s objective to permanently recognise the valued contribution of one of its most high-profile members, whilst benefiting the next generation of community leaders.

The Institution intends to majorly expand its current student provision in the university area of Belfast, with the ultimate aim of creating a standalone ‘Drew Nelson Centre’ providing meeting space and accommodation for student members.

It is also envisaged a designated development officer will provide career advice and guidance to young people across Northern Ireland and the border counties.

Mr Nelson, a former chairman of Banbridge District Council, died last year after a short battle with cancer. He was 60 years old.

The Dromore solicitor served as Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland for 12 years, first elected in December 2004.

Regarded as a hugely influential figure within the Order and the genesis of its numerous community development activities, Mr Nelson was also a huge advocate for younger members, establishing a third-level leadership course, as well as actively supporting the respective Orange societies at local universities.

Making the legacy announcement, Grand Master Edward Stevenson described his friend and former colleague as the “epitome” of Orangeism.

“Empowering young people was a key aspect of Drew Nelson’s work within our wider Orange family.

“He continually reinforced the importance of encouraging young people by building capacity and creating an enthusiastic, motivated and confident core of Orange advocates and community leaders,” he said.

“I can announce formally that the ‘Drew Nelson Legacy Project’ will build on this work by expanding the current capacity of our student accommodation facility in Belfast.

“It is hoped that in time, this project will deliver a standalone ‘Drew Nelson Centre’ where young Orange leaders can live, study and interact together.”

Grand Master Mr Stevenson continued: “An important part of this initiative will also be the recruitment of a student and youth development officer. This person will organise networking opportunities, oversee leadership training and career guidance for our young people throughout the jurisdiction.”

Mr Stevenson confirmed the major project would be the designated recipient of the Grand Master’s Appeal for the incoming years, and encouraged individuals, lodges and districts, as well as the wider community, to support the legacy project.

Previous appeals have raised substantial funds for many charities and projects including Action Cancer, Help for Heroes, Kidney Research and the Christian Institute.

• For more details on how to donate to the Drew Nelson Legacy Project, contact Schomberg House on (028) 90 701 122 or email legacy@goli.org.uk