The Grand Orange Lodge of England held their Annual Sessions, Dinner and Parade in Carlisle, on the weekend of 11/12th September 2009. Carlisle was once a centre for the Institution and the organisation chose to hold its annual parade in the city to celebrate Carlisle’s part in its heritage.

The last parade held in the beautiful city was in 1979. Years ago, there was an Orange Lodge within the city, but sadly this is now defunct and so the Order had decided to come to Carlisle in an attempt to relight the Orange flame and possibly open a new Lodge.

The event started on the Friday morning with the various delegates and visitors attending the opening of Grand Lodge Sessions, held in the conference suite of one of the city's landmark hotels. At these sessions, the Grand Lodge Officers and delegates, discuss the various issues which have arisen over the last year and plan the way forward in the year to come. One of the most notable topics of discussion was that of the Imperial Grand Council, held in Belfast, in July and many good wishes were offered to the Most Worshipful Grand Master of England, Bro. W.R. Bather, for his appointment as Imperial President for the next term of office. 

On Friday evening a formal dinner was held in the hotel, where, after an excellent meal, speeches and presentations were made. One of these presentations was made to the Grand Master, by The Somme Memorial LOL 842, of Bristol - a lovely piece of engraved "Bristol Blue" glass was given, as a gesture of thanks for the honour which LOL 842 had, of staging the 2008 Grand Lodge Sessions and Parade.

The Somme Memorial LOL 842, make their presentation to the Grand Master

Saturday morning dawned and the weather for the day was glorious sunshine. Lodge business was concluded in the morning sessions, at which it was announced that Grand Lodge have a new website running - which can be found by clicking the link below.

The afternoon was set aside for the Parade through Carlisle city centre. For several days leading up to the weekend, the local papers had carried the story of the Orange Order visiting their city and they had been very positive in their remarks - a viewpoint mirrored by the local Police.

Pride of Norris Green Accordion Band, leaving Bitts Park

Inspector Di Bradbury, who leads the Carlisle City Centre Neighbourhood Policing team, said:
“We are going to take the opportunity presented by the parade to give our student officers the experience of taking part in an organised procession. Recent Orange Lodge Parades have been celebratory and family-orientated events, and we do not expect any form of trouble at the first event of its kind in Carlisle. I have been working with event organisers and local retailers, hoteliers and publicans to ensure that the event runs smoothly, that traffic disruption is kept to a minimum and that local businesses can make the most of this boost to the local economy.”

Grand Lodge Officers at the head of the Parade

The Brethren, Sisters and bands assembled in Bitts Park after 2pm and by 2.45, in fine late summer sunshine they were under way. On parade were Lodges from every area of England, as well as some who had made the journey from Scotland and individual members who had crossed from Ulster.

Metropolitan Province Lodges, on Parade

The bands of which there were at least ten, came from Liverpool, Manchester and the Midlands, as well as several from Scotland. On parade, were various musical styles, including accordion and flute, but it was great to hear the "skirl 'o the pipes" as the Sons of William Pipe Band from Liverpool, had taken their position near the front of the parade. 

The short route took the walk past the great medieval fortress of Carlisle Castle and into the city centre via, the pedestrian precinct. The parade halted at the War Memorial, where the Grand Master laid a wreath, in memory of the fallen. The hundreds of onlookers, seemed to enjoy the spectacle and indeed many shops temporarily stopped trading, so that their staff could come out and watch the parade.

War Memorial

The parade then returned by a slightly different route to Bitts Park, where several speeches were made. After the singing of the National Anthem and Land of Hope and Glory, the parade dispersed.
A social event was held in the evening, at which some of the visiting bands played - by all accounts this was a very enjoyable event.

A spectacle of colour, noise and pagentry


Special mention to the visitors from Northern Ireland who made the journey over - many Brethren from Boyd Memorial LOL 312, Burnside, Country Antrim were present for the weekend and had the pleasure of meeting Ken Jones, an 85 year old Orangeman from Carlisle, who was a member of one of the Carlisle Lodges and who had taken part in the last parade through his city in 1979. Mr Jones said he was delighted to see the Orange Order in his hometown once again.

Brethren from Boyd Memorial LOL 312, Burnside
 Back Row L-R  - John McGrath, Colin Scott
Front - Billy Thompson
Seated in front centre is Mr Ken Jones

On Monday 14th September - the Carlisle News and Star carried another very positive report on the event, headlining that "Carlisle was ablaze with colour and noise on Saturday as thousands of Orangemen and women marched across the city centre."

The Police had deployed some student officers as part of a training exercise and afterwards they confirmed that the walk had passed without incident, commending the Orange Order for the weekend's events.

The event was a huge success and we can only hope and pray that we may see a Lodge opening in Carlisle soon - the Grand Master confirmed that there had been many enquiries from the general public about joining a Lodge.

Video of Carlisle Parade