The Grand Orange Lodge of England held their Annual Sessions, Dinner and Parade in
Gillingham
, on the weekend of 24/25th September 2010. Gillingham was chosen to host this year’s event to show support for the recently formed Medway Martyrs Loyal Orange Lodge 652, which is very pro-active and successful in the few short years since its formation.

The  Loyal Orange Orphans Society which was celebrating its 90th Anniversary, were hosting the weekend, in conjunction with the Medway Martyrs Lodge.


                                    

 



The event started on the Friday morning, with the various delegates and visitors attending the opening of Grand Lodge Sessions, held in the Franklin Rooms. 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.

On Friday evening a formal dinner was held, where, after an excellent meal, speeches and presentations were made. One of the highlights of the evening was the unveiling of a new bannerette to mark the 90th Anniversary of the Loyal Orange Orphans Society. The bannerette was brought forward and a dedication ceremony was lead by the Grand Master and the Deputy Grand Chaplain.



                                        

                                                         Loyal Orange Orphans Society bannerette


On completion of the ceremonies, Johnson’s True Blues Accordion Band took the floor and treated the gathering to a selection of well known tunes, both traditional and contemporary.

Whilst Friday had been overcast, Saturday morning proved to be a beautiful autumn day with glorious sunshine. Lodge business was concluded in the morning sessions and by 2:30pm all had congregated at the Naval War Memorial on Great Lines, where a memorial service was held. During the service, wreaths were laid in memory of those Orangemen from Kent and indeed all who had fallen in both World Wars. 


                 

 

                                                        Naval War Memorial at the Great Lines


The local papers had carried the story of the Orange Order visiting their city and they there had been a mixed response from the general public. Unfortunately a few rather pathetic individuals had tried to cause tension in the community with sensational scaremongering stories and encouraged people to blockade roads and indeed a counter parade protest march had apparently been planned!


                                                                    
                                                                        
                                                                         


At 3 pm, the Parade moved off and made it’s way down through the park and onto the Marlborough Road. The Parade was led by Grand Lodge Officers and Johnston’s True Blues Accordion Band – the second band on parade was Royal Arch from Liverpool and the whole parade led to a colourful spectacle as it made it way on the 3 mile walk round Gillingham’s streets. On parade were Lodges from every Orange Province in England, as well as some who had made the journey from Scotland and Ulster.
                               



                              
                                            A 'young' King William and Queen Mary


The parade didn't cause too many delays for motorists and police staged rolling road closures, keeping disruption to a minimum. The suggested demonstration against the parade did not materialise and on the whole the people of Gillingham received the parade well – may of whom came out to watch, applaud and wave Union Flags as the bands, Orangemen and women passed by.


 

 


The parade returned to Great Lines at 4:40 pm and after the singing of the National Anthem the parade dispersed. A social event was held in the evening and by all accounts this was a very enjoyable event.

 

 After the parade, Chief Inspector Peter de Lozey said: "Today's parade in Gillingham by the Orange Order went by peacefully and without incident."


                                     
 

 

The weekend’s events were very successful with many old friendships renewed and new fraternal bonds also being made.

 

Much praise and thanks must go to the Loyal Orange Orphans Society and the Medway Martyrs Loyal Orange Lodge 652, for their dedication and hard work in putting on an excellent weekend.