Amid the picturesque drumlins of Co Tyrone, thousands of people gathered in Newtownstewart to celebrate this years Twelfth.

Hundreds of men proudly wearing their bowler hats and sashes marched through the village while women opened the car boots to make tea and organise sandwiches.

Chip sellers and the ever popular ice cream vans did a roaring trade but the busiest marquee was Newtownstewart Church of Irelands tent with long queues of thirsty bandsmen waiting on tea and sandwiches.

Mary Dunbar from the church said they had catered for around 500 people.
One of the oldest Orangemen was Andy McAleer from Beragh LOL 796. Mr McAleer, who will be 93 in August, has not missed a Twelfth of July celebration since he was born in 1917.

Having played bass drum in a pipe band for 50 years, Mr McAleer said he looked forward to hearing the bands every year.

A retired deputy charge nurse who worked in Tyrone and Ferrmanagh for 40 and a half years, Mr McAleer said: �I look forward to it every year.
�The Twelfth of July was in Newtownstewart in 1917, the year I was born. There are photographs of me on my mothers knee in Newtownstewart that day.

�My father belonged to Newtownstewart Orange and Black. He was a great man in Newtownstewart at that time. I take real pride in the marching,� he said.

One of the more unusual sights at Newtownstewart was the replica Orange Hall built on a trailer and pulled by a 1942 Case tractor, also painted orange.

Owner Alan Rainey said it was two-and-a-half times less the size of the real Newtownsaville 646 Orange Hall on the main Omagh to Ballygawley Road.

Alans colleagues from the lodge drew up plans and built the replica in just two weeks. That was three years ago and ever since it has been in great demand.

Alan explained that it has a three-fold purpose. �Not only did it have great entertainment value but it was used to transport their provisions such as food and seating as well as a dry home for the Lambeg drums. The children also loved using it as a play house,� he said.

Jim McElrath, 52, said: �Ive been piping from I was about ten. Im a pipe major with Augharonan Pipe Band outside Fintona.�

Mr McElrath is very proud of his band and was particularly glowing about the academy band who were taking part in their first Twelfth.
�We are a wee piping and drumming school and we are bringing on kids from all over the country.

�Theres a lot of work goes into it,� he said. �I enjoy taking part in Orangefest. Its nice to see the community coming out to enjoy theselves.�

John Kerrigan from just outside Castlederg near the Donegal border said it was a great cultural event.

�Its part of our culture, part of our family life,� he said, adding he had six brothers in the one lodge and with the younger children joining too. �Most of the people in our lodge would be related to one another. Its a family thing.�

Published date on the 13th of July 2010
Article taken from the The News Letter