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The Bannerman

MY FIRST memories of the Twelfth were as a child back in 1967. I was only eight years old.  My mother who was originally from Omagh decided to take me and my sister back to Co Tyrone for our first experience of the Twelfth parade.

We had to leave Newry at the crack of dawn for the 60 mile journey to Omagh. So with a picnic hamper and raincoats packed we set off in our Austin Cambridge on a day that was going to change my life for ever.

I had never seen a band parade before and was very excited at the prospect of seeing so many bands and hearing all the different types of music. My excitement mounted as we passed each village and town along the way and saw all the bands and lodges getting ready for the big day ahead.

We eventually arrived at the hamlet of Augharonan a few miles outside Omagh and parked the car in a laneway beside the small Orange Hall. The local pipe band and lodge were already forming up and getting ready to march off.  Two men lifted the huge banner which had been propped up against the side wall of the hall. It was bedecked in orange lilies and had a picture of King Billy on his white horse. It truly was a beautiful sight.

Tthey took up their position in between the band and lodge ready for the parade to set off. At this point my Uncle Jim - who was the pipe major of the band - asked me and my sister if we would like to carry the strings of the banner as a special treat. We were thrilled and giggling.  We took hold of the strings just as the banner was hoisted high into the air. The pipe band struck up the tune Scotland the Brave and we were off skipping along the lane to the sound of the music.

My mum was walking along the footpath keeping an eye on us and smiling with that proud look of a mum for her kids. I was just so excited and all I could think of was the words of a song which I remember  hearing on the radio at that time called The Banner Man.   The words went: 

'And the Banner Man held the Banner high....... It was ten feet tall and it touched the sky.......And I wish that I could be a Banner Man'.

Skipping along that road in Augharonan behind that beautiful banner all those years ago I really did feel 'ten feet tall'.  About ten years later I moved across the water to Manchester but I always make the journey back home for the Twelfth every year.  And although I'm a bit too old to carry the banner strings now I still remember that first day when I experienced the beautiful music and all the colour that is 'our' Twelfth and the words of that song still run through my mind, because that day I was the Banner Man.


 Colin, Manchester .


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