12th July

Over the years the band has produced many outstanding performances, but the display in Belfast and later in Kilkeel on the 12th July this year must rival any of those previous efforts.

Everyone who took part on the day, Colour Party of 9, 11 drummers, 31 fluters, both bass drummers, side walkers, Drum majors, even the lunatic that plays the cymbals should take great pride in their efforts, which resulted in the band winning the award for best band on parade yet again. It completed a fantastic double having lifted the award for best Visiting band in the Glasgow Orange Walk a couple of weeks earlier.

The band was simply outstanding on the day, but what made the performance extra special was the nature of the conditions under which the band performed. The weather may have been wonderful for the spectators but certainly not for the bands. The Belfast Telegraph confirmed that the parade took place in temperatures approaching 31 degrees, the warmest day of the year so far.

The new uniforms looked fantastic in the bright sunshine, even if some of the older members inside the jackets weren't feeling as well as they looked.

RJ was very glad of 1 pensioner on the Dublin road in Belfast who gladly gave up her deck chair and sandwiches during the first major break in the parade. Mr Cousins planted himself down and only moved when he noticed that a member of the lodge in front had dropped a fiver.

The day started early as usual in Kilkeel with the band parading briefly before laying a wreath at the grave of Alan Johnston, a member of the band who was murdered by the IRA and who is remembered on the banner which is carried at the front of the band.

The Master of our lodge, City of Belfast LOL 373 lived in Ballybeen this year, so it was up to his house for Bacon and Sausage baps before setting off to Agnes/Clifton Street in the Shankill.

We were quite near the back of the parade this year which results in quite a few stoppages early on as other districts file into place, so it takes a while to really get going, but we were well into our stride as we approached the television cameras in their new position at City Hall. We just about made it on time to squeeze onto the live broadcast on BBC 1 that morning. Just as well RJ had his make up on.

The sunshine certainly brought out the crowds, particularly in the morning, I can never remember such large numbers of spectators watching the parade. For long periods of the route along Royal Avenue, Dublin Road and Lisburn Road the crowds were 3 and 4 deep.

But the most pleasing aspect was the way in which the crowds responded to the band and the performance. It was very warm, but long stretches of applause as the band was passing by really did help lift morale as you passed by. So to did the excellent water carrying team. James Annett and our 2 latest drumming recruits William and Craig were fantastic all day along with our good friend Stuart Ross. Every time they passed a shop they appeared with more fluids, if you're reading this guys we were very grateful and couldn't have managed without the 4 of you.

The return walk was slightly easier, boosted by a breeze and the awards for best musical performance and best band in our district. And after a stop for food at the Dundela Football Club (The only team in East Belfast apparently) it was off to Kilkeel for the highlight of the day.

Now for those of you reading this column who have never been to Kilkeel on the evening of the 12th of July, I have to tell you that you have absolutely no idea what you are missing! Before I actually had this experience myself for the first time I didn't believe the hype. But believe me, it's everything you may have hear plus more.

The band returns from Belfast and parades through the centre of the town around 10.30pm. This year the crowds were estimated at around 5,000 with people traveling from as far away as Dunloy and Ballymoney just to see the sight that is a full MYD parading through the streets. Please don't just take my word for it, come down and experience it for yourself next year. You'll never forget it.

At the end of the night everyone was relieved to have completed the day in 1 piece, everyone that is except for Willie John Heaney who was certain that the walk was shorter than his usual stroll in the morning for the paper.

The 12th was followed by a much needed weekend break, but the MYD will be back in action in Comber on Saturday July 23rd.


So here are some snaps of the Best Band in Belfast 2005

Clifton Street

Mr Sticks - David Montgomery and his wee fella, Neil

Gabbing Champions ... Keith in his SS style hat!