Representatives of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland from across east Antrim were among those who enjoyed the sixth annual Orange Community Awards, held in the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey.
Veteran broadcaster Walter Love – synonymous with the annual Twelfth of July television coverage – was the recipient of the coveted Grand Master’s Award at this year’s awards.
The respected commentator, 78, was just one of a large number of individuals, as well as lodges and musicians, to be formally acknowledged by the Loyal Order for their community outreach and achievements over the past 12 months.
Mr Love, the first person to be recognised outside of the Institution in this category, received the award from the Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson.
Paying tribute to the journalist, Mr Stevenson said: “As well as being a highly respected broadcaster and a figure head for local journalists, Walter’s dulcet tones behind the microphone on the biggest day in the Orange calendar have become as much a mandatory requirement to viewers as the sight and pageantry of the Twelfth itself.
Other prize winners at ‘The Grands’ included the members of Mountjoy Faith Defenders LOL 750, who claimed the Best Charity Fundraising Lodge title.Last year, the Tyrone brethren raised in excess of £11,000 for a number of local charities including Care for Cancer and the Horizon West Children’s Hospice.
The Best New Banner award, a closely contested and much anticipated category at the annual event, went to Goldsprings of Comber LOL 1037 and their artistic portrayal of Oliver Cromwell.
Violet Hill LOL 571, based in Monaghan, won the Lodge Membership award for a more than three-fold increase in personnel.
Meanwhile, Ballymaconnelly True Blues LOL 360, who transformed grounds in the vicinity of their Rasharkin hall for use as a garden with allotments, received the Lodge Community Involvement award.
Congratulating all the winners and nominees, Mr Stevenson said: “The purpose of the Community Awards is to formally recognise those unassuming Orangemen and women - the ‘unsung heroes’ - for the sterling work they do in the wider community, often quietly under the radar.
“While victors were declared in each of the designated categories, all of the nominees were winners in their own right and are fully deserving of our admiration.
“I would like to personally congratulate each and every one of them for being standard bearers for the Institution as well as in their own communities.”
Dr David Hume, Orange Order Director of Services, said that there had been an increase this year in nominations and the calibre of nominations was very high and encouraging.
He said: “The aim of the awards is to recognise and reward excellence, and we
are delighted to have had such a fantastic venue as Theatre at the Mill.”
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