The Orange Order has promoted the Twelfth as a major tourist attraction for Americans.
A delegation from the Order has just returned from a four day trip to New York, organised in conjunction with British and Irish authorities, the Ulster Scots Agency, the Ulster Scots Community Network and Tourism Ireland.
The delegation consisted of Drew Nelson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Mervyn Bishop, Grand Treasurer, David Scott, Education Officer, Dr. Jonathan Mattison, Project Officer, and Charlie McAdam, County Grand Secretary of Cavan. They were accompanied by George Patton, Chief Executive of the Ulster Scots Agency and William Humphrey, Chief executive of the Ulster Scots Community Network, who are both Orangemen.
Drew Nelson said:
“A huge amount of work has been done to develop the cultural aspects of the Twelfth and make it one of the major tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. We believe there is massive potential in the United States to encourage people to visit Northern Ireland around the time of the Twelfth.
“We discovered at the Smithsonian Festival in Washington in 2007 that there is a strong interest in the Orange Order and literally tens of millions of Americans can trace their roots back to Ulster Protestant emigrants.
“We have built a strong relationship with the tourist authorities and this was an opportunity to build on that and help bring more people into our country as tourists. They can enjoy the Twelfth and visit many of the historical sites in Northern Ireland as well as visiting the excellent Battle of the Boyne site in the Irish Republic.
“Our aim was to increase the number of tourists who visit Northern Ireland and that can only be a good thing for the economy.”
The delegation also held discussion with potential philanthropic funders, who may consider helping the Institution develop its plans for an interpretive and education centre at its headquarters in Schomberg House, Belfast.
David Scott, Education Officer, said:
“We have ambitious plans for an interpretive and education centre. Its role will be to tell the story of the Order and promote greater understanding of the Institution throughout the entire community.
“We have regular visitors from all sections of the community who are really interested in our history and love to see the artefacts and documents that we keep at Schomberg House.
We can develop that further and the archives we keep would be of tremendous interest to genealogists tracing their family roots.
The Orange Order delegation also visited Scots-Irish historical sites and met tourism chiefs.
There are currently two Orange lodges meeting in New York, one in the Bronx and the other in Manhattan and meetings were held with members of both lodges. They reported a recent resurgence in interest in the Orange Order in the United States. Two new lodges have been formed in the past couple of years, in New York and North Carolina.
Grand Secretary Drew Nelson said;
“I was delighted by the enthusiasm and ability of the members we met in New York and hope that the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland will be able to offer practical support to them as they continue to expand.”