An Orange Lodge is celebrating the opening and dedication of a refurbished hall which took years of hard work and determination to complete.
A ceremony held in perfect weather conditions saw a large turn-out of brethren from across the districts join members of Bushside LOL 923 to mark the occasion.
The event not only marked the opening of the hall but also combined the dedication with the presentation of two new chairs and a lectern for the use of senior officers.
The building which has stood since 1912 has undergone an extensive refurbishment with extra facilities added to provide a community hub for local groups and organisations.
Groundworks have also been carried out with the total cost being of the project mainly being met by voluntary donations.
A plaque marking the date of the opening was unveiled by the Lodge’s two longest serving members, Bros Billy McNeill and Robbie Johnston and a ‘refreshed’ plaque in memory of the man the hall is named after – Peter Kerr Smiley, a Unionist MP for North Antrim who was born in Larne and represented the constituency from 1910 until 1922 – was also unveiled.
Chief speaker was Robin Swann, the Ulster Unionist leader and North Antrim MLA, who brought greetings from his own Lodge Ferniskey 115, and then expanded on the life and achievements of Peter Kerr Smiley.
Mr. Swann said all those who had worked hard to get to the standard the hall now commanded had witnessed an asset for the benefit of everyone.
He added that the hall, first opened in 1912, was now an integral part of the community and commended all who had shown great determination and commitment in the years of the rebuilding programme.
Further insight into the history of the hall was delivered by Bro. John McGregor, the W.D.M. of District 23, and by Bro. John Stewart, from the Bushside Lodge.
The W.M. of Bushside, Bro. William Johnston, who has held this position for some 35 years and was praised for his loyal service down the years, acted as chairperson and also added his praise and thanks to all those who had been involved in the project which was first mooted in 2011.
The extended members of the McMullan and Stewart families were given recognition for their contributions to both band and Lodge down the years by Bro Vincent McCurdy in a vote of thanks which was seconded by Bro. Jeremy Stewart.
Bro. McCurdy also paid tribute to the work of the Stewart family particularly the Secretary of the Lodge, Hugh Stewart, who had project managed the re-building programme.
The Rev. Noel McLean, minister of Kilraughts Presbyterian Church, read portions of scriptures as well as offering prayers.
He also dedicated the chairs and lectern which were donated by the late McMullan Brothers, John, Dan, James and Hugh and by their four late sisters, Nancy, Jane, Betty and Margaret, for the use of the WM and DWM.
The praise was led by Bushside Accordion Band who were subsequently joined by their neighbours The Park band on a short parade before refreshments were served in the hall.
The hall which accommodates both Lodge and Apprentice Boys members is also a base for a Credit Union and Bro. Stewart is anxious that the new facilities will appeal to the wider community.
“We want to see the building used and would encourage those organising birthdays, weddings, or cultural functions to contact us,” he said.