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Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK

Two centuries of tradition

The church where the march begins, and The Rev John Pickering

By BBC Northern Ireland's Religious Affairs Correspondent, Noreen Erskine

Drumcree is Portadown's oldest church. It is an ancient Christian site that has been used by both catholic and protestant traditions. The existing church was built 150 years ago.

Portadown Orangemen have been marching to a service at Drumcree on the Sunday before July 12 for 191 years.

The Reverend John Pickering, Rector of Drumcree Parish Church explains: "In the early days of this last century the various trade guilds used to go to church on a certain day together. Then the Orange Order, when they formed, decided to do the same thing. They came out to Drumcree church on every Sunday before July 12 every year.

"The reason they've been coming out to Drumcree is because Drumcree was the parish church. There was no parish church in Portadown then".

About two thirds of the church's parishioners belong to the Orange Order - they are adamant that they will return along Garvaghy Road on Sunday.

Alan Milligan, a local parishioner and Orangeman says: "The Orangemen would say it's tradition they return that way and that's the reason why they want to return that way - because they've done it for so long.

"They also feel if they did return through Corcrain Way, the way they came out, it would only be a matter of time before they would try to stop them coming out of town as well".

The church hall was used as a base by the Orangemen during the stand-offs in 1995 and 1996. The Orangemen's use of the hall during the stand-offs embarrassed many in the Church of Ireland.

Its leaders, however, were powerless to intervene because, unusually, it does not own the hall. Donated by a local benefactor at the turn of the century, it belongs to a group of trustees.

This Sunday's parade to Drumcree will mark yet another page being written in the church's history

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1997-98: Second IRA ceasefire to the Nobel Peace Prize

1995-96: Clinton's visit and the end of the IRA ceasefire

1993-94 The Downing Street Declaration and the IRA ceasefire

1990-92: Start of the talks process

1988-89: Gibraltar killings and release of the Guildford Four

1985-87: The Anglo-Irish Agreement

1981-84: Hunger strikes and the Brighton bomb

1976-80: The violence continues

1972-75: The failure of Sunningdale

1970-72: Internment and Bloody Sunday

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1939-67: Relative calm before the storm

1923-38: The fixing of the Irish border

1921-22: The Irish Free State and civil war

1917-20: The road to partition

1910-16: The 'winning' of Home Rule to the Easter Rebellion

1850-1909: Parnell, Gladstone and the battle for Home Rule

1695-1850: A time of revolution and the Great Famine

1170-1691: From Strongbow to the establishment of Protestant ascendancy