Spencer Beattie has been elected as the new County Grand Master of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.
The 68-year-old father-of-three succeeds George Chittick, who stepped down as the most senior Orangeman in the capital city.
Mr Beattie said it was a “truly humbling experience” to assume the role, and insisted he was looking forward to the challenge of maintaining and enhancing the “growing acceptance and normalisation” of the Institution’s activities and outreach in Belfast.
He said: “It is an enormous honour and privilege to have been elected as the County Grand Master of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast.
“I am fully aware of the responsibility that has been bestowed upon me but will do my utmost to serve the interests of our membership across the city; and in so doing promote the Christian values of the Institution, and its rich cultural heritage and traditions.”
Mr Beattie, a former Deputy County Grand Master, paid tribute to his predecessor.
“I wish to pay fulsome tribute to the dedicated service and exemplary leadership of George Chittick over the past five years. George is a gifted raconteur, whose knowledge and insight of Orangeism is unparalleled. He always acted in the county’s best interests and will continue to be held in the highest of esteem by Belfast brethren.”
Looking ahead, the incoming Grand Master maintained the Loyal Orders have an important role to play in Belfast’s civic life.
“Orangeism is one of the many components, and an integral part of, the cultural tapestry of our capital city. Belfast County Grand Lodge, and its members, as citizens, want to play a full and active part in everyday city life. In particular, along with our partners, we look forward to building on the growing progress, and working together, to ensure the Twelfth of July and Orangefest becomes an enjoyable event for all those who live in and visit our great city.”
Mr Beattie, who played a leading role in resolving the Crumlin Road impasse, said he also aspired to a day in the future when all Orange parades were unopposed in Belfast.
“We remain committed to achieving fair and equitable parading legislation and seek to only walk on shared arterial routes in all of our public processions. Previous determinations by the Parades Commission have served to damage community relations and foster division.”
He added: “We believe a fairer regulatory system would be supported by the overwhelming number of people from all communities and would go some way to aiding mutual tolerance and respect for all traditions, for the betterment of all in our city.”
Mr Beattie, a member of Tyndale LOL 1869, is a retired general manager. The grandfather-of-six and great-grandfather-of-two is an avid Glasgow Rangers supporter. He also follows the English cricket team and boasts a collection of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. He has a lifelong interest in model railways, with a large personal collection of trains and rolling stock.
Meanwhile, William Hughes, from Sandy Row District, will assume the position of Deputy County Grand Master, replacing Mr Beattie in the role.
Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Perry Reid and Samuel Calvin have been elected as new County Grand Masters in Tyrone and Londonderry respectively.