All the best from furthest west as beacons glow on Queen’s birthday

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The Queen is to carry out a short tour of the UK to celebrate her 90th birthday on April 21, though Buckingham Palace has yet to announce the dates and details of her itinerary.

Her Majesty is said to be planning a walkabout tour of Windsor for her actual birthday, after which she’ll light a birthday beacon at Windsor Castle, the first of over 560 beacons that will officially mark the beginning of the celebrations.

So far, six beacons are set to be lit in Northern Ireland, with some lofty lighting ceremonies by members of the Army Cadet Force on Ben Nevis in Scotland, Snowdon in Wales, Scafell Pike in England and on our own Slieve Donard in the Mournes.

There will also be beacons in Bermuda, the Ascension Islands, and Tristan da Cunha and South Georgia in the South Atlantic.

When Royal Pageant Master Bruno Peek recently updated the burgeoning list of festive celebrations here and all around Britain he welcomed Enniskillen’s birthday event in Co Fermanagh as “the most westerly beacon in the United Kingdom”.

Those attending from nearby Belleek will be able to boast of being Her Majesty’s most westerly birthday guests!

After Fermanagh Lord Lieutenant Viscount Brookeborough formally lights the Enniskillen beacon, two additional beams of light will pierce the night sky and intersect hundreds of feet above the island town.

This ‘crossing of lights’ symbolises the Queen’s historic visit to St.Macartin’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in 2012 for a service of thanksgiving to mark her Diamond Jubilee. Following her attendance at the service, the Queen crossed the street to St.Michael’s Roman Catholic Church, where she met representatives of the community. Acclaimed Northern Ireland artist Hector McDonnell was commissioned by Canon O’Reilly of St. Michael’s to paint the historic moment of the Queen’s visit to the two churches. The canvas went on public display at Fermanagh County Museum in 2013.

When the flames and crossed lights pierce the night sky this April, many local people will recall the first of Her Majesty’s three visits to County Fermanagh as a young Princess on the 20th March 1946.

I’ve been sent some old photographs courtesy of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Museum Services which vividly evoke that visit.

The Princess travelled by car through Ballygawley, Augher, Clogher, Fivemiletown, Brookeborough, Maguiresbirdge and Lisbellaw to visit Enniskillen Town Hall and the R.U.C Depot.

Local newspapers later described the thousands of well-wishers who crowded the streets of the island town with lines of school children waving flags.

At the R.U.C. Depot a guard of honour of 96 men, four sergeants, two head-constables and two officers stood to attention.

When the Princess arrived on the parade ground she was greeted by the Royal Salute from the band of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The Princess was received by the Inspector General, Sir Richard Pim. She inspected the guard and watched what the Impartial Reporter described as “a most impressive ceremonial march past” and then she took the salute.

While the R.U.C. Band played the Mountains of Mourne, the guard of honour “marched past in slow and in perfect alignment” recounted the Impartial Reporter.

“The guard came back repassing the saluting base in columns of fours in quick time,” the report continued, and the Princess “admired the fine physique and smart bearing of the men, most of whom were six feet in height and over, a few reaching six feet four inches.”

She then saw a special exhibition about the work of the police in the area, about which there’ll be more on this page in the near future. According to the article the Royal party “was greatly interested and expressed their appreciation and thanks.”

Her next visit to Co Fermanagh was on 14 May 2002, her Golden Jubilee, when she visited Ballinamallard Rascals Play Group and planted an apple tree in the Jubilee Garden at the former Railway Station.

The Duke of Edinburgh visited Fisher Engineering Ltd. and officially opened a footbridge over the Ballinamallard River, constructed by the company in memory of its founder, the late Tommy Fisher.

Her third and most recent visit was on 26 June 2012, to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was a historic day for the town when an Ecumenical service of thanksgiving was held in St. Macartin’s Cathedral and she crossed Enniskillen’s main street to visit St Michael’s to meet community representatives.

With that memorable day in mind, Monsignor Peter O’Reilly of St. Michael’s and Dean Kenneth Hall of St. Macartin’s have extended an open invitation to Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday celebrations to the entire community of Enniskillen and beyond. “The Queen was warmly welcomed by the community of town and county when she came to Enniskillen,” the churchmen said, adding: “We return the honour she did us with our prayer and remembering.”

Organised by local churches and the Enniskillen Rotary Club, there will be a short interdenominational service on 21 April led by the Cathedral choir in St.Macartin’s at 7.30pm. After the service the Cathedral Bell Ringers will ring a special peal of bells as the birthday beacon is lit and then the two beams of light will intersect brightly in the night sky over the island town.