Gallery: Apprentice Boys in Enniskillen

There was a Crimson tide in the Fermanagh lakelands yesterday as the Apprentice Boys of Derry made a welcome return after a 10-year absence.

Upwards of 5,000 members, accompanied by 60 bands, took part in the annual Easter demonstration through the historic town of Enniskillen.

Annual Apprentice boys parade in Enniskillen.' The head of the parade makes its way past the Townhall

Annual Apprentice boys parade in Enniskillen.' The head of the parade makes its way past the Townhall

Thousands more turned out in support in what was the last garrison town to fall before the famous Siege of Derry in 1689.

The parade was organised by the South West Ulster Amalgamated Committee and the Parades Commission had classed the event as “sensitive”.

Following a religious service in the Hollyhill car park, the parade set off across the town around 12.45pm.

ABOD members on parade included many who travelled from all over Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland.

Many of the bands and marchers had paraded in their own districts before boarding buses for Fermanagh.

Tommy Cheevers of the ABOD said there was a “very warm welcome” for their members in Enniskillen.

“It was a very successful day with surprisingly big crowds turning out. It was bitterly cold but the atmosphere and reception was very warm indeed.

“There are a good number of members in Fermanagh where they come from both sides of the border including Cavan and Monaghan.

“They are all one committee and they work together, and then you had all the visitors from across Northern Ireland and Scotland,” he said.

Mr Cheevers said the policy of rotating a single Easter parade each year was proving extremely popular with both members and supporters.

“Instead of holding a number of parades, a number of years ago the leadership decided they would hold one parade on Easter Monday, so it moves around the Province.”

The Scottish and English ABOD committees are included in the rota and also take turns at selecting their favourite Ulster venues for the annual event.

“There are maybe areas in Fermanagh and Tyrone where people feel isolated, and here was an opportunity for them to come along and witness a real spectacle.

“The bands were brilliant and the cold didn’t deter them in any way – it was very positive from that point of view.

“It was great to see the odd pipe band and silver band there too, which we don’t often see in Belfast.

“They have kind of died out in the city so it’s good that the Apprentice Boys still have them participating in their parades.”

Mr Cheevers added: “Our next big parade will be in Londonderry in August. Before that all the Scottish clubs, there are about 45 of them, have their big parade in May in Perth.

“Liverpool has one in June, but the big one is in August. The August parade is the biggest in Northern Ireland bar none – even bigger than the Belfast Twelfth.

“We will have roughly about 170-180 bands up there so it’s definitely the highlight of the year.”