Monday’s Sham Fight extravaganza at Scarva is set to be the biggest ever.
The mock battle, plus parade by 5,000 members from 95 preceptories of the Royal Black Institution, is the largest single cultural event in Northern Ireland with more than 100,000 people again expected to throng the Co Down village.
Royal Black districts and preceptories which do not normally attend will take part this year, among them Strabane Royal Black District Chapter, which celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Eighty preceptories from Portadown, Tandragee, Newry, Markethill, Banbridge, Rathfriland, Mourne and Lower Iveagh districts will all be headed by top-quality flute, accordion, silver and pipe bands, including several from Scotland.
Newcomers to the parade will be preceptories from Belfast, Coagh, Sixmilecross, Ballyhalbert, Comber, Hillhall, Enniskillen, Carrickfergus, Garvagh, Glasgow and Donegal. The parade leaves Gilford Road at 11.15am.
The mock battle between ‘King William’ and ‘King James’ and parade through picturesque Scarva is firmly established as a major tourist attraction.
This year, the main invited guests will be senior representatives of the Presbyterian Church, Church of Ireland and Methodist Church.
The Sham Fight is responsibility of Scarva Royal Black Preceptory 1000, whose 50 members work painstakingly to ensure everything goes according to plan.
‘King William’ is played by John Adair, who has been in the role for 20 years, and ‘King James’ by Colin Cairns, who has amassed 25 years’ experience portraying the defeated monarch.
Twenty ‘soldiers’ and four horses are set to take part in the popular re-enactment.
In Scarvagh Demesne, where the fight is staged, is home to a chestnut tree where King William tied his horse on the way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and where his troops rested.
The Royal Black Institution’s Sovereign Grand Master Millar Farr will welcome guests.
Platform proceedings in front of Scarvagh House will include passing of resolutions reaffirming the Royal Black Institution’s commitment to uphold the Protestant Reformed faith and pledging loyalty to the Queen and the British monarchy.