DCSIMG

Streets filled with period costume and vintage cars as Larne remembers gun-running

Pacemaker Press 26/4/2014 
The  parade in Larne to commemorate the Ulster Volunteer Force gun-running 100 years ago.  In 1914 loyalists imported guns and ammunition from Germany into the County Antrim port to prepare to resist Home Rule for Ireland.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 26/4/2014 The parade in Larne to commemorate the Ulster Volunteer Force gun-running 100 years ago. In 1914 loyalists imported guns and ammunition from Germany into the County Antrim port to prepare to resist Home Rule for Ireland. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A major parade to mark 100 years since the Larne gun-running has been hailed a success by the town’s mayor.

She said today’s event, which saw scores of bands parade through the town alongside marchers in historic dress, was one of the biggest she had witnessed for some time.

Among the many thousands estimated to have been taking part were a contingent of Orangemen and bands from as far away as Glasgow and Liverpool, whilst a raft of vintage vehicles were also on display.

It was the latest in a number of events in the past week to mark the centenary, and councillor Maureen Morrow, mayor of the borough, said: “The street was standing still - Main Street. It took an hour for the parade to pass, and they were standing two and three deep down the street.

“There were a lot of people who came along with the bands by bus from Belfast as well; they weren’t all local.

“It’s the biggest event I’ve seen in a long time. It was a great family day out; everyone was kind of good-humoured.”

As well as men with replica weapons from the era, there were also women dressed in 1914 nurses uniforms.

In addition, mayor Morrow said some were bearing wooden rifles similar to the kind used by some original UVF members for drilling - before the audacious gun-smuggling exercise had delivered real weapons into their hands.

The event started shortly before noon at Church Road, before proceeding through the town to Sandy Bay, where speeches were delivered at around 1pm.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson, representing East Antrim, spoke to the crowd, and so too did Mark Cosgrove, Newtownabbey UUP councillor and party treasurer.

He estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 had taken part in the event, which he likened to the huge Ulster Covenant commemorations in Belfast in 2012.

The day was organised by a group called the Operation Lion 2014 Centenary Committee, derived from the codename for the operation which had seen the SS Clyde Valley deliver its cargo of weapons to the unionist volunteers in the town.

Councillor Cosgrove told the News Letter afterwards: “I basically spoke about the significance of what our forefathers had done...

“I think what that did was show the authorities at the time, specifically the British government, how serious unionism in Ulster was in opposing the Home Rule Bill. I think it was a very fundamental change.

“Half-a-million people signed the covenant. But if you’re then going on to arm well over 100,000 people, it just changes the dynamics.”

However, he also urged the crowd to sign up to vote, reminding them that “the only way we maintain the union nowadays is through the ballot box.”

Loyalist historian Quincey Dougan also spoke, as did the PUP’s Billy Hutchinson, and a prayer was said and the national anthem played before the parade began its return route.

There were no reports of any trouble at the event, which had drawn to a close by roughly 3.30pm.

There had also been a commemorative parade by Junior Orange Lodge members on Tuesday, and Larne District LOL No1 had staged a march through the town on Thursday.

 

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