THE 323rd commemoration of the ending of the Siege of Derry took place in Londonderry on Saturday against a backdrop of beautiful sunshine.
A record number of 140 bands took part in the parade which celebrates the Relief of Derry in 1689 after the 105-day siege, the longest in British history, that claimed thousands of lives within the ancient walls of the city. Bands from all six counties of Northern Ireland were in attendance.
To match the largest amount of musicians on parade were approximately 15,000 members of the loyal order and a matching number of spectators – numbers which the leadership of the Apprentice Boys say make the weekend’s parade the largest in living memory.
Temperatures in the city soared to a sweltering 22 degrees at the height of the parade, but this did not wilt the spirits of those members on parade clad in suits, ties and collarettes nor indeed the spirits of band members in heavy uniforms and carrying instruments.
Governor General of the Apprentice Boys Jim Brownlee said: “This is the largest parade we hold each year. It was the 323rd anniversary of the Relief of Londonderry, but it is actually much more than that.
“It is the focal point of the glorious revolution of the 17th century and in that was gained the civil and religious freedoms we enjoy to this day. Our detractors who say we shouldn’t parade should remember that the freedoms they enjoy today came as a consequence of the siege and of the relief of this city.”
Spectators thronged to all available viewpoints to watch the parade from Irish Street in the Waterside right down to each side of Craigavon Bridge and into the heart of the city at The Diamond and at Society Street, the home of the organisation’s headquarters, the Memorial Hall.
William Cunningham, a member of the No Surrender Club, Omagh branch, described his visit to the city as “unbelievable”.
He said: “Walking around Derry’s Walls was fantastic, there wasn’t a bit of sectarianism as I have witnessed many times in the past. Then walking back over Craigavon Bridge with people cheering and clapping was brilliant. This is the way it should be every year.”
Full coverage in Monday’s News Letter