Bumper crowds in Scarva as predictable as outcome of Sham Fight

King James on his way to the battle site at Scarva Demesne
King James on his way to the battle site at Scarva Demesne

You could be forgiven for thinking the whole of Northern Ireland had converged on Scarva for the Black parade and Sham Fight.

Year after year, crowds exceeding 100,000 have become as predictable as the outcome of the famous mock battle.

Yesterday was no exception and, despite the wet conditions, the Co Down village became a swarming mass of people creating their own colourful spectacle in addition to the main pageantry.

Every vantage point along the processional route had been occupied well ahead of the parade forming up - with the first Royal Black Preceptory colour party having to clear a path through the crowds packing the narrow road into the sprawling Scarvagh Demesne estate.

Large family groups were evident throughout the village. Four generations of McGeown’s from Laurelvale were keeping up a long family tradition with their day out in Scarva. Jenson, approaching his second birthday, was joined by mum Jennifer, grandmother Joanne and great-grandmother Esther.

Esther’s father David McGeown was a member of the Royal Black Institution and she has been coming to the Sham Fight for upwards of seven decades.

“I was probably coming here as a child even before that, but I can’t remember missing a Scarva day for about 65 years. I still love today just as I always did. The village has changed a bit over the years but the Black parade and the atmosphere is a great tradition that hasn’t changed much at all,” Esther said.

One of the many first-time visitors was East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson. He said: “It’s a fantastic day and a really great crowd and atmosphere. Even the weather isn’t dampening spirits.”