Castle spectacular backdrop for Carrickfergus Somme commemorations

The Royal Irish Regiment Colour party makes its way past Carrickfergus Castle
The Royal Irish Regiment Colour party makes its way past Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle provided a spectacular backdrop for the Somme centenary commemorations in the Co Antrim town.

Three hours of remembrance-themed events began with a parade of military veterans, led by the Band of the Irish Guards and the pipes and drums of the Royal Irish Regiment, from the car park at Scotch Corner along Marine Highway.

The parade was timed to enter the castle grounds at 7.28pm – exactly 12 hours after the troops went ‘over the top’ on July 1, 1916.

The poignant commemoration also featured both military and orchestral music, drama and recitals, as well as the reading of real letters written by soldiers in the trenches.

Internationally acclaimed classical soloist, Aled Jones, led the event with his only performance in Northern Ireland during his current tour.

Four times all-Ireland fiddle champion Tracey McRory, also paid a musical tribute to the fallen soldiers from all across Ireland.

Ahead of the parade reaching the castle, a wreath-laying ceremony took place at the war memorial where the salute was taken by Her Majesty The Queen’s Lord Lieutenant, Joan Christie.

Speaking ahead of the event, mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Audrey Wales, said: “This event is a fitting way to mark the service and sacrifice of so many, both from across the borough and beyond, who went ‘over the top’ on that first day – and subsequent months – of the bloody Battle of the Somme. I hope everyone will enjoy the spectacle but also pause with us to recall the bravery and sacrifice of these soldiers who gave so much 100 years ago.”

The event concluded with the lighting of the Co Antrim war memorial at nearby Knockagh.