The centenary of the planting of ‘The Peace Tree’ in Woodvale Park, Belfast in 1919 will today be marked with an evening of special events.
The commemorations have been organised by Sons of Ulster Royal Black Preceptory No 375, in association with West Belfast Orange Hall Management Committee.
The evening will commence with the unveiling of memorial tablets on the outside wall of the Orange hall, Shankill Road, at 7.30pm. The gathering will be addressed by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, chair of the Northern Ireland First World War Centenary Committee.
Participating groups will then form up for a parade to Woodvale Park for an act of remembrance and wreath-laying at the Peace Tree and the First World War Memorial before parading back to the Orange hall where a cultural evening will take place.
Participants will include a local Somme Association, an RIR Old Comrades’ Association, a re-enactment group, local Sea, Army and Air Cadets plus Scouts, Guides and Boys’ Brigade companies. The parade will include the Ulster Volunteers 1912 Regimental Flute Band and the Millar Memorial Flute Band.
The tree at Woodvale was one of seven Memorial Oaks planted in Belfast parks on August 9 1919, but it is the only one the location of which is known today.
The trees were just one part of major festivities in Belfast on August 8-9 1919 celebrating the peace treaty which ended the Great War. Other events then included a Victory March of 36,000 men and women past city hall and the presentation of 60,000 medals to children in the city.
Sam Coulter, registrar of RBP 375, explained that what started as an event for his preceptory has grown as more groups heard about it and asked to become involved.
“I wish to thank all who have supported our centenary commemoration and in particular Sandy Close who has made and donated the memorial tablets being attached to the side of the Orange hall. Everyone is welcome to join us this evening to support this commemoration,” he said.
“We are interested to know if any other the memorial oak trees have survived and can be identified at the other parks where they were planted – Victoria Park, Botanic Gardens, Ormeau Park, Alexandra Park, Dunville Park and Falls Park.”
Fundraising in support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will also take place during this evening’s events.
The first donation was a contribution of £200 from No 6 Royal Black District Chapter.
William Humphrey MLA, chair of the West Belfast Orange Hall Management Committee, added his appreciation to all supporting the centenary event.
“This will be one of the final events in Belfast marking the centenary of the First World War,” he said. “It is fitting that we finish with the commemoration of the peace celebrations and that we take pride in the Peace Tree at Woodvale Park which is a living legacy of those momentous events 100 years ago.”
The Woodvale Park ‘Peace Tree’ was voted as Northern Ireland’s ‘Tree of the Year’ in 2015 in a competition run by the Woodland Trust.