Scarva Sham Fight: Massive crowds expected

Preparing for Scarva's Sham Fight are, from left,  King James (Brian Johnston), Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, William Scott, Grand Registrar of the Institution and King William (John Adair)
Preparing for Scarva's Sham Fight are, from left, King James (Brian Johnston), Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, William Scott, Grand Registrar of the Institution and King William (John Adair)

‘King William’ has never lost a battle at the Sham Fight in Scarva, and there is not expected to be an upset when he meets up with his Jacobite foe in the Co Down village on Tuesday.

The re-enactment of the stirring and historic events at the Boyne on July 1, 1690, attracts massive crowds, with estimated attendance ranging from 80,000 to 100,000.

The Sham Fight, organised by Scarva Royal Black Preceptory 1000, is firmly established as a major event on the Ulster cultural and tourism calendar.

This year funding has been secured from Tourism Northern Ireland, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council and the Ulster-Scots Agency.

The Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Millar Farr, said the Sham Fight event is a truly wonderful family occasion.

“As a Christian-based organisation, the religious service is extremely important to our members. The procession to the field, through tens of thousands of people lining the village streets, is a unique spectacle of music and pageantry. And the actual re-enactment of the famous battle always attracts attention. This is about history coming alive, to be enjoyed by everyone.”

The parade begins at Gilford Road at 11.30am, with 90 Black preceptories taking part, all headed by top quality flute, silver, accordion and pipe bands.

Tandragee Royal Black District Chapter will lead off, followed by Markethill, Newry, Banbridge, Lower Iveagh (Dromore) and Portadown districts, and preceptories from Belfast and counties Antrim, Londonderry and Tyrone.

In the Sham Fight, ‘King William’ is played by John Adair and ‘King James’ by Brian Johnston. Twenty ‘soldiers’ and four horses will take part.

In the spacious Scarvagh demesne is the huge chestnut tree where King William tied his horse on the way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and where his troops rested.

Ireland once had six Sham Fights. One of the most famous was in Bandon, Co Cork, once a Protestant stronghold. However, the Bandon Sham Fight has long disappeared.