Sun shines on Apprentice Boys celebrations in Londonderry

Apprentice Boys in their thousands took part in this year’s Relief of Derry celebration on Saturday.

Two newly formed clubs took part for the first time – one from Kent in the south of England and the other, a new Browning Club from Dundonald.

Standard bearers lead the annual Apprentice Boys of Derry parade Picture Martin McKeown

Standard bearers lead the annual Apprentice Boys of Derry parade Picture Martin McKeown

Both were officially presented with their new Charter in the past year and as a result their members can now parade as branch clubs in their own right rather than walking with other branches.

This year 145 bands were engaged to take part, providing the music for the 250 Apprentice Clubs which put on an amazing display of colour and pageantry.

Last week there were fears that the day would be a washout due to Hurricane Bertha which was heading across the Atlantic Ocean, but in the end the day was blessed with bright sunshine, much to the relief of all.

The general secretary of the Apprentice Boys, Billy Moore, had appealed for traders to remain open during the celebrations and many of the cafes and public houses did so, along with a number of retail outlets. The latter did a roaring trade as spectators and Apprentice Boys stopped in for refreshments and to spend time out of the warm summer sun.

One enterprising church on Carlisle Road even set up a marquee and served teas to spectators.

According to the general secretary up to 8,000 members of the Association paraded, marking the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Association of Apprentice Boys Clubs. Dotted throughout the parade were Apprentices in period costume, representing some of the characters that would have been a daily part of Siege life, all of which added to the colour and spectacle of the anniversary.

As is traditional, prior to the main parade at 12.30pm, the Crimson Players staged their ‘Relief of Derry’ pageant at Carlisle Square at 12pm, which featured some pyrotechnics in the form of cannon fire and muskets being discharged to repel the Jacobite forces and send messages to the crew on board the Mountjoy and Phoenix, moored in the River Foyle. Cheers greeted the breaking of the boom, the arrival of the Mountjoy and Phoenix and the end of the 105-day siege.

The festivities got under way at 9.30am with the ABOD Parent Clubs parading in the town. At 10am a floral tribute was left at the War Memorial, and the Apprentices attended a religious service at St Columb’s Cathedral at 10.30am.

After the pageant Apprentice Boys and bands streamed across the Craigavon Bridge for the traditional parade which took the Apprentices and the bands around the walls and city centre. After a well-earned break, the return parades formed up at 5pm.

The policing operation for the day, while visible, was low-key and there were no reports of any incidents up to and including the late afternoon.

• In Monday’s News Letter, four pages of pictures and coverage