Trouble-free Apprentice Boys parade ‘biggest in many years’

The Apprentice Boys
The Apprentice Boys

The turnout for this year’s ‘Shutting of the Gates’ ceremony by the Apprentice Boys may have been a record-breaker.

That is according to one member taking part, who hailed the fact the annual tradition had passed off without any trouble on Saturday.

Councillor Gary Middleton, the city’s DUP deputy mayor, had been out on the march along with thousands of others during the day.

He said: “It was a very good day – a very successful day. Obviously a cold one, but there were huge, I think record-breaking, turnouts.

“Actually the dean of St Columb’s, when he addressed the congregation, said it was a record turnout in the cathedral.

“It was standing room only.”

On Saturday night Chief Inspector Tony Callaghan paid tribute “to all those involved in the planning and organisation” of the Lundy commemoration parade.

“This includes the Apprentice Boys of Derry, marshals, local residents, the business community and the city centre management team.

“Building on the respect and trust that has developed over recent years, this year’s event has been a story of continuing success and positivity for Derry,” he said.

“While we have had a substantial policing operation we endeavoured to ensure the city could operate as normally as possible. There were no arrests associated with today’s event.”

Governor of the Apprentice Boys Association, Jim Brownlee, said: “The event was excellent. The management of the parade was first class in terms of timing, duration, moving 30-odd bands around a very small space in the city centre and doing it very well.

“There were 31 bands and I would reckon 1,000 people marching in the bands and around 1,500 Apprentice Boys. It was certainly the most we have had for many years.”

He said the event was “about the shutting of the gate and the most historic event in the city’s history”.

“There was Christmas spirit in terms of people’s attitudes,” he added.

“Traders in the town were not affected. Hotels throughout the city would have done well with our people staying for the event.

“It is important that historical and cultural events such as this go off as well as they did on Saturday.

“It is about culture and not about politics. It is about people expressing their culture, celebrating their culture and history and commemorating it in a peaceful and indeed dignified manner.

“For any other organisation to try and bring as many people into the street, I would challenge them to do it as efficiently as was done yesterday by the Apprentice Boys.”

Mr Brownlee said membership of the Apprentice Boys Association is “still increasing” adding they have “about 9,000 members in our ranks”.

Gregory Campbell, DUP MP for East Londonderry, said that many of the bandsmen on the march were clad in Father Christmas outfits, and that they were “entering into the spirit of the time of year”.