Siege Museum tells Apprentice Boys story

Part of the exhibition on display at the museum
Part of the exhibition on display at the museum
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The new Siege Museum and Exhibition is a permanent display of the history of the Siege of Londonderry and of the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, including artefacts, video and interactive media.

The new purpose-built museum and visitor centre, opened in October 2015, looks forward to welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Manager of the museum, history enthusiast and member of the Apprentice Boys for 48 years, Billy Moore, says the centre has become a place of “outreach, good will and developing understanding” of the history of the Great Siege of Derry of 1689.

He said: “There are three floors in the museum and incorpoated are artefacts and relics from this period of time including cannon balls, muskets, swords, and other weaponry from the 17th century.

“Then we have a ten minute audio visual presentation which tells the background and story of the siege. It also brings you up to date with the present day Apprentice Boys of Derry Association, owners of the museum. It gives background into the inception of the organisation and details about the members who went away to fight in the First World War to France and Belgium.

“On the second floor we have an audio visual presentation which documents some of the many traditions of the Apprentice Boys of Derry - we have many parades throughout Northern Ireland, England and Scotland but our two main processions are held annually in Londonderry.

“The first comemorates the shutting of the gates by the 13 young apprentice boys, which commenced the siege on December 7, 1688, and this takes place on the first Saturday of December each year. As part of this tradition we have the ceremonial burning of the effigy of siege traitor Lundy.

“The second and largest of our parades is the Relief of Londonderry celebrations which are held annually on the second Saturday in August.

“Early in the morning the eight local clubs, which are known as parent clubs, assemble on the walls outside the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and we walk the entire circumference. This walk takes place to remember the 10,000 people who perished inside the city. There is then a public service of thanksgiving in St Colum’s Cathedral, which gives thanks for the shutting of the gates in December and then the service of thanksgiving in August is for the relief of the city. A procession then takes place through the streets of the old walled city and back towards the housing estate in the Waterside.

“This is probably the largest loyalist parade in Ireland that commemorates the Relief of Londonderry in 1689. The relief took place when the ships from England sailed up the Foyle, broke the barricades and brought relief to the starving inhabitants inside.”

The museum also has an exhibition of weaponry from the First World War that was used by the 36th Ulster Division and there are also relics on display that have been found in France and Belgium. Billy added: “The Siege Museum is an outreach centre and we hope it contributes to better understanding of our history, traditions and culture and hopefully that diminishes the threat of violence at parades.”

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