Keep up with Armagh i

Traditional ‘Sham Fight’ celebrations to take place in Scarva

'It’s a day of historical significance, and the performers do all in their power to deliver an exciting performance that can be enjoyed by everyone'

In period costume and set for the traditional re-enactment of scenes from the Battle of the Boyne. Photo: Graham Baalham-Curry

One of the major events in the Northern Ireland parading calendar, the Sham Fight at Scarva, will take place on Saturday, July 13.

Tens of thousands of visitors will converge on the charming Co Down village for the traditional celebrations.

There will be nine visiting preceptories, including visitors from Australia and New Zealand, who will join the parade of 4,000 members of the Royal Black Institution and around 85 bands.

Scarva is renowned for hosting the biggest one-day event, at a single location, anywhere in Northern Ireland.

The mock battle between rival monarchs William and James and the large-scale procession through Scarva – organised by Sir Knight Alfred Buller Memorial RBP 1000 – is firmly established as a unique cultural festival.

RBP 1000 will lead the procession, accompanied by Waringsford Pipe Band.

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson said: “The procession and Sham Fight at Scarva hold a special place in the parading calendar, and it is a great day out for all the family.

“As a Christian-based institution, the service of public worship is of the utmost importance to our members. The day is rooted in tradition, with preceptories carrying their wonderful banners portraying biblical scenes, and is a unique spectacle of music and pageantry.”

Rev Anderson praised the team of organisers “for their dedication, commitment and professionalism in maintaining the only re-enactment of its kind on these islands”.

The behind-the-scenes work has been ongoing for many months, but it’s a labour of love for the organising committee.

John Adair, who is famous for his portrayal of King William III, said: “The 13th at Scarva wouldn’t be the same without the Sham Fight. It’s the last remaining Sham Fight in Europe, to the best of my knowledge. There used to be one in Bandon, Cork, but it has gone by the wayside.

“It’s a day of historical significance, and the performers do all in their power to deliver an exciting performance that can be enjoyed by everyone.” He is looking forward to the “terrific response” from the spectators as Scarvagh Demesne comes alive to the dramatic re-enactment of scenes from the Battle of the Boyne.

Colin Cairns will once again take on the role of King James, as performers in period costume line up to portray troops of the Williamite and Jacobite armies. As the Williamites, in red and white, and the Jacobite group, in green and white, come face to face, the demesne will echo to the sound of blank shots from musket fire and the clash of swords as the entertaining spectacle plays out.

Asked if going ‘into battle’ was a stressful experience, John laughed as he replied: “There’s a fear you mightn’t win – the stress of that would be hard to live with!”

The Sham Fight will take place after a grand parade of up to 4,000 members of the Royal Black, and featuring a variety of bands, comprising flute, accordion, pipe, brass, and silver.

Royal Black preceptories from Portadown, Markethill, Tandragee, Banbridge, Newry, Rathfriland, Mourne and Lower Iveagh (Dromore) will take part. The mile-long procession will stream through the village’s spectator-filled main street to Scarvagh House, passing the centuries-old oak and chestnut trees in the demesne.

Legend has it that King William tied his horse to one of the Spanish chestnut trees as he spent the night encamped at Scarva in June 1690 before moving on to the Boyne.

The procession will leave the assembly field on Gilford Road at 11.15am and make its way to the demesne.

The Sham Fight is due to start at 1.30pm, with the religious service scheduled for 2pm.

Platform proceedings will include an address by the Sovereign Grand Master and address the 2024 Resolutions, which are: “Faith, Loyalty and Constitution”.

The traditional parade streams through Scarvagh Demesne. Photo: Graham Baalham-Curry

Also on July 13, Royal Black Institution members from Lurgan will take part in their traditional parade in Bangor.

Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson said it was a tradition that members of Lurgan RBDC No 2 travelled to Bangor for their annual parade.

“The Bangor parade complements the institution’s July 13 celebrations at Scarva and is a day for all the family to enjoy,” he said.

Sir Knight Andrew Hamill, Worshipful District Master of Lurgan District No 2, has been a member of RBP 353 for around 20 years. He said a combination of tradition and a family day out made the Bangor event very successful over the years.

“We are more than happy to be returning to Bangor this year. We always receive a warm welcome, and we are expecting a strong turnout of spectators to add to the atmosphere of the day,” he said.

Preceptories and bands traditionally gather at Brownlow House in Lurgan on the morning of the Thirteenth, and a religious service is held, before a parade of the town.

The parade leaves Brownlow House at 9.15am; the return parade in Lurgan is scheduled for 6.15pm.

A wreath is laid at the War Memorial and then members board buses for Bangor.

In Bangor, the parade will proceed from Castle Park Avenue at 11.45am, making its way through the resort along Dufferin Avenue, Gray’s Hill, Queen’s Parade, Quay Street, Main Street and Hamilton Road.

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Most read today

More in Tandragee