Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry
The Apprentice Boys of Derry hold two main parades during the year. One parade is held in December, commemorating the closing of the gates by the original Apprentice Boys on 7th December 1688. The December event is popularly known as Lundy's Day, because an effigy of Lundy is set on fire at dusk. Another parade is held in August, celebrating the relief of the city at the end of the siege, on 1st August 1689. Because of the change in the calendar in 1752, the anniversaries have moved by eleven days to 18th December and 12th August. The parades are now held on Saturdays close to these anniversary dates, and the pictures on this page were taken during the parade held on Saturday 14th August 1999.
The first parade started shortly after 9am, when the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys and the parent clubs walked around the historic walls of Londonderry. As usual, the Black Skull flute band from Glasgow led the parade and afterwards the band played a selection of tunes in Society Street, near the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall. A ruling by the Parades Commission meant that only a single band took part in this section of the parade.
The Apprentice Boys have gone to considerable lengths in recent years to try to present the traditions of the siege in a more inclusive way. In August 1998, the Apprentice Boys organised a one week festival which was generously sponsored by the Nationalist-controlled Derry City Council. Events during that festival included a cross-community art competition for schools, traditional music, drama and a fancy dress parade. This year, the Crimson Players organised a re-enactment of part of the story of the siege. At times the acting left a little to be desired, but the period costumes helped to convey something of the difficulties and dangers of the famous siege.
Just before 11am, the Apprentice Boys had a more solemn duty to perform. The General Committee and the parent clubs walked to the War Memorial at the centre of the city to lay several wreaths, and to stand for a minute in silence, remembering those who died in the two World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945).
Following the wreath laying ceremony, a service was held at St. Columb's Cathedral, which was built between 1628 and 1633. It is traditional to fly a crimson flag from the cathedral during the two main siege anniversaries. While waiting for the main parade to start, the spectators were able to listen to some excellent music from the William King memorial band, which had come up from the Fountain area to play beside the Apprentice Boys' hall. The main parade starts at about lunchtime, and is one of the largest in Northern Ireland, with up to 10,000 Apprentice Boys and 130 bands taking part.
The Apprentice Boys, band members, stewards, police and spectators at the parade all played their part in ensuring that this very large event was peaceful and well-organised. Unfortunately, there was some serious violence during the afternoon in a Nationalist part of the city, following a protest march organised by the Bogside Residents Group.
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