It will be a case of 1690 and all that when 100,000 people gather in the quaint village of Scarva for the annual King William versus King James Sham Fight.
The unique occasion will be next Wednesday, July 13, when the population of the usually tranquil hamlet will swell from its usual 300 to the 100,000 who gather to enjoy the action and the atmosphere.
As ever, no bets will be taken on the outcome – Leicester City may have won the Premiership at 5,000-to-one, but William is Unconquerable!
District Black Chapters from neighbouring parts of Counties Armagh and Down will be taking part in the ceremonies – Portadown being the largest contingent, with others from Tandragee, Newry, Markethill, Banbridge, Rathfriland and Lower Iveagh. Individual preceptories come each year from Mourne, Limavady, Londonderry and Belfast.
There will be 90 preceptories in all, led by 80 first-class bands, with the local Sir Alfred Buller Memorial Scarva RBP 1000 having the responsibility of organising the great event and staging the Sham Fight which takes part in the early afternoon to a packed crowd in the Scarva Demesne.
RBP 1000 traditionally lays a wreath at the village’s war memorial in the morning before the main body of the parade arrives. The Tandragee RBP 1, with the oldest warrant in the Black Institution – which was formed in the mid-19th century – has the honour of leading the Scarva parade.
The Portadown District is the largest with 20 preceptories, Tandragee has 12, Banbridge 11, Markethill 10, Newry 9 and Rathfriland 8.
The Portadown local parade will start, as ever, at Carleton Street, where the roll call will be at 8.45am, for a nine o’ clock ‘Quick March’. It will be led by the district officers – Robert Wallace is the District Master – and after the traditional wreath laying at the War Memorial, it will proceed to Portadown train station at Wilson Street.
The first train will leave for Scarva at 9.30am followed by enough trains to take Blackmen and supporters the short journey to the village. The main parade in Scarva starts at 11.15am, and then it’s off to Scarvagh House for the march-past and the Sham Fight.
Of course, dozens of stalls – food and fun – as well as catering tents will festoon the village, and it’s all the fun of the fair for what has become a major tourist attraction of Northern Ireland.
After the forces of King James have again been scattered, the roll call in the field for the Portadown Sir Knights will be at 2.45pm, and the first of the trains will return to town. The last train back to town will be at 5.15pm and the parade back to Carleton Street will be at 6pm.
Members of the public can purchase return tickets to Scarva at £7 for adults and £5 for children. They will be on sale in the morning as the parade proceeds downtown. RBP officers will be obvious to those wishing to purchase.
Worth a special mention is the fact that RPB 1000 has instigated a new arch in Scarva to add to the general colour of an extremely colourful day, so a good time will be had by all.
The Lurgan ‘Black’ District, incidentally, does no take part in Scarva.
Bangor is their destination – their venue for over half-a-century.