Around 100,000 people will gather in the quaint hamlet of Scarva for the annual King William versus King James Sham Fight on Thursday, July 13, when the population of the usually tranquil village will swell from its usual 300.
District Black Chapters from neighbouring parts of Counties Armagh and Down will be taking part in the ceremonies – Portadown is the largest contingent, with others from Tandragee, Newry, Markethill, Banbridge, Rathfriland and Lower Iveagh.
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 event and staging the Sham Fight which takes place in the early afternoon to a packed crowd in the Scarva Demesne.
It’s a two-horse contest, with the mounts of King William and King James in action, but no bets are ever offered!
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 start. It will be led by the district officers. 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 9.30 followed by enough trains to take Sir Knights and supporters the short journey to the village. The main parade in Scarva starts at 11.15, 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 14.45, and the first of the trains will return to town. The last train back to town will be at 17.15 and the parade back to Carleton Street will be at 18.00 hours.
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.