Scarva Sham Fight to draw record numbers

Scarva Sham Fight to draw record numbers

John Adair, as King William, and Colin Cairns, as King James, with their assembled forces at a previous re-enactment.

Staff reporter

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Sunday 3 July 2022 22:00

Wednesday, July 13, marks the return of the Scarva Sham Fight - after an absence of two years - and the organisers are expecting a record attendance.

The Royal Black Institution anticipates the traditional ‘Thirteen celebrations will attract around 100,000 visitors, even more if the weather plays its part. 

The quaint Co Down village is renowned for hosting the biggest one-day event, at a single location, anywhere in Northern Ireland. 

The mock battle between King William and King James and the large-scale procession through Scarva - hosted by Sir Knight Alfred Buller Memorial RBP 1000 - is firmly established as a unique cultural event in Northern Ireland.

Rev William Anderson, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, said: “The procession and Sham Fight at Scarva hold a special place in the parading calendar, and I believe people will want to mark this summer as a time to enjoy the freedom from the restrictions brought about due to the pandemic.

“The Sham Fight Is a truly wonderful family occasion, and we are anticipating a fantastic turnout.

“As a Christian-based organisation, the religious service is extremely important to our members. The procession to the field, through thousands of people lining the village streets, is a unique spectacle of music and pageantry.”

Rev Anderson commended the organising committee - from Scarva’s RBP 1000 - “for their dedication, commitment and professionalism in maintaining the only re-enactment of its kind on these islands”.

Sandy Heak, chairman of the Sham Fight Committee, said the group had been laying the groundwork for the event for many months, but did not mind putting in the hours: “Our aim is to plan an amazing event, one that will be really memorable for the visitors from near and far, and this is something that is unique to Scarva. “Everything points to a great day out: the thrilling spectacle of the Sham Fight, the huge procession and the incredible number of bands accompanying the preceptories.”

The John Hanna Memorial Cup, which has been donated by the Buller family, will be presented to the musical outfit judged to be the best band on the day.

Many of those who descend on Scarva will be there to see the dramatic re-enactment scenes from the Battle of the Boyne, in the grounds of Scarvagh Demesne.

King William is played by John Adair and King James by Colin Cairns. The main protagonists are accompanied by performers in period costume representing the Williamite and Jacobite armies.

John Adair, who has been playing King William for almost 30 years, said the Sham Fight is the only remaining one of its kind in Ireland.

He laughed when asked if he is apprehensive the two-year absence will affect the outcome of the battle.

“I may be a bit rusty, but I don’t think this July 13 will see any change in fortune when the battle ends,” he said.

“We look forward to getting the usual terrific response from the crowd, and we will do our utmost to deliver an exciting event that can be enjoyed by all the family.”

He added: “The Scarva preceptory is very proud to maintain the tradition of the Sham Fight. It is a day of historical significance, and we are eagerly looking forward to this year’s event, particularly after the two-year absence.” 

Entering the demesne on horseback, the rival monarchs will be dressed in the traditional costumes of the late 17th century - uniforms just acquired before their last clash in 2019.

The Jacobite group dress in white and green, the Williamites in red and swhite; and the demesne will come alive to the sight of the colourfully dressed performers, the sound of blank shots from musket fire and the clash of swords.

The Sham Fight will be preceded by a parade of 4,000 members of the Royal Black Institution, accompanied by flute, pipe, accordion and brass bands - some bands attending from Scotland.

The RBP banners portray many Old Testament scenes, such as David at the Brook, the Burning Bush, and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The procession will leave the assembly field on the Gilford Road at 11.15am and proceed through the village to the demesne.

Earlier in the day, members of Scarva Royal Black Preceptory will lay a wreath at the village memorial to local members of the security forces who were murdered during the Troubles.

The Sham Fight will take place at 1.30pm, before the religious service, which is scheduled to start at 2pm.

Platform proceedings will be chaired by the Worshipful Master of RBP 1000, Andrew Boyce.

The praise will be led by Poyntzpass Silver Band.

The return parade is scheduled to leave the demesne at 3pm. 

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