The governor of the Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) has hailed Saturday’s ‘Relief of Londonderry’ parade and celebrations as a “return to the good times” for the loyal order.
More than 140 bands paraded with various ABOD clubs to mark the anniversary of the ending of the 105-day seige in 1689, creating one of the Northern Ireland’s most colourful spectacles of the year.
In recent years the parade has passed off largely unopposed due to an “understanding” between the ABOD and nationalist residents – leading to a reduction in tension and even more spectators lining flocking to the city for several days of commemorative events.
ABOD governor Jim Brownlee said it was regrettable the order’s Memorial Hall was attacked with stones and bottles later in the evening, but said the day was a huge success overall.
“Everything went really, really well,” he said.
“I was talking to the chief marshall afterwards, and some individual members, and the mood was that it was back to the good times for the Apprentice Boys.
“The wreath laying service went ahead and it was very dignified. The main parade had 144 bands and we were able to tighten it up this year and the biggest gap was no more than about 50 yards.”
Commenting on the agreement that has led to a reduction in the potential of community disorder, Mr Brownlee said: “There is no final agreement as such, there is an understanding, but as things stand it is a case of carrying on, keeping improving, and we do keep monitoring the situation all the time.”
Mr Brownlee also dismissed a small protest, by a welfare group representing republican prisoners in Maghaberry, as having no bearing on the ABOD celebrations.
“That protest was an outside influence that can counter any good work that has been done.
“I would prefer to ignore that simply because it has got nothing to do with our parade. We have no control over that.”
The senior Apprentice Boys figure said the Relief of Londonderry parade was only one aspect of the efforts to maintain the culture traditions, an to promote a better understanding of the city’s historical significance.
“We also have the Maiden City Festival, which was curtailed this year due to funding restrictions...but the Siege Museum is the jewel in our crown.
“It is the facility we use to promote the Apprentice Boys and also to promote the history and understanding.”
Mr Brownlee added: “All the information is on the Facebook site for anyone who wants to learn more.”