The Apprentice Boys of Derry parade tomorrow to commemorate the Relief of Londonderry will be led – for the first time – by a band from England.
Believed to be the biggest parade in Northern Ireland, the annual event looks set to get bigger this year as new clubs are travelling from throughout the UK to join the march.
ABOD General Secretary Billy Moore confirmed that Imperial Corps of Drums from Liverpool would lead the 328th procession.
He said: “This is the first time an English band has ever led the Relief of Londonderry parade.
“This was a decision taken at the annual conference to reflect the growth and expansion of the organisation.
“The parade will be led by an English band for the next three years, then a Northern Ireland band for three years, then a band from Scotland for three years. It reflects the growth of bands and clubs throughout the UK.”
Mr Moore said upwards of 30,000 people were expected to be present for the parade.
He said: “We would average around 15,000 participants and probably about a similar number of spectators. There will be around 150 bands and clubs taking part.”
He went on to say that numbers may even increase as ABOD have opened new clubs in Belfast, Fermanagh and Leitrim this year.
“There are also some new clubs coming across from Scotland for the first time,” he added.
“People are travelling from all over Northern Ireland, England and Scotland. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a spare bed in any hotel or guest house in Londonderry.”
The Relief of Londonderry parade is the principal event in the Apprentice Boys calendar, celebrating the ending of the siege and the retreat of the Jacobite army.
Before the main procession, the parent clubs will parade the circuit of the walls to commemorate the 10,000 defenders that perished during the 105-day siege.
A floral tribute will be placed at the cenotaph in memory of members that died in recent conflicts and a thanksgiving service will take place in St Columb’s Cathedral to give thanks to God for the deliverance of the city.
Mr Moore said: “We’re hoping it will be an enjoyable and memorable day for everyone who comes along. The weather forecast is good so we’re hoping that remains the case.
“We’re hoping for a peaceful day and a good day for trade in the city.”
The main parade will begin at 12.30pm. Police are advising that traffic diversions and delays are likely from 10.30am. Traffic will not be allowed onto the parade route after 12pm and any cars parked on the route will not be able to move until the parade has passed their point.