Saturday’s annual Siege celebrations in Londonderry have been hailed as an “outstanding success” for an organisation which is continuing to expand.
Billy Moore, general secretary of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, said the event attracted an “absolutely huge attendance”.
He said: “We had around about 140 bands on parade and roughly 7,000 Apprentice Boys members and thousands of spectators all along the parade route.
“There was a lot more spectators this year than usual thanks to the good weather.”
He added: “It was an outstanding occasion. The weather was perfect for us.
“Everyone had a very enjoyable and a very peaceful day. There was no difficulties, no problems at all.”
Mr Moore, who also manages the Siege museum in the city, said: “We were delighted with the number of visitors we had to the museum. We had countless people coming through the museum on Saturday to learn about our heritage and history.”
On the same day as the parade, an outdoor theatrical production of Homer’s Iliad was taking place in Londonderry. Those behind the play had hoped the sounds from the siege commemoration would act as a backdrop to their production.
Asked if those on parade encountered the 30-foot Trojan Horse which was part of the play, Mr Moore said: “The horse was not close to where our parade was, maybe a quarter of a mile away. We didn’t see it, but they’ll definitely have had the background music they wanted from the 140 bands who turned out.”
Mr Moore continued: “Our organisation continues to expand and develop.
“We had a new club on parade that brought in extra members.
“We had members over from Scotland and England as well as some from Canada, and from Australia where we’ll be opening a new club next year.
“Some of the Australians who’ll be part of that club were present on Saturday.
“They’ve been over this summer to be initiated as members.
“Next year they’ll be getting their new charter which will allow them to open the first club in Australia.
“We’re also looking at the possibility of perhaps a new club in Wales next year.”
The Australians were over as guests of the Murray Club, whose secretary David Hoey, said: “We have had a busy summer with overseas visitors. In addition to our Australian friends, we will have also made four Canadian members within the walls.
“In addition to the many new local, English and Scottish members being initiated into the Apprentice Boys over the weekend, we are pleased with the steady growth of the club across all territories.”
Herbie Mailey, who has been the main organiser in Australia in setting up the new club, said: “The cause of civil and religious liberty is universal, wherever we are in the world.
“We remember that through the Apprentice Boys commemorations – the debt we owe to all those who have suffered and sacrificed for the freedoms we too often take for granted today.”