New Apprentice Boys governor can’t wait for Relief of Londonderry celebrations

The governor of the Apprentice Boys has said his first Relief of Londonderry celebrations in the role will be a “very special and very proud moment”.

The principal event in the Apprentice Boys calendar, the annual Relief celebrations in Londonderry are believed to be the single largest parading event in Northern Ireland.

Last month, the city was rocked by successive nights of disorder which saw police attacked and petrol bombs and other projectiles thrown into the Fountain estate — a loyalist enclave in the overwhelmingly nationalist cityside of Londonderry.

Apprentice Boys Governor Graeme Stenhouse, who was installed in the role following last year’s relief celebrations, is looking forward to a trouble-free event.

“The general secretary and I met with the police a couple of weeks ago, and there’s no reason to believe that there’s going to be any trouble,” he said.

“Certainly, while the Maiden City Festival has been going on, everything’s been superb.”

Mr Stenhouse added: “With any huge event like this, you’re always going to get some small issues, but that can’t be avoided with the numbers of people involved.

“I’m more worried about the weather - the forecast is a bit worrying. If that’s all we have to worry about, I won’t complain.”

The event is held each year to commemorate the lifting of the longest siege in British military history — the Great Siege of 1689 which inflicted tremendous suffering on the 17th century inhabitants of the city.

“This year will be the 329th relief celebrations,” Mr Stenhouse said.

“It’s a celebratory day, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s also about remembering the sacrifices that were made in the siege. It is also a day for reflection and remembrance in the proper manner, for the sacrifices that were made by our forefathers.”

Mr Stenhouse admitted to some nerves ahead of the big day.

“I was installed as governor last year and I was in place for the Shutting of the Gates in December, but this is my first relief.”

He joked: “I’m on tenterhooks a wee bit as you might imagine.”

Mr Stenhouse added: “I’ll be laying the wreath at the Diamond in Londonderry for the first time, so that’s going to be a very special and a very proud moment for me.”

The Apprentice Boys governor is also hoping the celebrations will be a boost to the city’s economy.

“If you have people coming out and bringing their children along to watch, it swells the coffers of the restaurants, and the establishments in the town,” he said.