The new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith was presented with a crimson tie emblazoned with the logo of the Apprentice Boys of Derry during his visit to Londonderry today.
Mr Smith packed a lot into his short visit to Northern Ireland’s second city — a guided tour of the historic walls, a visit to the local Siege Museum, a meeting with the council’s chief executive and deputy mayor, followed by an engagement with business leaders before finishing his sojourn with a somewhat informal press conference held on the city walls overlooking the Guildhall.
He was joined on his tour of the walls by the deputy mayor Cara Hunter and various officials, before meeting with the chairman of the Siege Museum, Billy Moore, at the recently refurbished Royal Bastion overlooking the Bogside.
The new Northern Ireland Secretary told Mr Moore to “just call me Julian”, before adding “it’s very nice to be here”.
His visit to the bastion coincided with a large group of tourists who were also on a tour of the walls, many of whom filmed the scenes on their mobile phones.
Mr Moore told the News Letter: “We met him at Walker’s Plinth on the walls, at Royal Bastion. We took him to the top of the plinth where we were able to point out the importance of the monument, not only as a tourist asset but also as an educational resource.
“Standing at the top of the plinth we could see where the Jacobite encampments would have been during the Great Siege of 1689. He was keen to understand and keen to learn about the history of the city.”
Afterwards, Mr Smith was taken on a tour of the nearby Siege Museum where he expressed a particular interest in some special displays about the First World War.
Billy Moore explained: “He seemed particularly impressed by the displays about the First World War and the valuable role of Northern Ireland with the 36th Ulster Division and the Battle of the Somme. We told him about how our Apprentice Boy’s Memorial Hall was dedicated to our members who had perished in the First World War, especially those who had died at the Battle of the Somme.”
Mr Moore added: “He was quite amazed at the close affiliation we have to the First World War and the number of servicemen who sacrificed their lives.”
The special guest was presented with a crimson tie and a book on the history of the Siege of Derry, as Mr Moore explained: “We presented him with a book written by CD Milligan back in 1951, who had been a mayor of the city, on the Siege of Derry. We also presented him with a crimson tie with the emblem of the Apprentice Boys’ crest.”
He added: “It’s always nice to welcome guests from anywhere but it was very important to welcome the new Secretary of State and help him understand our history, culture and traditions.”