The Scarva Sham Fight may have been cancelled for a second year in a row, but organisers have pledged to continue their tradition of paying tribute to local members of the security forces murdered during the Troubles.
On the morning of July 13, the Scarva-based preceptory which organises the Sham Fight, Sir Knight Alfred Buller Memorial RBP 1000, will lay a wreath at the village war memorial – just as they do every Thirteenth morning.
Also in their thoughts will be the victims of coronavirus.
“It has been such a sad year, both here in Northern Ireland and across the world,” said Andrew Boyce, Worshipful Master of RBP 1000.
“As we honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the fight against terrorism, we will also be thinking of the many families grieving the loss of a loved one due to Covid, and of the health workers who worked so hard during the pandemic to heal the nation.”
Last year, the Royal Black Institution cancelled all meetings, services and processions throughout the summer to help in the fight against Covid-19.
In line with government regulations, parades can resume this year – however, many Royal Black events will be planned on a smaller scale than normal and must follow strict guidelines issued by the Institution which state that “the safety and wellbeing of all members must be paramount and no events should take place that would in any way compromise the health of those taking part”.
Earlier this month, the Sham Fight organisers announced that this year’s Scarva Day had been cancelled once again after it was clear there was no prospect of holding the massively popular event in such a way that would meet with Covid-19 considerations.
The annual clash between King William and King James – together with the large-scale procession of bands and Royal Black Institution members through Scarva village – normally attracts crowds of upwards of 100,000 people.
Instead, the day will be marked in a simple and dignified fashion with a short morning service led by Rev Rodney Magennis, minister of St Matthew’s Parish Church, Scarva, followed by a parade through the village involving around 40 members of RBP 1000, led by Waringsford Pipe Band.
Sovereign Grand Master, Rev William Anderson, will take part in the wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial.
While the Sham Fight was cancelled last year, RBP 1000 were still able to hold a similar wreath-laying event – and they are determined to uphold the tradition once again in 2021.
“It’s so important to remember those people who defended this country throughout the Troubles and paid for it with their lives,” said Sir Knight Boyce.
“We owe them a great debt, and can assure their families we will never forget their sacrifice.
“Indeed, our wreath-laying ceremony this year will have added poignancy in Northern Ireland’s centenary year, and links in with the Royal Black Institution’s Sir Norman Stronge Memorial Project, which is commemorating the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland with the theme of ‘service and sacrifice.’”
John Adair, a member of the Sham Fight organising committee, and who plays King William each year in the re-enactment, said: “Little did we know back in July 2020 the terrible devastation that Covid would go on to bring, or that it would still be with us a year later.
“Initially we had hoped that Scarva 2021 would be a huge cause for celebration – for the return of the Sham Fight, for the centenary of Northern Ireland, and for helping Scarva and District Cultural Society celebrate the completion of their half-a-million pound extension to Scarva Orange Hall.
“Unfortunately, Covid had other plans, and while we are hugely disappointed, there was never any question that public health consideration would come first.
“However, the energy and enthusiasm of the Sham Fight committee has not diminished in any shape or form, and we are already looking ahead with great excitement to next year when our celebrations will also mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.”
Sovereign Grand Master Rev William Anderson said: “The cancellation of this year’s Scarva Sham Fight was a huge blow for so many people who come along each year and enjoy the music and pageantry.
“And we are greatly saddened that we will again miss out on the opportunity to witness for the Reformed Faith on a grand public scale.
“However, the men of RBP 1000 will mark the day in a very appropriate manner, and I look forward to joining with them on the Thirteenth morning.”