The Sham Fight at Scarva is firmly established as one of the major events on the Northern Ireland cultural and tourism calendar.
And key public bodies are now supporting the event to make it an even bigger family friendly day out.
This year’s Sham Fight, organised by RBP 1000, will take place in the County Down village on Tuesday, July 14.
The annual clash between King William and King James and the massive procession through the beautiful village attracts between 80,000 and 100,000 people.
This year funding has been secured from the Department of Trade and Enterprise/Tourism Northern Ireland, the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council and the Ulster Scots Agency.
The Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, MLA, spoke at the launch of the event in Scarva on the evening of Thursday, June 18.
He said: “I welcome the opportunity to officially launch the Sham Fight at Scarva – the biggest one-day event at a single location in Northern Ireland.
“It is an amazing occasion packed with music and pageantry, a day the whole family can enjoy and an event that attracts tens of thousands of spectators from near and far. The continued success of the event is a huge credit to the organisers and I am pleased that my department, through Tourism NI, has been able to support them this year.”
The extra funding given to the organisers this year will be used to provide more stewards who will help manage the massive crowds attending the Sham Fight.
Video screens and other stage equipment will be provided for people to enjoy the day and a special marquee will be set up to allow visitors understand the history of the Royal Black Institution and the Sham Fight.
A website giving lots of details about the Sham Fight will go live at the end of June.
The Chairman of The Royal 13th, and WM of RBP 1000, Sandy Heak said:
“We have been working very hard over the past few years to develop the Sham Fight.
“This year we have been able to secure extra funding from a range of bodies and that will definitely make our job a lot easier. I want to thank everyone who worked with us to get the funding and those bodies who have supported us.
“Our aim is to make the Sham Fight a ‘must see’ event and to ensure that everyone who takes part or comes along as a spectator enjoys their day. The support of these bodies will help develop the professionalism of the event and raise it to a new level.”
The Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Millar Farr, said:
“The Sham Fight is a truly wonderful family occasion and we are looking forward to another extremely successful day.
“As a Christian based organisation, the religious service is extremely important to our members. The procession to the field, through thousands of people lining the village streets, is a unique spectacle of music and pageantry.
“And the actual re-enactment of the famous battle always attracts attention. This is about history coming alive, to be enjoyed by everyone.”
On Tuesday, July 14, the procession leaves the assembly field on the Gilford Road at 11.30am. More than 90 preceptories of the Royal Black Institution will take part in the procession, joined by a wide range of bands to suit all tastes. Tens of thousands of people will line the one mile route to the Demesne at the Loughbrickland end of the village. Tandragee District will lead the procession.
Earlier in the day, at 0945, members of Scarva Royal Black Preceptory will lay a wreath at the village memorial to local members of the security forces who were murdered in the Troubles.
The organisation of the Sham Fight is the responsibility of Royal Black Perceptory 1000, whose 50 members work painstakingly to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Each year there are 4,000 members of the Royal Black Institution on parade, accompanied by about 90 bands. King William is played by John Adair, who has been in the role for 20 years and King James by Brian Johnston.
In all about 20 soldiers and four horses take part in the re-enactment.
At the top of the field where the fight is staged,kite is the chestnut tree where King William tied his horse on the way to the Battle of the Boyne and where his troops rested. At one time Ireland could boast of half a dozen Sham Fights. One of the most famous was in the small west Cork town of Bandon, once a Protestant stronghold. However, the Sham Fight at Bandon, like all the others except Scarva have disappeared.
Only war-time brought the great celebrations to a temporary standstill, and even then a handful of locals in the Royal Black Institution travelled in the years between 1940 and 1944 to walk the processional route to maintain the tradition.
A religious service, conducted by Rev. John Batchelor, County Grand Chaplain of Armagh, will be held at 2.00pm.
Following the service, the principal speaker at a public meeting will be the Sovereign Grand Master, Millar Farr.