News Letter
10 April 2012

**Video onsite

THOUSANDS of Apprentice Boys converged on Carrickfergus yesterday for the first major loyal order parade of 2012.

Every vantage point around the historic south Antrim town was packed with spectators of all ages and there was a carnival atmosphere despite the grey skies.

This year’s event was hosted by the English Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) amalgamated committee, along with the local Carrickfergus Faith Defenders branch club, and attracted a large turnout of both ABOD members and spectators.

Around 40 bands led some 3,000 club members from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as visitors from the Republic.

There was enthusiastic applause as the head of the parade made its way past the 12th century Norman castle at the town’s harbour, before snaking its way through the town towards the North Road dispersal point.

Enjoying the rousing reception were father and daughter Ian and Jenine Simmons from Liverpool.

Only five days ago, Jenine was serving with the military in Afghanistan at the end of a seven-and-a-half-month tour.

She said the ABOD parade was one of the things she was most looking forward to doing on her return home.

“It’s a great honour to be in Carrickfergus and it’s always so welcoming to come over to Northern Ireland,” she said. “The reception we’ve had today has been fantastic – it’s been a brilliant day for everyone involved.”

Jenine’s father Ian, a former soldier who served for 34 years, also wore his service medals for the occasion.

“It’s been a privilege to walk in Northern Ireland once again and the people of Carrick have come out to support us in big numbers. I couldn’t have enjoyed the day more,” Ian said.

The Apprentice Boys general committee, official colour party, and representatives of the English amalgamated committee joined the two veterans and their Imperial Corps of Drums from Liverpool at the head of the parade.

Following closely behind were the Ulster Grenadiers flute band and local ABOD Carrick club. Strangford DUP MP Jim Shannon was among the marchers.

There was a low-key police presence in the town and the atmosphere was family-friendly throughout the afternoon.

By the time the parade dispersed around 2.30pm, the grey skies were beginning to clear slightly encouraging many of the spectators to carry on enjoying the local attractions – giving the town and seafront area a real bank holiday feel well into the afternoon.

David Kerr from Antrim had arrived early with his young family and took up a prime viewing position on the grassy slopes in front of the castle – sheltered from the chilly breeze blowing in off Belfast Lough.

“I’m surprised just how many people are here. I didn’t think so many would turn up but it makes for a great atmosphere,” he said.

“People speculate all the time whether the parades are losing their appeal in this day and age but you only have to look at the thousands of people here today to get your answer.

“So long as the parades are well organised and there’s a great spectacle you can bring a young family to see then I can’t see any change.”

Mr Kerr added: “This one in Carrick is an example of a well organised operation and the Apprentice Boys have come from all over Britain so good luck to them.”

The Apprentice Boys of Derry organisation was formed in 1814 in tribute to the 13 apprentices who closed the city’s gates against the forces of King James in 1688, as well as the thousands who perished in the resulting siege. It has around 20,000 members worldwide.

As the majority of ABOD branch clubs are in Northern Ireland, the annual siege commemoration parade is held in the Province with Easter Monday being the closest bank holiday to the actual siege commencement date of March 28.

Last year’s event was held in Limavady.