Apprentice Boys joined by tens of thousands to mark Relief of Derry
The largest loyal order parade held in Northern Ireland will get under way this lunchtime as the annual Relief of Derry celebrations take place.
Tens of thousands of marchers and spectators will be in Londonderry as the Apprentice Boys of Derry commemorate the conclusion of the famous siege of the city, which took place over 105 days between 1688 and 1689.
The event had political and historical ramifications not just for Britain and Ireland, but it also affected the course of wider European history.
The siege began when 13 young apprentice tradesmen slammed shut the gates of the city against the advancing Catholic King James II and his forces. In the ensuing months thousands perished inside the walls of Derry as a result of battle and starvation as they backed the Dutch Prince of Orange, later to become King William III.
Governor General of the Apprentice Boys of Derry Jim Brownlee said that 145 bands are registered to take part and revealed that a new initiative will see an English band lead the parade for perhaps the first time.
"The plan is to have a rotation system where a band from England will lead the parade for three years, then one from Scotland, then Northern Ireland. This is designed to recognise the contribution from brethren from further afield," he said.
The parade is the climax to the two-week Maiden City Festival. Visitors have seen a series of events including live music, Highland dance exhibitions and competitions, visual arts and historical talks.
Throughout the festival actors brought to life the story of the siege upon the very walls were the dramatic events unfolded almost 330 years ago.
A highlight of the celebrations will take place just before the parade starts at Carlisle Circus at the western end of Craigavon Bridge when the Crimson Players perform the Siege Pageant that recreates the events just before the siege was broken.
Mr Brownlee added: "This parade represents a lot of things that we hold dear to this day that were won during that period of the Glorious Revolution.
"Today's society is ordered like it is because of the freedoms that were won back then and those freedoms were won by the 8,000 souls that perished during the siege of Londonderry.
"The parade also is mindful of what came after the siege. It wasn't very exciting for those who had come into the city to seek shelter from the Jacobite armies and had to leave and go back to their own areas that had also been destroyed. They had to rebuild and try to survive."
Today's main parade will begin at 12.30pm and is expected to last around two and a half hours.
Police are advising that traffic diversions will be in place from around 10.30am. Traffic will not be allowed onto the parade route after 12pm. The return leg of the parade is expected at 5pm and it will disperse at the Apprentice Boys of Derry Memorial Hall on Society Street.
The ABOD General Committee and eight ABOD “Parent Clubs” accompanied by nine bands will assemble in Society Street/ Memorial Hall area from 9am. At 9.30am they will parade around the City Walls anti-clockwise, then on to the War Memorial in the Diamond for a wreath laying ceremony via Society Street, Bishop Street, and the Diamond. Following this ceremony, they will parade to St Columb's Cathedral for a church service via Ferryquay Street, Pump Street and into St Columb's Cathedral. The service will last about an hour.
One band will parade from Fountain Estate via Wapping Lane, Carlisle Square, Carlisle Road, Ferryquay Street, the Diamond, Bishop Street, London Street to Artillery Street. There they will await the main parade.
The ABOD General Committee, led by one band, will parade from St Columb’s, Carlisle Square via London Street, Hawkin Street and Carlisle Road for a pageant.
MAIN PARADE ROUTE - 12.30pm
The main parade, which takes 2-1/2 hours, commences at Duke Street and proceeds via Craigavon Bridge, Carlisle Road, Ferryquay Street, the Diamond, Bishop Street, London Street, Hawkin Street, Kennedy Street, Wapping Lane, Abercorn Road, Carlisle Square, Craigavon Bridge, Spencer Road, Dungiven Road, Dennet Gardens, Sheskin Gardens, Bann Drive, Finn Gardens, Mourne Drive, Dennet Gardens, Dungiven Road, Glendermott Road, Bonds Street to May Street for dispersal.
5pm Return Parade
General Committee and eight Parent Clubs will parade back to cityside from May Street via Bonds Street, Dungiven Road, Clooney Terrace, Spencer Road, Craigavon Bridge Carlisle Road Ferryquay Street, the Diamond, Bishop Street, and Palace Street to Society Street.
On dispersal at the Memorial Hall, one band will parade Society Street, London Street, Hawkin Street, Kennedy Street and the Fountain Estate.
Police are advising that traffic diversions and delays are likely from 10.30am. Traffic will not be allowed onto the parade route after 12pm and any cars parked on the parade route will not be able to move until the parade has passed their point.
Vehicles travelling from the Limavady direction towards Strabane will be diverted at Caw Roundabout via Crescent Link, Trench Road, and Duncastle Road to Newbuildings. Traffic bound for the Cityside should use the Foyle Bridge.
Vehicles travelling from Strabane towards Limavady will be diverted at Newbuildings via Woodside Road, Gortinure Road and Trench Road to Altnagelvin.
City side-bound traffic and local residents will be permitted to use Victoria Road and the lower deck of Craigavon Bridge, although delays should be anticipated.
There will be no access from the lower deck of the bridge onto Duke Street.
Police are also advising people travelling to the city to see the parade to use official car parks.
At the request of residents in the Waterside, parking restrictions will be strictly enforced. Illegally parked vehicles will be ticketed and may be towed away, police have warned. Recovery will be at the owners’ expense.
Motorists should allow extra time for their journeys and should take extra care on the diversionary routes.