Belfast Telegraph

Sham Fight: William and James cross swords (again) in swashbuckling Scarva

By Adrian Rutherford

It was supposed to be a two-horse fight, but it was yet another predictable triumph as King William emerged victorious at Scarva once again.

Up to 100,000 spectators packed into the Co Down village for the annual Sham Fight.

The event is a theatrical re-enactment of the victory of William III over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne.

The odds had been high on James taking revenge for his infamous 1690 defeat – but it was William who claimed a not-unexpected victory.

Millar Farr, sovereign grand master of the Royal Black Institution, said: "The Sham Fight is a very special occasion every year, but we think 2014 will break all records."

The annual re-enactment is held at the spot where William and his 30,000-strong army is said to have camped on their way to the Battle of the Boyne.

A chestnut tree at the top of the field is reputedly where William tied his horse as they rested.

Half-a-dozen sham fights used to be staged across Ireland in bygone times.

But only Scarva has held on to the colourful ceremony, which has been held in the village since at least the 1830s.

The event, organised by the Royal Black Perceptory, started with a one-mile procession through Scarva.

The biggest cheers were reserved for the arrival of King William, with his rival James getting a slightly more muted reception.

Beneath the wigs and 17th century dress, John Adair and Colin Cairns played the leading roles.

Mr Adair has been starring as William for more than 20 years while Mr Cairns has 25 years' experience as the defeated king.

There was a more sombre part to yesterday's fun when a wreath was laid in tribute to security force members murdered during the Troubles. The centenary of the start of World War One was also marked.

Further Reading

Twelfth parade: Newtownards

Twelfth parade: Limavady

Twelfth parade: Larne

Twelfth parade: Markethill

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The Twelfth: Temporary respite, but definitive answer still needed 

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