Orange Order gets in step for all-island tourist trail
Orangemen are hoping to revive interest in a lesser-known battle of the 1690s with the help of an all-Ireland tourist trail.
The Orange Order believes the village of Aughrim in Co Galway can become a draw for visitors from across the island and beyond keen to learn about the bloodiest battles of the Williamite war.
The engagement at Aughrim in 1691 was more intense than the better known Battle of the Boyne a year earlier, with 6,000 casualties compared to the 1,500 who fell at the Boyne.
But the presence of two kings on the Boyne battlefield - William of Orange and James II - ensured it was the encounter the history books have focused on. The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland now plans to spark renewed interest in Aughrim by making it a key stop on a Williamite tourist trail.
Senior members of the Order are in talks with the Irish Government and Tourism Ireland on the prospect of creating a signposted route.
The proposed Williamite Trail would allow people to follow the course of the war from the Siege of Derry in 1688 and William's arrival at Carrickfergus in 1690 right down past the Boyne and across to Aughrim in the west.
The route would end in Limerick, where the Jacobite forces finally surrendered in 1691.
Dr Jonathan Mattison, curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast, said aspects of the Williamite war had disappeared into the footnotes of history.
"The lesser-known battle is that of Aughrim that was fought way out west in Galway and it is important that battles like that and events like that are remembered," he said.
"Then of course another significant engagement took place in the city of Limerick which actually brought the war to an end.
"History is history and I think it's important that everybody, no matter what their community and cultural background, examines history.
"I am a great exponent of Irish history and I think it's key that aspects of this part of our 17th century shared history are explored and exchanged backwards and forwards.
"What I would love to see is the physical infrastructure set in place. I would like to see markers and historical signs placed at the major points along the Williamite Trail right from obviously Carrickfergus through to places like Limerick, so people and visitors can follow it."
Explaining the historical significance, Dr Mattison added: "Aughrim is the bloodiest battle of the war, the last big field engagement."
He also said the trail would allow lost "nuggets and diamonds" of history to be shared with a wider audience.
Grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Rev Mervyn Gibson said he was "realistic" about the trail's potential.
"It's not the Game Of Thrones or Titanic Belfast, but it would be a major asset to the tourist offering," he said.
Rev Gibson added that the aim was to develop a "modern and fit-for-purpose" tourism trail.