Belfast Telegraph

Scarva Sham Fight: King Billy and King James battle it out in Co Down

Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Millar Farr called upon the UK to remain as one

Thousands have descended on the idyllic village of Scarva where King Billy took on King James - with a rather predictable outcome in the annual Sham Fight.

Up to 100,000 spectators were expected in the Co Down village for the annual re-enactment of the victory of William III over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne.

The spectacle of costumes and wigs is a popular family fun day out which has cemented itself as a firm fixture on Northern Ireland's culture and tourism calender.

Taking on the iconic roles today at the annual event organised by The Royal Black Perceptory, were two of the 4,000 members of the Royal Black Institution John Adair and Brian Johnston - both members of the local RBP 1000.

While Brian's a newcomer to his role, John has been victorious as King Billy for two decades. Ahead of their big fight they told the Belfast Telegraph what it takes to act out their royal roles.

The day started with a one-mile procession through Scarva before the theatrical fight re-enactment began.

And while the odds were high on James taking revenge on his infamous defeat - it was William who claimed a not entirely unexpected victory.

In today's speech Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Millar Farr is speaking about the upcoming celebrations in the coming years and also called upon the UK to remain as one.

He said: "Over the years since 1690 this Nation which is now called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has evolved into what it is today.  This has been beneficial for all the people who make up the population of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He continued: "Indeed it is safe to say civilisation, world-wide, owes much to the people who went forth from the shores of the United Kingdom to provide skills and leadership in places where it was needed.

"Yet we live in a World where there are many agitating for change, challenging the foundations of democracy and the way of life we enjoy.

"The threat to freedom and security doesn’t always come from violence or the threat of it, but rather from those in our midst who have a desire, for their own reasons, to destroy the system and rules under which we live and prosper.

"These people are constantly trying to undermine the laws which control the use of drugs, gambling and alcohol as well as the moral system by which we live.  All this is directed in such a manner that it will affect the young people in society.

"Such people have always existed and their aim is to undermine the stability of society so they can manipulate future generations and destroy what we value.  Each of us has a moral duty to ensure they do not succeed in anything which will endanger our future wellbeing or that of generations yet to come.

He added: "Just last year there was a concerted effort to break up this Nation through the Referendum held in Scotland under the guise that Independence would be good for that country.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

"The unity of the four countries which make up this United Kingdom has provided stability and strength, serving us well in a World where individual small countries struggle to remain viable or survive.

"Thankfully that attempt to break up this Nation failed and today we remain a United Kingdom.  It is our hope it will remain so in the future because we are a family and families are at their strongest when they are together and this in turn brings benefits for all."

At one time Ireland boasted half a dozen Sham Fights with one of the most famous in the west Cork town of Bandon.

As far back as 1825 local newspapers reported on fights that were part of Orange celebrations however Scarva along has kept up the tradition.

The event is now one of the major events on the Northern Ireland tourism and cultural calendar.

Further reading:

For kings and country: King Billy and King James get ready to do battle at the Sham Fight at Scarva  

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