Belfast Telegraph

Soldier F insignia is not what the Apprentice Boys parade is about, says Derry bandsman

Derek Moore (left) and fellow members of the William King Memorial Flute Band play at the grave of band founder William King
Derek Moore (left) and fellow members of the William King Memorial Flute Band play at the grave of band founder William King

By Mairead Holland

A member of a Londonderry flute band has criticised the controversial wearing of Soldier F insignia at the Apprentice Boys parade in August, saying it was "not what that parade is about".

Derek Moore, of the William King Memorial Flute Band, made the comments as the band marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the man it was named after.

William King's grave
William King's grave

On August 12, the Larne-based Clyde Valley Flute Band band caused outrage after its members marched in the annual Apprentice Boys parade wearing a Parachute Regiment emblem and the letter F on their shirt sleeves.

This was a reference to Soldier F, a former member of the Army's Parachute Regiment who is accused of murder and attempted murder in the city on Bloody Sunday, January 1972.

Police officers flanked the band as they marched and later stopped their bus and took the names of some members.

Mr Moore, a founder member who still plays in the William King band, said: "Parades are not there for people like us to make individual statements. For me, personally, that wasn't the place to do it. It's not what the parade is about.

"The Apprentice Boys parade is for commemoration, it is not for protest. We have a taken on the mantle to play in William King's memory and to do that with dignity."

William King
William King

Mr King, a 49-year-old father-of-four from the city's Fountain estate, died of a heart attack on September 24, 1969 brought on by injuries he received after he was badly beaten by a republican mob.

Mr Moore (right) is also co-ordinator of the Londonderry Bands Forum (LBF), a Peace Impact Programme funded by the International Fund for Ireland.

He said he was disappointed by the lack of support, in particular from nationalist groups they had worked with, after the row in August. He pointed out that Clyde Valley band is not even from the city, and what happened was a "blip" in a history of previously peaceful marches.

"We had been doing positive work in the community and building up the relationships for the past number of years, but when this happened a lot of people, politically, went back into their shells," he said.

"The silence was deafening."

He said the William King band is known and respected not just in Derry but across Ireland, and has taken part in fleadhs and Celtic festivals.

On Wednesday, members of the band, which was formed in April 1974, visited Mr King's grave where they laid flowers and played a hymn in tribute.

Mr Moore was only 10 years old when Mr King died. He recalled Derry in the early 1970s saying: "It was a time of displacement and people were kind of getting ghettoised.

"We rarely went outside the Fountain because there was always bother in the city centre.

Derek Moore
Derek Moore

"The thing about the band was it gave us something to do. For a lot of people who had moved out... the band was the focus for young people and gave them a sense of purpose and then a sense of community. The band gave people in the area an identity."

Following the Clyde Valley Flute Band appearance, the Apprentice Boys governor Graeme Stenhouse said the loyal order had no prior knowledge the band was going to wear the insignia and that they recognised the hurt it may have caused to many in the nationalist community.

Afterwards, several bands said they would no longer take part in future Apprentice Boys parades.

A Clyde Valley Flute Band member with the Soldier F badge
A Clyde Valley Flute Band member with the Soldier F badge

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