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An unlucky thirteenth: No Sham Fight... but organisers of Scarva produce online video


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John Adair (King William) in Scarva ahead of the Thirteenth. Photo by Kevin Scott for Weekend Magazine

John Adair (King William) in Scarva ahead of the Thirteenth. Photo by Kevin Scott for Weekend Magazine

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Scarva: Sham Fight (1959)

Scarva: Sham Fight (1959)

Scarva ahead of the 13th at home on July 8th 2020

Scarva ahead of the 13th at home on July 8th 2020

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Brian Johnston, Deputy Master of RBP 1000 in Scarva, ahead of the Thirteenth at home

Brian Johnston, Deputy Master of RBP 1000 in Scarva, ahead of the Thirteenth at home

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Andrew Boyce, Worshipful Master

Andrew Boyce, Worshipful Master

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

John Adair (King William) in Scarva ahead of the Thirteenth. Photo by Kevin Scott for Weekend Magazine

In a year that many thought Scarva's Sham Fight between King William and King James might actually end in a draw because of Covid-19, the Royal Black Institution has come up with a novel way to mark William of Orange's 1690 victory.

The Co Down village attracts visitors from all over Northern Ireland and further afield, with the annual Sham Fight in the town's demesne every July 13.

Indeed, Brian Johnston, Deputy Master of RBP 1,000, said the event is the single biggest gathering of people on the island of Ireland at one time as 100,000 people descend on this quiet, rural village.

As early as 3pm on July 12, thousands of deckchairs would line the village's main road right up to the front of Scarva House as people reserve their seats to watch the parades.

It is almost unbelievable to think that not a single deckchair is touched from the moment they are placed.

As July 12 falls on a Sunday this year, the Thirteenth parades should have been held on Tuesday, July 14.

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King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic putting a stop to the Scarva parade for the first time in over 70 years, the organisers of the Sham Fight have produced an hour-long video which will be broadcast online allowing everyone to enjoy it safely from their own homes.

The Scarva-based preceptory, Sir Knight Alfred Butler Memorial RBP 1,000, will release the video at 11.15am - the exact moment the parade was meant to get under way.

With the help of Sideline Films, the broadcast will include messages from Imperial Grand Chaplain Rev Nigel Reid, a wreath laying ceremony, historical features on Scarva and the Sham Fight, and highlights of last year's parade.

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King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

King William (played by John) is victorious in the Sham Fight with King James (Colin Cairns) at Scarva on July 13, 2018. Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph

Mezzo-soprano Emma Brown from the Netherlands also recorded a number for hymns for the broadcast.

Worshipful Master of RBP 1,000 Andrew Boyce said the parades will be a huge loss to Scarva but he was in full support of the decision to call off the celebrations.

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Scarva: Sham Fight (1959)

Scarva: Sham Fight (1959)

Scarva: Sham Fight (1959)

"Everyone is used to coming here on the Thirteenth of July and it's something you always look forward to throughout the year," he added.

"Everyone who lives here gets the hedge cut and the grass cut. My granny is raging because it's her birthday on July 13, and she's 97 this year.

"She sits out rain, snow or shine and she is disappointed and I'm sure there's many others like her."

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Scarva ahead of the 13th at home on July 8th 2020

Scarva ahead of the 13th at home on July 8th 2020

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Scarva ahead of the 13th at home on July 8th 2020

Commenting on the video, Andrew added that the original plan was to show highlights of previous parades and Sham Fights but the ideas began to "snowball".

"We've used older footage of the Sham Fight with old pictures in it and we got the Sovereign Grand Master and Rev Nigel Wilson to speak," he said.

"We contacted Sideline Films because we didn't want to do it ourselves, we wanted it to be professional.

"A fella I know guided us on how to do it and he took a load of drone footage of the parade routes and things like that.

"Everyone did their wee bit and when everyone does it all comes together nicely."

A JustGiving page has also been set up by RBP 1,000 this year for St John's Ambulance, which provides medical support in Scarva every Thirteenth.

Secretary of RBP 1,000 John Adair, who also plays King William during the Sham Fight, said the organisers of the Scarva parades miss the "craic and camaraderie" during the build-up to the day.

This will be the first time John (59) hasn't paraded in Scarva since he was 18 years old and the first time he won't be portraying King William since 1992.

"We just turn up on the day," John replied when asked about the preparation for the Sham Fight.

"At the end of the day, if we were taking the Sham Fight to the letter of the law our uniforms would be different to what they are and you would go back to period costumes.

"The uniforms we have would have been King William's dress code uniform if he was going to a banquet - it's not his battle uniform.

"It gives a bit of pageantry and it lightens the day a bit. It's a good part of the day."

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Brian Johnston, Deputy Master of RBP 1000 in Scarva, ahead of the Thirteenth at home

Brian Johnston, Deputy Master of RBP 1000 in Scarva, ahead of the Thirteenth at home

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Brian Johnston, Deputy Master of RBP 1000 in Scarva, ahead of the Thirteenth at home

Meanwhile, Deputy Master Mr Johnston, who also plays King James' helper during the Sham Fight, added that the cancellation of the parades has left a "big hole".

"The build up starts in September," he explained.

"You have all the meetings with the police, the council and Translink and they start in September.

"There's a lot of work all year that goes on before the actual day.

"We were saying the other night that you moan about the work but when it's taken away from you it's a big hole and a big miss."

Belfast Telegraph