The Apprentice Boys

Who are the Apprentice Boys?
What happens on an Apprentice Boys parade?
Sample Essay – Why were British troops sent into Northern Ireland in 1969?
Video – The B-Specials
Video – Housing Discrimination in Northern Ireland 1969
Video – Peoples Democracy March January 1969 – Burntollet Bridge
Short Video – The Battle of the Bogside
Video – Six Part Documentary on the Battle of the Bogside

Who are the Apprentice Boys?

Taken from the BBC Website

At the start of the siege of Londonderry in 1689, 13 apprentice boys slammed the city gates against the army of the Catholic King James II.

The Apprentice Boys of Derry, one of the Protestant Loyal Orders, is based upon this defiant action of “no surrender”.

New Apprentice Boys can only be initiated inside the city, in ceremonies in August and December each year.

The order holds its main parade in Derry on 12 August to celebrate the relief of the city and the end of the siege.

Usually some 10,000-12,000 members take part.

There is a lesser demonstration on 18 December, to mark the shutting of the gates, when an effigy is burned of Colonel Lundy, an officer who tried to negotiate the surrender of the city in 1689.

Even today those regarded as traitors to the unionist cause can be referred to as ‘Lundies.’

There were serious riots in Derry after the August 1969 march, and parades were banned for the following two years.

The then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Brian Faulkner, an Apprentice Boy himself, was expelled from the order in 1971 for being associated with the ban.

In 1972 the parade was limited to the predominantly Protestant east side of the River Foyle, the Waterside area.

Bogside controversy

The order’s general committee decided to call off the parade but many Apprentice Boys gathered at the Waterside to be addressed by fellow member, the Reverend Ian Paisley.

The order was allowed to parade within the old walled city again in 1975, but were banned from taking their usual route around the walls because they overlooked the mainly Catholic Bogside.

In 1985 Unionists boycotted the local council for changing its name from Londonderry to Derry.

Two leading Apprentice Boys officials refused to support the boycott and were dropped by the order.

James Guy, who was replaced as Lieutenant Governor, became Mayor of Derry in 1987-8.

In recent years, renewed controversy over parades by the Protestant Orange Order, and the Apprentice Boys, either through or near to Catholic nationalist areas have led to clashes.

Violent clashes

Lengthy negotiations have often been held in an effort by local community leaders and politicians such as SDLP leader John Hume to avoid violence.

In August 1995 the ‘feeder parade’, on its way to the main demonstration in Derry, resulted in violence on the nationalist lower Ormeau Road, in which 22 people were injured.

In Derry, the Apprentice Boys marched around the city’s historic walls for the first time in many years, and republicans who mounted a sit-down protest were removed by the RUC.

More recently there have also been ugly confrontations between nationalists and marchers in Derry around the time of Apprentice Boys’ parades, followed by petrol bomb attacks and stone throwing late at night.

Who are the Apprentice Boys?

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Outline of what happens on an Apprentice Boys parade

The Apprentice Boys of Derry hold two main parades during the year. One parade is held in December, commemorating the closing of the gates by the original Apprentice Boys on 7th December 1688. The December event is popularly known as Lundy’s Day, because an effigy of Lundy is set on fire at dusk. Another parade is held in August, celebrating the relief of the city at the end of the siege, on 1st August 1689. Because of the change in the calendar in 1752, the anniversaries have moved by eleven days to 18th December and 12th August. The parades are now held on Saturdays close to these anniversary dates, and the pictures on this page were taken during the parade held on Saturday 14th August 1999.

The first parade started shortly after 9am, when the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys and the parent clubs walked around the historic walls of Londonderry. As usual, the Black Skull flute band from Glasgow led the parade and afterwards the band played a selection of tunes in Society Street, near the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall. A ruling by the Parades Commission meant that only a single band took part in this section of the parade.

The Apprentice Boys have gone to considerable lengths in recent years to try to present the traditions of the siege in a more inclusive way. In August 1998, the Apprentice Boys organised a one week festival which was generously sponsored by the Nationalist-controlled Derry City Council. Events during that festival included a cross-community art competition for schools, traditional music, drama and a fancy dress parade. This year, the Crimson Players organised a re-enactment of part of the story of the siege. At times the acting left a little to be desired, but the period costumes helped to convey something of the difficulties and dangers of the famous siege.

Just before 11am, the Apprentice Boys had a more solemn duty to perform. The General Committee and the parent clubs walked to the War Memorial at the centre of the city to lay several wreaths, and to stand for a minute in silence, remembering those who died in the two World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-1945).

Following the wreath laying ceremony, a service was held at St. Columb’s Cathedral, which was built between 1628 and 1633. It is traditional to fly a crimson flag from the cathedral during the two main siege anniversaries. While waiting for the main parade to start, the spectators were able to listen to some excellent music from the William King memorial band, which had come up from the Fountain area to play beside the Apprentice Boys’ hall. The main parade starts at about lunchtime, and is one of the largest in Northern Ireland, with up to 10,000 Apprentice Boys and 130 bands taking part.

The Apprentice Boys, band members, stewards, police and spectators at the parade all played their part in ensuring that this very large event was peaceful and well-organised. Unfortunately, there was some serious violence during the afternoon in a Nationalist part of the city, following a protest march organised by the Bogside Residents Group.

Apprentice Boys Parade

The Apprentice Boys Website

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Sample essay

Why were British troops sent into Northern Ireland in 1969?

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Video – The B-Specials

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Video – Housing Discrimination in Northern Ireland 1969

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Video – Peoples Democracy March January 1969 – Burntollet Bridge

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Short Video – The Battle of the Bogside

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The Battle of the Bogside

This is a six part documentary made on the background to and events in Derry in 1969 about the Apprentice Boys march on 12th August 1969 and the resultant Battle of the Bogside.

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1 Response to The Apprentice Boys

  1. Paul Cahill says:

    This is an excellent site and, as a history teacher, i am very grateful for the numerous essays, links and videos that you have made available to all teachers and students in the country. Thank you from Bunclody Vocational College, Co. Wexford

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