THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: King William lands at Carrickfergus amid Orange pageantry

From the News Letter, June 13, 1949

By Darryl Armitage
Sunday, 13th June 2021, 6:00 am
Carrickfergus re-enacted one of history's great occasions in 2002 when the town celebrated the 312th anniversary of the landing of King William III.
Carrickfergus re-enacted one of history's great occasions in 2002 when the town celebrated the 312th anniversary of the landing of King William III.

“When King William the Third landed at Carrickfergus on Saturday for the fourth time since the annual Orange pageant in the town was started, the proceedings were more true to life than on previous occasions,” declared the News Letter on this day in 1949.

The reason for that, noted the News Letter, was that Carrickfergus was later that month to regain the borough status which it had enjoyed when the real King William landed at four o’clock on the afternoon of June 14, 1690, to take personal command of his armies in the field and put the seal on the defeat of the Jacobite forces.

Waiting to greet the King then when he walked forward to the harbour head from the flat stone, now known as King William’s Stone, was the Mayor, Richard Dobbs. And notably, in 1949, the part of the Mayor in the pageant that year was played by a descendant of the original Mayor – Captain R Dobbs – and, as on that previous occasion, he presented the keys of the fortress to the King.

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The News Letter reported: “Traditionally, these were returned to the safekeeping of the Mayor, who had suffered cruelly during the Jacobite occupation of the town.”

And so it was that on Saturday, June 11, 1949 had again been “occupied”, but this time by thousands of supporters of the Williamite cause, Orange brethren, from all parts of the province, including Londonderry, Enniskillen and Limavady, watched the landing at the historic castle and afterwards enjoyed the parade by His Majesty through the narrow streets of the town on a white horse, accompanied by soldiers in seventeenth century costume.

For those who could not get a vantage point to see what was happening, loudspeakers placed all around the castle carried a running commentary by Mr F J Cole of Greenisland.

A religious service was conducted in the open air by Canon J C Rutherford, who, in a short sermon, declared: “The fact that we are free men and women today, the fact that the King of England is our King, and the fact there is a Border with Ulster as part of the United Kingdom on one side, is largely the result of that memorable day when King William landed at Carrickfergus and that other day day, a fortnight later, when he crossed the Boyne.”

Among those who occupied seats on the platform was Professor D Savory, MP, who had flown over from London to experience the pageant, “which was blessed with perfect weather”.

Speaking at a tea in the Masonic Hall afterwards, Professor Savory said that it was interesting to recall that a Huguenot refugee names Dumont, who had sailed with the Duke of Schomberg, had written account of meeting the King in which he noted that “joy was painted on the face of the King, and his supporters looked upon this as a good augury for the future campaign”.

In celebrating the landing of King William, Professor Savory said, that they must not forget the Duke of Schomberg who landed at Carrickfergus in August, 1689, and occupied the town after a siege.