Sunday, 1 August 2021

Hillsborough Fort Guard Revival

One of my earliest articles on this blog was about the HILL family, Earls of Hillsborough and Marquesses of Downshire.

I have also written quite a lot about the splendid village of HILLSBOROUGH, Royal Hillsborough as it will formally be known later in the year.

My invitation stated Robes, Uniforms, Lounge Suit; Medals, Decorations optional; so I wore a lounge suit.

I thought, a week ago, that I'd need to wear a hat to protect my head from the blazing sun; this requirement was, however, unnecessary. It was mainly overcast, with occasional drizzle.

If anything, I omitted to bring an umbrella.

IN 1660, CHARLES II granted a Royal Charter to HILLSBOROUGH FORT, County Down.

Coat-of-arms of Wills, 1st Marquess of Downshire,
created Baron Harwich in 1756

This fort was erected by the Hill family, and its purpose was to maintain a military presence in the district.

Moreover, this Royal Charter also bestowed the title of Hereditary Constable of Hillsborough Fort on Colonel Arthur Hill, his successors, and assigns.

Furthermore, Colonel Hill was entitled to raise and maintain a Guard of twenty troops to occupy the fort.

The duty of these Fort Warders was to guard the military garrison between Dublin and Carrickfergus.

The Fort Guard remained at full strength until the early 20th century, when government payments ended.

In 1954, the last surviving Warder, a First World War veteran, Jack Green, died and, in order to keep the tradition alive, the 7th Marquess of Downshire decided to retain the post of Fort Bugler.

This post remains to this day, and Fort Bugler Andrew Carlisle has held it since 2006.

Sergeant Bugler Andrew Carlisle & Mark Thompson
(Image: Hilary Thompson)

Recently it was felt, quite appropriately to my mind, that this historic tradition should be revived under the guidance of the 9th and present Marquess of Downshire.

The local historical and cultural society, the Hillsborough Old Guard, provided six period uniforms replicated from the original pattern, and has also provided assistance in the recruitment of new Fort Warders.

I was invited to the investiture ceremony and morning review of the Hillsborough Fort Guard on Saturday morning, the 31st July, 2021.

Mark Thompson and Self (Image: Hilary Thompson)

I arrived perhaps ten minutes or so before the ceremony began, and was delighted to encounter my friends Stanley Gamble and Mark and Hilary Thompson.

The Most Hon the Marquess and Marchioness of Downshire and Self
(Image: Rev Dr Stanley Gamble CF)

Stanley introduced me to Lord and Lady Downshire, which afforded me the opportunity to present Lord Downshire with a small token of my esteem on what was a historic event.

The Rev Dr Stanley Gamble, CF, with Mark & Hilary Thompson (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

At ten o'clock, there was a bugle fanfare, and the hereditary Constable, Colonel the Most Hon the Marquess of Downshire, arrived, accompanied by the Marchioness of Downshire.

We, the spectators, all stood on the front lawn of the Fort.

Lord and Lady Downshire in the Parade (Image: Alan Ewart, 2021)

Following a general salute, we were addressed by Lord Downshire; the Royal Charter of 1660 was proclaimed; the Chaplain, the Rev Dr Stanley Gamble, CF, led prayers and blessing.

This ceremony was followed by the investiture and the signing of warrants by the new Fort Warders.

The Mayor & Mayoress of Lisburn and Castlereagh with Self
(Image: Rev Dr Stanley Gamble CF, 2021)

Lord Downshire gave a closing address, with a response by the Right Worshipful the Mayor, Alderman Stephen Martin.

Hillsborough Fort Guard in front of the Fort (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

The Fort Guard was inspected, there were closing prayers and, following the National Anthem, the parade marched off.

The Parade Appointments were as follows:-
  • Reviewing Officer, Colonel the Most Hon the Marquess of Downshire
  • Parade Chaplain, the Rev Dr Stanley Gamble CF
  • Parade Sergeant-Major, HFG Sergeant-Major P F Shields VR
  • Parade Bugler, HFG Sergeant Andrew Carlisle
  • Parade Drummer, Colour Sergeant G Chambers, Irish Guards
  • Parade Fifer, Colour Sergeant P Carson, Irish Guards
  • Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr Colin Ward
Guard members on parade:-
  • HFG Corporal Simon Walker
  • HFG Corporal Robert Finn
  • HFG Warder Alan Finn
  • HFG Warder Charles Diett
  • HFG Warder Jackie McQuillan

The Irish Guard musicians were in attendance by kind permission of Lieutenant-Colonel R P Money, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards.

The Most Hon the Marquess of Downshire, Hereditary Constable,
Hillsborough Fort Guard (Image: Timothy Ferres, 2021)

The end of the ceremony gave us an opportunity to meet others, including a former fellow Young Unionist, the Right Hon Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP.

I should explain that four decades ago Jeffrey and I belonged to the Young Unionists, a branch of the Ulster Unionist Party. 

We used to meet at the party GHQ in Glengall Street, behind the Grand Opera House.

Jeffrey did remember me, and we reminisced a bit about the days of the Rt Hon Enoch Powell MBE MP, who represented South Down in parliament.

I left the UUP very many years ago, and indeed politics.

It was a great honour to be present at Hillsborough Fort yesterday, and I'd only wish to express my gratitude to everybody who made the occasion possible and so memorable.

1 comment :

Simon Walker said...

It was indeed a wonderful occasion. Glad you enjoyed the event and we appreciate the coverage you have given it.