Author Topic: Paisley and Bertie At Battle Of Boyne Site  (Read 1026 times)


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Paisley and Bertie At Battle Of Boyne Site
« on: May 12, 2007, 11:26:34 AM »
THEY came, they saw and they conquered - together.

In a way, the Battle of the Boyne was fought afresh yesterday, and almost 350 years on, a victory was scored over intolerance and hatred.

We just didn't expect it to be quite this much fun.

Everyone who turned up to officially witness the sight of hell freezing over had a deep consciousness of what an historic occasion this was. But the buoyancy of spirits felt by everyone from the bus drivers and armed detectives to Bertie and Big Ian himself came as an unexpected bonus.

Perhaps it was the fact that we were there in the lush green countryside on a lovely morning in the month of May. But there was a warmth and lightness of spirits about, which could only be explained by the feeling of finally being freed from the shackles of mutual misunderstanding and mistrust embedded over the generations.

And it felt good.

Even the sight of an Orangeman walking around in his sash sparked no sense of outrage but merely was quite a novel attraction amongst guests from this side of the border.

There were 50 of them there yesterday from the Orange Order, the Royal Black Perceptory and the Independent Orange Order.

We'd better get used to them - because by the sounds of what Paisley was saying, they are going to become a bit of a regular fixture around here, once the 15m Visitors' Centre opens up as they're all keen to visit this part of their heritage.

The battle site forms part of the 'garden' of the house in the Oldbridge estate, formerly owned by the Coddington family. There's a cannon-ball in the design over the doorway of the main house - just in case anyone was in any doubt of the history of the place.

But it was more building site than battle site yesterday, with work well underway to refurbish and convert the house into the visitor centre.

There was heavy security in place, with metal detectors for guests, snipers positioned on the roof and the garda helicopter flying overhead, just in case.

Just after 11, having gotten the signal that his guests were on their way, Bertie appeared at the door of the main house and waited, kicking the stones in the driveway with his shoes.

Then the cavalcade came up the drive and Ian and Eileen Paisley had arrived.

With a warm handshake, the two men greeted one another - Ian with his hand on Bertie's shoulder and Bertie giving Ian's arm a little squeeze.

There couldn't have been a better occasion for Dr Paisley's first trip outside Northern Ireland as First Minister.

They went into the house and shortly after, came out into the courtyard to look at some of the paraphenalia on display. Bertie awkwardly picked up a cannonball. "How far would it go," he asked. About a mile, he was told.

Then they moved to admire a horse. "Ulster says neigh," whispered one media wag under his breath.

"Billy, you're far from home, boy," said Paisley - still eagle-eyed at the age of 80, having suddenly spotted Ulster reporter Billy Graham. "It's been a long journey," Billy replied.

"Do you want me to baptise you in the river," Paisley asked.

"I will if you get up on the horse," Billy retorted. The First Minister threw his head back and laughed.

Bertie gave his speech then. Our history is complex, he said. So was the battle fought on this ground. Catholics and Protestants had fought on both sides, he reminded us.

He invited Dr Paisley to join him in symbolically marking a new phase in our relations by planting a sapling nurtured from a walnut tree which stood at the site for 300 years - the same tree from which a bowl carved from the wood he had presented as a gift to Dr Paisley last October as they concluded the St Andrews Agreement.

Mr Paisley recalled a poem he had learned as a boy about those who fought on the "green grassy slopes of the Boyne" - but declared: "The days we are talking about are over and we must now look to the future."

He asked the Taoiseach to consider restoring the monument which commemorated the victory of King William. Paisley's gift to Bertie was a musket carried on the Catholic Jacobite side of the war. It was perfect - and still fires, or so we were told.
It won't be the next manager but the one after that Meath will become competitive again - MO'D 2016