THE Cloughmills branch of the Apprentice Boys of Serry Club was founded by thirteen men from the village of Cloughmills and surrounding areas on 17th February 1933.
This was the date the original charter was installed in the townland of Bellaghy, just outside of Cloughmills.
The decision to establish an Apprentice Boys club was taken because there were no clubs in the local area to remember the deeds of the brave thirteen apprentices during the siege of the maiden city in 1688 and 1689, the longest siege in British history.
The names of the founding members were, J.A. Gaston, T.J. McDowell, J Houston, W Beattie, G Rock, R Gage, H Morrison, R Anderson, J.L. McCracken, J.D. Preston, J.Linton, W.J. Erwin and T Rock. Many of these names are still familiar in the local area to the present day.
The first standard of the club was a crimson flag which was unfurled on Saturday 1st July 1933 by Mrs Hughes of Clough Rectory. The first “proper” banner was then bought a number of years later and unfurled at a ceremony on the 1st July 1948 by the wife of the first president of the club, Mrs J.A. Gaston.
This banner lasted the club another 14 years when the decision was made to purchase a new one which was unfurled by Mrs Allen of Drumadoon House.
The present banner in which the club own was unfurled at a ceremony in Cloughmills Memorial Orange Hall on Wednesday 11th August 1993.
On the front is a painting of the famous ship of the siege, the “Mountjoy” sailing along the river Foyle with the relief for the city. On the back, the image of the thirteen apprentices closing the city gates against the advancing army of King James.
The unfurling was carried out by Brother Samuel Sheppard, a past Governor of the Apprentice Boys, who was deputising for Brother David Gregg (Past President) who took ill on the day and eventually passed away that evening.
Since its formation, the club has engaged with many local bands to accompany them to their annual church service and trip to the relief celebrations in the Maiden City every year. From the early days, Dunloy Flute Band, Cloughmills Pipe Band, Carnlea Flute Band and Bellaghy Flute Band to the present day bands of Crown Defenders Cloughmills, Cloughmills Accordion Band, Eglish Accordion Band and Duneaney Accordion Band.
The club does not claim to have had any famous members although the first president of the club Brother J.A. Gaston was a justice of the peace. They also have had a few members who have been decorated with the British Empire Medal by Her Majesty The Queen. Bro. Robert Patton BEM, Bro. Frank Wisener BEM, Bro. Thomas J McDowell and Bro. James Murphy BEM.
As the branch enters its 80th anniversary year, the club can boast quite a healthy membership and be proud to be one of the most active clubs in the area.
To celebrate this anniversary, they will be running an evening of Ulster Scots entertainment in Cloughmills Memorial Orange Hall on Thursday 21st February at 8pm. Acts appearing on the night will be Charles Gillen, Anne Morrison-Smyth and a final farewell from local group Skullduggery along with other artists. Tickets for the night are priced at £5 each and can be obtained from any member or just pay at the door on the night.
A spokesman for the branch added: “May we take this opportunity to thank all the general public, families and the many members we have had in the club through the years, who have helped to keep the crimson banner flying in this part of Northern Ireland”.