LISBURN Mayor, Alderman William Leathem, has congratulated the Hillsborough Fort Guard on its 350th Anniversary and for its role in the summer Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
The Mayor hosted a open air 21-gun salute in Hillsborough Fort in June and with the approval of the Secretary of State hosted a reception in Hillsborough Castle. The Hillsborough Old Guard were on parade, adding to the significance of the occasion given its long history in the village.
The Mayor, Alderman William Leathem, said: "I would like to congratulate the Hillsborough Old Guard for bringing history back to life in the Downshire area. Without dedicated enthusiasts, traditions and heritage can be lost forever and it was a delight to see the Old Guard once again back on Parade.
"I feel very strongly that our local history should be explored and learnt from. There is so much history, dating back hundreds of years in the greater Lisburn area.
There could have been no better occasion to see the Hillsborough Old Guard than at the events run at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and I'd like to thank the Hillsborough Old Guard for their contribution to celebrations and the preservation of our local heritage in Hillsborough," added Mr Leathem.
The current and ninth Marquis attended the 350th celebrations with his family, including the current Lord Hillsborough. Lord Downshire said how proud he was to be associated with such a historically significant site as Hillsborough and that the Hillsborough Guard was such an important part of this, given the historical context more relevance. The skill and loyalty of Bugler Carlisle was a source of great family pride and now that he had been joined by the Volunteer Old Guard, the tradition was being kept alive more vividly.
The Hillsborough Fort Guard was established following the designation of the Fort (built in 1630) as a Royal Fort by King Charles II. A Royal Charter dated December 20 1660 noted it was A considerable place of strength commonly called Hillsborow fortified with fower bastions and Hankers which commands the chiefest road in the said Countie of Down.' He also appointed Colonel Arthur Hill and his heirs and assignees forever, to hold the office of Hereditary Constable of the Fort, with twenty Wardens or Castlemen. On receipt of the warrant, the Hillsborough Guard was raised. The uniform of the Warders is assumed to have evolved through the years. It has been said that it was influenced heavily by that worn by William III's Dutch Blue Guard, when en route to the Boyne, encamped at the fort.
By the middle of the 18th century the Fort was in a state of disrepair. The first Marquis of Downshire's incredible wealth and taste helped create and shape the village of Hillsborough to be the village it is today.
At this time Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough and first Marquis also resurrected the Wardens and as Constable of the Fort, had it restored and 20 Wardens, a Bugler, and a Sergeant recruited. This was around 1783 and it is believed the uniform of the Warders is that with which we are now familiar.
The Warder's uniform consisted of a plumed bicorn hat; tailored navy tunic; trimmed with scarlet and white bars on the chest; buttoned black gaiters and all was embellished with silver buttons showing an image of the Fort. The Sergeant's uniform was similar to that of the warders With the addition of a red sash to denote his rank. The Bugler's tunic, as customary was red, and heavily influenced by the pattern Drummer's tunic of the period.
Their role then became largely ceremonial and a decision was taken to retain only the Bugler when the remaining Wardens passed on. "It is a position that I hold very proudly, and am entrusted with ensuring the tradition of this historically unique honour bestowed on the Marquis's of Downshire is preserved for future generations. When 'on parade' I am ever mindful that I represent. the Downshire name, and not only its historical but also its current links to the village and with the help of the warders from the 'Old Guard' we can ensure that this fine tradition is kept very much alive," said Andrew Carlisle, the current Bugler of the Hillsborough Fort Guard.
In 2005, the Hillsborough Old Guard (Hillsborough's Local History Cultural and Arts Society) was formed by the local community to preserve and promote the rich heritage of the local area. With the permission of Lord Downshire, the Society once again resurrected the Fort Wardens as a re-enactment group and as tradition has it, the Hillsborough Old Guard can now be seen assisting the Bugler of the Hillsborough Fort Guard, Andrew Carlisle, as he carries out his duties in Hillsborough.
The Hillsborough Old Guard holds many community events including the holding of reminiscence evenings with talks on local history. The Old Guard has also been on a tour of World War 1 battlefields and war cemeteries where they sought to find the graves of those soldiers who had died. from the Hillsborough area. The society has also made strenuous efforts to mark and remember those who have served in the armed forces, with exhibitions being staged for this purpose.
A book, Beloved of my Heart, Little Hillsborough Town, was launched a few years ago, commemorating the history of the Old Guard and the area.