• Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club
  • Mitchelburne Apprentice Boys of Derry Club



The year 2004 marks the revival of the Mitchelburne Club of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, an important occasion in itself, and an opportunity to reflect on a local association of men that is nearly three centuries old. Early records of the Mitchelburne Club are virtually non existence but it is generally accepted that the first group bearing the Mitchelburne name came onto the local Londonderry scene during the 1720s quite probably as a direct tribute to the recently deceased Col. Mitchelburne himself. In Mitchelburne’s biography (chapter one), credit is awarded to him for the formation of the first Apprentice Boys Club and the historian, Rev. John Graham, writing in 1823, claims that for many years after the Siege hero’s death, ‘a convivial association of tradesmen existed in Londonderry, who called themselves the Mitchelburne Club and made an annual visit to the hero’s tomb at Glendermott’. On July 18th 1775 an advertisement appeared in the Londonderry Journal, signed by Thomas Anderson, President, requesting all members of the Independent Mitchelburne Club as intend to celebrate the never to be forgotten day, the glorious First of August (OS) to meet at the house of Mr George Campbell of Bishop Street on Monday the 24th inst., ‘ at 7.00 p.m to determine a few particulars relating thereto’. The Independent Mitchelburne Club was possibly formed at this time because the following note was added to the advertisement, ‘Perhaps this infant title of Independent Mitchelburne Club may be unknown to many, but this suffice, it includes all those Sons of Liberty who formerly met and ‘ commemorated that blessed day’. (I.e. The Relief of Derry). ln 1775 the ’infant’ clubs included men who had obviously celebrated the Relief before. Three years later, June 12th 1778, another ‘Journal’ advertisement advised ‘the members of the Mitchelburne Company, in a military spirit, to call forth many patriotic gentlemen of this City to embody and perfect themselves in martial exercise and to meet for this purpose at 7.00 pm in the Mitre ` Bishop Street’, signed Robert Beggs, President. This period marked the formation of the Volunteer movement, a loyal and constitutional movement, and this company was obviously formed from the membership of the Mitchelburne Club.

The subject of this year’s celebrations was actually formed in 1845 ‘apparently it lapsed sometime between then and its revival in 1854, and has progressed continuously ever since. lt is possible that the first President of the revived club was local businessman and historian, John Hempton. In 1857 he is recorded as attending General Committee and he was President 1858-60. The club took a leading role in the Shutting the Gates celebrations on December 18th 1860. In the same year the Party Emblem Act had been passed, and on August 12th, Bishop Higgin prohibited the hoisting of the Crimson from the Cathedral steeple. The Apprentice Boys had defied this ban and the flag was raised. Tension was high in December when prevention of the firing of the guns (then a customary feature of the celebrations) was the main object of the authorities and a large force of police and army were drafted into the City for this purpose. There was a distinct lack of consensus among the Apprentice Boys about their best course of action; many believed that it was an appropriate time to test the legality of the statutory ban and John Hempton and his Mitchelburne men obviously agreed with them. Hempton and his men went to Pump Street (within the walls) where the guns were stored and took a six pounder out on the walls via London Street/ Bishop Street followed by a large crowd. Despite the best efforts of the magistrate and his men, the traditional seven rounds were fired and the Mitchelburne returned triumphant to Pump Street. The Mitchelburne appear to have been a controversial club. After the Apprentice Boys celebrated the marriage of the Prince of Wales in 1863, the club withdrew from General Committee feeling in necessary to point out that the local anniversaries should not be involved in ‘any political complications’.

The Mitchelburne also disclaimed the practice of affiliating members from other parts of the country and overseas. This information is established from a little pamphlet by Francis J. Porter, ‘Be in Earnest’, ‘A sermon delivered before the Mitchelburne Club on August 12th 1863.

Anniversary of the Relief of Londonderry, with an appendix, historical epitome, rules, etc. of the Mitchelburne Club’. (Printed in Londonderry in 1863) One year later, 1864, the Committee of the First Presbyterian Congregation refused the Mitchelburne Club use of their meeting- house because they objected to party colours and flags. The club appears to have settled down thereafter, following the pattern outlined in the Chronology of the Apprentice Boys (chapter 2). Nothing, however, can be taken for granted, John Hempton fell out of favour with his brethren and was either expelled or resigned from the club.

During a parade his home was picketed and an effigy of him in the guise of Lundy was burnt. At the time of the centennial celebrations in 1954 the club was in a flourishing state and I am pleased to be able to testify that 50 years later this healthy situation remains. in 1954 under the guidance of Bro. Alex Thompson, President, the club commanded 27 branches and a membership of 2,000 making it one of the largest of the eight sub—divisions of the Apprentice Boys. Bro. James Knox had a record service of 45 years, and other long serving brethren were Bros. Geo. Black, John Lorett, John Allen, Dan Thompson, Alex Slater, with Rev. George Sidebottorn as Honorary Chaplain. Rev. Sidebottorn was a grandson of Bro. Dan Holland a former Governor of the Apprentice Boys. The club celebrated its centenary with the striking of a medal; on one side ‘1854-1954, Mitchelburne Club of Apprentice Boys of Derry Centenary, Vita Veritas Victoria’. On the other side is shown the tower of the Cathedral, on which is hoisted Mitchelburne’s Bloody Flag, with the words ‘No Surrender and the dates 1688-1689’.

Officers for the 1954 Club were:
President Alex Thompson
Vice-President Robert McKinlay
Chaplain Rev. William Doherty
Secretary George Dinsrnore
Assistant Sec. Roy Thompson
Treasurer Charles Glenn

The following have held the office of President since 1913:
H. Williamson 1913
W. Murray 1914-16
W. Glass 1917-19
W. McCarter 1920
J. Kincaid 1921
S.A. Hutchman 1922
James Knox 1923-30
Alex Slater 1931
G. Thompson 1932-33
J. Kincaid 1934
W. Young 1935-38
R. Berkely 1938
J. Mitchell 1941-42
W. Treanor 1943-44
J. McClay 1945
W. Treanor 1946
Dan Thompson 1947-48
J.R. Smyth 1949-52
A. Thompson 1953-54

Bro. Dan Holland was President 50 years before this when he was Lieutenant Governor 1901-05 and Governor in 1906. Minute books from 1954-1980’s have, unfortunately, ‘disappeared’ and the majority of this brief record is derived from ‘living memory’. The President elect for the anniversary year 2004 is :- Bro. William Buchanan, a ‘true Derryman’.

Immediate Past Presidents are:
Bro. Norman Jefferson
Bro James Jefferson
Bro. Paul McCorkell
Bro. Stewart Molloy
Bro. John Robb
Bro. Kenneth McFarland
Bro. Tony Crowe
Bro. David Laverty
Bro. Robert Moody

Bro. Albert McCartney served as secretary for 42 years until Bro. Raymond Robb took over in 1994. The Mitchelburne Club is fortunate to have commanded the valued services of two strong secretaries during the second half of the 20th century and the club continues to prosper under Bro. Robb’s gentle guidance. Highlights during this half century have included the dedication of the Mitchelburne window in the Great Hall of the Memorial Hall on Saturday 14th March 1998; branch clubs subscribed generously to this tribute and Bro. James Jefferson officiated on that memorable day. The grave of Col. Mitchelburne at Glendermott has been refurbished on several occasions since 1954, notably in the mid 1990’s when sadly it was vandalised just three months after the completion of the work. The Honourable The Irish Society contributed to all of the refurbishments of the grave and in 2000 the Society subscribed most generously to a total renewal of the tombstone, the lettering and the metal surrounds. The grave was rededicated in September 2000 in the presence of the Governor and his officers. A generous contribution from Mr. And Mrs. David Hay, from a well known Loyalist family, assisted the purchase of new flags, which were dedicated in 2001. Bro. Matt Stewart, a stalwart of the Parent Club, contributed considerable funds towards the refurbishment of the Club bannerette at the same time. During Tercentenary year (1988-89) Bro. W.A.(Tony) Crowe, President of the Mitchelburne, was honoured with the office of Chairman of the Committee convened to co-ordinate the celebrations.

The late Bro. Albert McCartney was also very involved with this important watershed in the history of the Association. It is very appropriate that we should now pause in this short history to reflect on the involvement of this outstanding Brother. Albert McCartney dedicated most of his life to the Loyal Orders, but he had a particular fondness for the Apprentice Boys; so much so in fact that he awarded his only son, Andrew, with the name ‘Mitchelburne’. A native of Ballieborough, Co. Cavan, Bro. McCartney served in the Navy during World War II and studied accountancy on his return to Belfast. During his time in Belfast he was very involved with the Mitchelburne Branch Club which sat in Sandy Row Orange Hall along with his Sons of Co. Cavan lodge.

When Albert established his own practice in the Maiden City, he employed his talents for the promotion of the Apprentice Boys as General Treasurer, and for a short time as Lieutenant Governor. ln civic life he served as a Unionist Councillor for the North Ward on Londonderry Corporation. Despite such commitments Albert maintained a paternalistic interest in the Mitchelburne Club and its present strength is a reflection of his enthusiasm. Bro. McCartney’s loyalism was of that special quality that is the preserve of brethren from the ‘forgotten’ counties of Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal. Many of those who joined the Club after World War II and were active during Centenary year were honoured recently with their 50 year medals, they included Bros. James Jefferson, James Thompson, Roy Thompson, Sam McPherson and the late Willie Hamilton. The President and brethren of the Mitchelburne Club confidently relish the success of the club as it celebrates its important birthday.