HUNDREDS of local people gathered in the rain for the poignant proclamation ceremony of King Charles III at Bangor Castle. The Queen made a number of memorable visits to the borough during her 70 year reign, winning the hearts of local people who showed their respects as they gathered under a sea of umbrellas in the castle grounds on Sunday.

After the moving ceremony and as cheers of ‘God save the King’ echoed around the town centre, young and older residents alike formed a lengthy queue at the town hall to sign the Book of Condolence. It was an impressive spectacle as the Lord Lieutenant of County Down, Gawn Rowan-Hamilton, the High Sheriff of County Down, James Smyth,, and Ards and North Down council chief executive, Stephen Reid, led the mayoral party in front of the castle.

They were followed by the Mace bearer, Mayor Karen Douglas, deputy Mayor Craig Blayney, the Mayor’s Chaplain, Canon Ronnie Nesbitt, and the chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Michael Savage. Also in the procession was Lt. Colonel Kevin Thomas, North Down MP Stephen Farry, Strangford MP Jim Shannon, Assembly representatives as well as aldermen and local councillors. Welcoming the crowds and guests, Mayor Douglas said the council had been ‘honoured’ to be invited by the Lord Lieutenant to host the service on behalf of the entire County of Down at this ‘historic moment’. She said: “We come together this afternoon following the passing of our late Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth the Second.

Our sadness at this time is shared by people across the nation, realms, territories and the commonwealth as well as the wider world, as we remember with affection and gratitude the lifetime of service given by our longest reigning Monarch. “But the basis on which our monarchy is built has ensured that through the centuries the crown has passed in an unbroken line of succession.

Today’s ceremony marks the formal proclamation of accession, to the people of the County of Down and the beginning of our new King Charles III’s reign.” The Mayor said: “The proclamation of the new sovereign is a very old tradition, which can be traced back over many centuries.

The ceremony does not create a new King. It is simply an announcement of the accession, which took place immediately on the death of the reigning monarch. “In an age where modern methods of communication convey news around the globe in an instant, the proclamation is no longer the means by which people learn for the first time that they have a new Monarch.

Today, however, is one of the first occasions when communities have an opportunity to come together and reflect on the moment in our nation’s history when the reign of our longest-serving Monarch came to an end and our new Sovereign succeeded.” Mr James Symth, the High Sheriff of County Down, read the proclamation, with the Lord Lieutenant of County Down Gawn Rowan-Hamilton paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth. “She was one of the longest heads of state anywhere in the world and in history,” he said. “Winston Churchill was her first Prime Minister and Liz Truss was her 15th appointment as Prime Minister, that she made just two days before she died.” Praising the judgment, wisdom and integrity of the Queen during her reign, he said her passing was ‘the end of the era of ‘Elizabeth the great’ but urged local people to look to her heir, King Charles III, and build a new era with an ‘ever deepening sense of community and strength’.

Following prayers led by Canon Ronnie Nesbitt, the National Anthem was played and the union flag flown at the front of the town hall was returned to half mast during the national mourning period. Mayor Douglas returned to the lectern to declare ‘God Save the King’ and closed the accession proclamation as she led everyone in three cheers for the new King. Books of Condolences for the Queen have been opened, both online and in hard copy form at the Town Hall in Bangor and the Town Hall in Newtownards. Members of the public have been invited to leave their own personal tribute.