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King Billy crossing the Boyne replaces a UFF ‘Eddie’ mural (see M02487) as part of the re-imaging of loyalist murals in 2008. Rolston (2012 p. 455) reports that the Arts Council thought King Billy was too divisive an image to replace the Village Eddie, but lost this particular battle. The info board, shown below, places the painting in the history of loyalist muraling as a return to traditional images after a period of paramilitary control.

By John Darren Sutton in Tavanagh Street, Belfast.

Click and click again to enlarge (to 1500 x 1971)
Copyright © 2012 Extramural Activity
Camera Settings: f11, 1/100 ISO 100, full size 3744 x 4920

Click and click again to enlarge (to 1200 x 1800)
Copyright © 2017 Extramural Activity
Camera Settings: f8, 1/400 ISO 200, full size 2592 x 3888
X00552 X04465 the info board would later (on/after 2019) be moved to Maldon St

“The first unionist mural was painted in 1908 on the Beersbridge Road in East Belfast by shipyard worker John McLean. It depicted King William at the Battle of the Boyne. This was the start of mural painting becoming a key element in the annual unionist celebration of the Battle of the Boyne, culminating in the Orange Order parades of July 12th. Murals, bunting, arches, painted flagstones, marked out the route of marches as well as adorning countless local areas. Between 1908 and the 1970s the vast bulk of unionist murals depicted King William at the Boyne. Other murals depicted the sinking of the Titanic, the 36th Ulster [sic] Division at the Battle of the Somme, and various royal weddings and anniversaries. Each unionist working class area vied with the neighbouring areas to have the best decorations for the Twelfth. As part of this rivalry, King William murals were painted and repainted year after year, with some surviving through six or more decades. The longest-surviving mural in the South Belfast area was in Rockland Street. It depicted King William on his white horse at the Battle of the Boyne. Painted first in the mid-1920s, it survived until the mid-1990s, when it became a victim first of the heat from an adjacent bonfire, and then of redevelopment. The King William murals began to fade from the walls in the 1970s, to be replaced with murals depicting flags and other inanimate emblems. Overall, the number of murals declined significantly in this decade. In the mid-1980s mural painting in unionist areas came under the control of loyalist paramilitary groups. From that point, the vast majority of murals in unionist areas depicted armed and hooded men. In recent years, the debate on mural painting inside and outside loyalist paramilitary organisations has led to the decline of the military iconography. This debate has led to many positive changes taking place throughout Northern Ireland and in January 2008 Greater Village Regeneration Trust secured funding through the Re-imaging Communities Programme to transform a number of areas within the village. This programme was established to help communities in both rural and urban areas to focus on positive ways of expressing  their culture and identity and to encourage the creation of vibrant and attractive shared spaces. Thanks to the overwhelming support and participation of the local community in the Re-imaging process. Local organisations, community leaders, residents and young people have worked closely with artists to tackle the displays of redundant sectarian imagery and replacing these with positive expressions of wider cultural celebration.

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