huge achievement | 

Master builder behind world’s biggest bonfire insists you won’t find tricolours burning on his pyre

‘And we have booked a special firework display. The people doing this for us are travelling up from Dublin. We have no intention of insulting them by burning their national flag’
David Murray at the Craigyhill bonfire

David Murray at the Craigyhill bonfire

The Craigyhill bonfire from a distance

The Craigyhill bonfire from a distance

Builders working on the Craigyhill bonfire

Builders working on the Craigyhill bonfire

Hugh JordanSunday World

The master builder behind the world’s biggest bonfire insists an Eleventh Night carnival is entirely cross community.

Larne man David Murray — who oversaw the construction of the huge bonfire on the town’s Craigyhill estate this week — told the Sunday World: “Our committee is made up of a cross section of our community... including three Catholics!”

David took time out from inching his edifice further towards the sky to explain what bonfires mean to the people living in Craigyhill.

And he insists the event isn’t out to cause offence to anyone.

“You won’t see any Irish tricolours on this bonfire,” he emphatically stated.

“We are holding a community event. We do it every year. We get a lot of flack over safety, but we’ve all been through all the right courses and we know what is required.

“All of our builders are properly harnessed before stepping on to the site. Our safety standards are high,” he insisted.

“This year is a bit different because we set out to build the biggest bonfire in the world which by the time it’s finished will reach a height of over 200ft.

“Northern Ireland is good at bonfire building. We have expert bonfire builders. And we wanted to beat Norway which builds the world’s biggest bonfire every year in honour of John the Baptist.

“And we were determined to put our name in the record books for building the biggest bonfire in the world.

“But we won’t be causing offence to anyone. We are running a community event. It’s a fun day for all.

“Our day starts at midday on the 11th of July. We are having a live band playing music. We’re having Lambeg drumming and King Billy will even make an appearance on his horse.

“And we have booked a special firework display. The people doing this for us are travelling up from Dublin. We have no intention of insulting them by burning their national flag.” David Murray insisted.

And he added: “In fact, we respect national flags.”

The Craigyhill bonfire from a distance

The Craigyhill bonfire from a distance

David Murray also explained planning for this year’s bonfire event in Craigyhill began last July, as soon as the final flicker of flame was extinguished.

“We set about cleaning up the site and returning it to normal. And then we began the job of getting things ready for tomorrow night. It has been a full 12 months of work.

“By the time we are finished, we will have at least 15,000 pallets in this bonfire and every single one of them was bought and paid for.

“We are busy all year arranging fundraising events and begging people for donations. That takes a lot of work on its own, but it’s worth it and it means we can stage a spectacular event which everyone can enjoy,” said David.

Security at the Craigyhill bonfire site is under the control of two formidable loyalist women.

Edie Hagan (51) and her glamorous granny assistant Marie Brown (43), spend their day days prowling the site to make sure pallets aren’t pinched by rival bonfire builders.

And God help anyone who would dare to set fire to the pyre before it is lit at midnight on the 11th night.

“We look after the place until the men come back after they finish work,” said raven-haired Edie.

Originally from Belfast’s staunchly loyalist Shore Road area, Edie settled in Larne 40 years ago, when she met the man of her dreams.

“We just keep an eye on things during the day in case anyone arrives to cause trouble,” explained Edie.

Johnston Todd, a local photographer and drone enthusiast, has recorded the building of the Craigyhill bonfire and he plans to film from the very top of the pyre when it is lit at midnight on July 11.

“I’m a local photographer and I was keen to record Craigyhill this year because it is going to be the biggest bonfire in the world,” he said. “I put my footage on Facebook for everyone to see.”

Builders working on the Craigyhill bonfire

Builders working on the Craigyhill bonfire

On Portadown’s Corcrain/Redmanville estate, bonfire builder John Haddock also maintained his work was entirely aimed at building a stable community.

His pyre was lit on Friday night in keeping with local tradition. And when we called to see him earlier this week, he was still in bed!

“I’m sorry I was sleeping, but I was very tired with all the work finishing the bonfire on time,” he said.

The Portadown bonfire is constructed in the shape of a castle in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee and it is clear it enjoys huge community support.

Pensioner Cecil Johnston, who visited the site with his toddler grandson Izzie, said: “We look forward to the bonfire every year and it’s a credit to the lads who built it.”

But as John Haddock says, the Corcrain/Redmanville bonfire is also a testament to local men of previous generations who built it in years gone by. “This year we are remembering people from our community who have passed on. It just so happens we recently lost a few men and we’ll be honouring them for their commitment to the local community,” he said.


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