VISITORS to the town of Kilmallock are being invited to step back in time and experience life in medieval Ireland this Saturday.
Medieval battle recreations and the opening of King’s Castle and Blossom Gate to the public are amongst the highlights of Kilmallock’s Walled Town Day which will celebrate one of Ireland’s most intact walled towns.
“The upcoming Walled Town Day is one of a number of initiatives being developed to promote the town and its rich heritage, which is unique in County Limerick for its range of standing medieval monuments,” commented Sarah McCutcheon, executive archaeologist, Limerick County Council.
“We are seeking to further enhance the visitor offering with particular emphasis on Kilmallock’s Walled Town status. Hundreds attended last year’s festival and we look forward to introducing many hundreds more to what is regarded as one of Ireland’s most historically important towns.”
To date, 285 metres of the town wall has been restored. Plans are now underway to link Kilmallock with a German walled town. New tour guides are to be trained, and be in place for the 2014 season.
Renactors will bring the town’s medieval heritage to life during the festival, which is being organised by the Walled Towns Committee of Kilmallock Tourism Development Ltd and funded by the Irish Walled Towns Network, Ballyhoura LEADER and Limerick County Council.
Other events featured during the celebration include a guided walk, medieval-themed music by harpist Brenda Malloy and the Buttevant Singers, arts and crafts demonstrations and displays, a tug of war competition, a treasure hunt, a themed parade, and children’s activities.
Kilmallock was once regarded as one of the most strategically important towns in Ireland due to its medieval wall defences, castles, gatehouses and magnificent churches. The town walls, 70% of which remain standing today, have contributed greatly to Kilmallock’s direct involvement in almost every Irish conflict since medieval times. The fortress town was burned during the Desmond Rebellion and the local Dominican Priory was attacked and destroyed during the Irish Confederate Wars.
Ms McCutcheon confirmed that funding is expected to be made available shortly under the LEADER Programme to undertake tour guide training.
“A key step towards opening up the tourism potential of the town is the presence of a team of qualified tour guides. It is anticipated that guides will be ready to provide regular tours of the town using King’s Castle and Blossom Gate as the centrepiece of any public tour.”
Meanwhile, Ms McCutcheon said that plans are underway to establish direct links between Kilmallock and a walled town called Niedernhall in the Hohenlohe Region of Germany, which is twinned with County Limerick. “Representatives from Kilmallock visited Niedernhall in May 2013 as part of the Limerick County Council delegation to Hohenlohe and the towns seem to be a very good match,” said Ms McCutcheon.
Kilmallock’s Walled Town Day commences at 10am on Saturday with the opening of Blossom Gate and King’s Castle which are not always accessible to the public. Kilmallock Historical Society will also be opening the local museum. All three buildings will remain open to the public until 1pm.
A guided walk of the town, commencing from the carpark behind King’s Castle, will take place from 11.00am to 12.30pm, while White Horse Living History Society will accompany this year’s medieval parade from King’s Castle to the grounds of Coláiste Iósaef. Here, there will be medieval re-enactors, a children’s medieval battle, face painting, stocks, kiddies races and archery, as well as a crafts and food fair. Five members of the Limerick Craft Collective will be demonstrating their wonderful skills on Saturday.
Sparks will be flying during demonstrations by blacksmith Eric O’Neill. There will also be demonstrations by Clare Jordan, potter, and Pat Broderick, sugán maker, felt making by Kate Ramsey, and Tom Bromell will have his Homeland candles on display.
At 3.30pm, harpist Brenda Malloy and the Buttevant Singers will perform music from the medieval age. A tug-of-war competition featuring local GAA and rugby teams is planned for 4pm, while the day will conclude with a treasure hunt at 4.45pm.
In advance of Kilmallock Walled Town Day and to help children in the local area prepare for the festival, Jane Howe will host a workshop on making a medieval costume at Friars’ Gate Theatre this Thursday and Friday.
For more details see www.friarsgate.ie or http://irishwalledtownsnetwork.ie/page/kilmallock