Adare’s past comes to vivid life

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

John and Maureen Blackwell,  Askeaton, listening to harpists; Siofra Thornton and Muireann O'Dwyer, at the Medieval Banquet at Desmond Castle, Adare    [Picture: Dave Gaynor]
WEEKS of painstaking attention to detail paid off handsomely when Adare’s Medieval Banquet proved to be the crowning success of a the village’s well-planned Weekend of Welcomes.

WEEKS of painstaking attention to detail paid off handsomely when Adare’s Medieval Banquet proved to be the crowning success of a the village’s well-planned Weekend of Welcomes.

All 300 tickets for the first banquet in Adare Castle for more than 400 years were booked out.

Adare hotelier Mary Fitzgerald says many, many more were “ begging at the gate” to be let in. “But we were at capacity,” said the woman who first dreamt up the idea of a Fitzgerald clan reunion which then just grew and grew into the more wide-ranging Weekend of Welcomes.

“We had a wonderful evening. The weather was fantastic, the castle was amazing and the atmosphere was really terrific,” Mary added.

Up to half the revellers had taken to the idea of a Medieval Banquet with great gusto, arriving dressed as friars, knights or wenches and the entertainment also reflected the medieval theme, with archery, falconry, story-telling with Eddie Lenihan and even a court jester, Jack Wyse, who did tricks, swallowed swords and generally kept the mood at high pitch.

The guests were piped into the castle, a stronghold of the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond during a lengthy and often turbulent period of Irish history. And they were regaled by Irish harp music from the National Harp Orchestra in the courtyard.

“It was a logistical challenge,” Mary Fitzgerald acknowledged. “Everything had to be brought in.”

But even here, the “Bill of Fayre” – which included roasted pig and chickens – kept to the medieval theme and was served in medieval style.

At least half the banqueters were visitors, Mary explained with satisfaction, and according to her reckoning, three-quarters of them had Fitzgerald connections.

Among them was Madam Olda Fitzgerald, the widow of the late and last Knight of Glin, Desmond Fitzgerald.

But she was particularly happy that an idea that struck “in a moment of madness” had proved so worthwhile. “I was very happy we did it,” said the woman who was given a standing ovation for her part in making it possible.

Other events around Adare for the weekend also proved successful. The Victorian Tea Party in Adare Manor was a sell-out while the programme also included a very successful Teddy Bear’s picnic, a recital in St Nicholas’,lectures and guided tours as well as a craft fair.

It ended with a July 4 barbecue in Adare Manor.