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Saturday 25 May 2019

Norman invasion of Bannow remembered with series of events

The 850th anniversary of the Norman invasion to be marked with series of Wexford events

Norman soldiers storm Bannow Beach in a reenactment of the invasion of 1169
Norman soldiers storm Bannow Beach in a reenactment of the invasion of 1169

Simon Bourke

What is it about this fair green isle of ours? Why is it so cherished, so yearned for, by our neighbours from across the seas? No sooner have we commemorated one anniversary, paid tribute to those who died fighting for our freedom, when it's time to mark another.

However, in this instance, it's a less heroic chapter in Irish history that's being remembered. In May 1169 Norman invaders arrived on Irish shores, onto the beach at Bannow in County Wexford. And they arrived with one thing on their mind, to annex the town of Wexford and to claim it as their own.

And, to mark this seismic event, a battle which changed the course of Irish history forever, a series of public events will take place throughout Wexford in the coming months.

Beginning with the Bannow 1169 Norman Festival, which takes place in the village on the May Bank Holiday weekend, the year-long programme will see historical talks, demonstrations, concerts, re-enactments, workshops, medieval games and festivals in New Ross, Enniscorthy, Wexford Town and Ferns.

Launching the programme, entitled 'The Normans Are Here', Wexford County Council Tourism Officer Billy Byrne said, 'We are honoured to announce a very fitting programme of events to commemorate and the celebrate the 850th anniversary of the arrival of the Normans to Ireland.

'There is set to be something for all ages and tastes on offer in Wexford this year and we look forward to welcoming visitors from across the country and abroad to enjoy these events.'

On May 4 and 5, the village of Carrig on Bannow will be overrun with Normans as the battles of yore are recreated and reenacted by fully trained warriors. A Medieval Living History Tented Village with 14 living history tents, 15 living heritage craft displays, and a display of Norman cavalry warfare will be erected and historical lectures with Turtle Bunbury and Emmet Stafford will also take place. In addition, a commemorative ceremony and concerts featuring local and French musicians will mark this most important and consequential event in Irish history.

In Enniscorthy, over the June Bank Holiday weekend, the Norman theme continues as soldiers in full attire frequent the town and Norman Enniscorthy Castle during the annual Strawberry Street Rhythm & Roots Festival. Norman food will also be on offer at the All Ireland Farmers Market.

Then, during the August bank holiday weekend, the Rockin' Food Festival in Enniscorthy will host the Norman Medieval Fare and a series of Norman themed events for children and adults will be staged at Enniscorthy Castle.

In addition, a public lecture series including guest speakers; Dr Conor Kostick, Dr Linda Doran, Dr Denis Shine, Ian Doyle and Dr Michael Potterton; is to be hosted by Wexford Library. Tintern Abbey will also host a public lecture event with archaeologist Cóilín Ó Drisceoil and a series of guided walking tours in New Ross hosted by Baya the storyteller will take place throughout the summer.

Later in the year, The Irish National Heritage Park host the Viking Fire Festival on September 28-29. The festival will have two locations for events, the Wexford Quayside and the Irish National Heritage Park with the River Slaney route running between the two.

A full festival experience will be on offer and families will be able to pitch up a tent and enjoy an experience akin to life some 850 years ago as the Quayside is transformed into a real-life Viking village as a host of reenactions taking place over the course of the weekend.

The weekend will conclude with a flotilla of ships departing the Irish National Heritage Park and arriving onto the Wexford Quayside with a crew of defending forces firing their bows upon the vessels and setting one alight.

On October 12 and 13, a reenactment of the trial of Diarmuid MacMurrough will take place in Ferns. The MacMurrough Inquiry will detail the events which led to the Norman invasion. Leading barristers, historians and academics will lend their hand to proceedings.

Taking 2019 to a close will be the 'Carrick 850 International Conference' which takes place at the Irish National Heritage Park on October 18 and 19.

Further details on all of the events and how to purchase tickets can be found at www.visitwexford.ie/Norman850

Gorey Guardian

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