Guests rewind time at medival wedding banquet re-enactment

Guests at the historic Hill of the O’Neill and Ranfurly House Arts and Visitors Centre were treated to a real wedding banquet with a difference!

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 10:20 am

The unique recreation of a wedding banquet celebrating the infamous marriage between Hugh O’Neill and Mabel Bagenal took place at the historic site recently, targeted at tourism operators and product buyers.

Mid Ulster District Council hosted 100 guests from the regional travel and tourism trade, accommodation providers and Visitor Information staff for an evening designed to bring the past to life.

The venue was skilfully turned into a sixteenth century banqueting hall, and a sumptuous feast was served, both of which were delivered by Claire Murray’s team at Deli on the Green.

The Deborah Anderson School of Dance provide the Grand Finale

A taste of Mid Ulster was also presented to guests and served by Deli On The Green, Dugannon as part of the tourism buyer event.

Welcoming tour operators and tourism industry to the Taste of Mid Ulster event, chairman of Mid Ulster District Council, councillor Paul McLean, said: “It was my pleasure to welcome guests to the historic Hill of the O’Neill and Ranfurly House Arts and Visitors Centre and to a wedding banquet with a difference!

“We’ve developed brand new tourism product which gives tour operators a unique recreation of a wedding banquet celebrating the marriage between Hugh O’Neill and Mabel Bagenal in an evening designed to bring the past to life.

“We hope that as the guests experience the living history for themselves, they’ll be inspired to think about how they can bring their next tour group here so that they can in turn experience it for themselves.”

Even the fifteenth century had its own family feuds coming to the fore at a wedding!

In August 1591 Hugh O’Neill, The Earl of Tyrone, married his third wife Mabel Bagenal, the sister of Sir Henry Bagenal.

This wedding is one of the most romanticised episodes in Irish history: Mabel has been called “the Helen of Troy of Elizabethan Ireland”.

Whether it was a genuine love marriage (as suggested in the play Making History by Brian Friel) or whether it was simply an effort by O’Neill to form an alliance with Mabel’s powerful family is debatable.

The re-enactment of the banquet, set in 1591, took place on the original site of O’Neills castle in Dungannon, with locally sourced food and delicacies including Lough Neagh Eel, Pollan, beef and pork and much more, prepared and served by Deli at the Green.

Hugh O’Neill and Magel Bagel (performed by member of the CRAIC Theatre) take the floor for the first dance

It was supplied by local companies: Toome Eel Company, Lisdergan Butchery Meats, Stanley Frew Merchants, Draynes Farm and Bee to Apiary Honey.

The wedding party was expertly portrayed and acted by players from the Craic Theatre in Coalisland, with specially created costumes produced by the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

Music throughout the evening was played by The Hanna Sisters, and the night sky at Castle Towers was illuminated by fire displays from Circusful. The grand finale featured dancers from the Deborah Anderson School of Dance.

A taste of Mid Ulster was presented to guests attending a wedding banquet with a difference at Hill of the O’Neill served by Deli On The Green, Dugannon as part of the tourism buyer event
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean welcomes tour operators and tourism industry to the Taste of Mid Ulster event