The International Gathering of the O'Neill Clans May 2013
This email was received from Patrick and Judy O'Neill who attended the gathering.
Another reason we made the trip to Ireland was to attend The 2013 International Gathering of the O'Neill Clans in County Tyrone. The attending of this Gathering proved to vastly exceed any preconceived idea of what this O'Neill Clans gathering would involve. We have absolutely no regrets about attending and only regret is that you could not join us. Each Irish town Armagh, Dungannon, Cookstown and Benburb rolled out the red carpet. We were met with pomp & circumstances at each site. Each included a greeting reception, planned activities, entertainment & a banquet. Attached are numerous pictures depicting historical sites and the many activities we participated in.
The Association of O'Neill Clans was the sponsor of this gathering. Over 200 O'Neill's attended from numerous countries, Ireland, France, Portugal, England, Australia, Canada and USA. A family from Philadelphia had 40 that attended. One of the Philadelphia members had a striking resemblance to our Mike O'Neill of Philo. Check out this web site www.oneillclans.com. It is free to join this site which contains a wealth of information on the history of the O'Neill's of Ireland and elsewhere. The planning committee for the Gathering is to be commended for organizing such an educational and entertaining event.
The entertainment was first rate Irish music and dance including: a Gaelic choir, youthful Irish dancers, harp players, bands,and bagpipers. It was true Irish music. The young Irish dancers in their colorful outfits danced with the fluid movements stirring the ancestral leprechauns. The bagpipers awaken the spirits of Irish warriors of long ago led into the Battle of Yellow Ford by Hugh O'Neill, the Earl of Tyrone. The victory by O'Neill's troops sealed the deal for Hugh to go down in history as THE GREAT O'NEILL. The Gaelic choir sang with grand harmony in Gaelic that was pleasing to the ear. The harpers provided a relaxing sound that was soothing dinner music for the exquisite banquets. The Irish food was so flavorful and tasteful.
If you get the chance to go to Ireland, I highly recommend that you include counties Tyrone & Armagh in your itinerary. Their is an abundant wealth of O'Neill history in the area. Dungannon has a brand new museum adjacent to The Hill of O'Neill that involves the history of the area and Ireland from the period 1250 to 1649. The Hill is the site of the former O'Neill castle last occupied by Hugh O'Neill. The first known O'Neill fort was built at The Hill in 1305. The museum is done from the viewpoint of both sides of the conflict. It is informative and a valuable part of O'Neill history.
Near Cookstown in the country sits Tullahogue Fort, Land of the O'Neill's which was the O'Neill ceremonial site for the crowning of the O'Neill kings. The last to be crowned was Hugh O'Neill. Local actors performed a recreation of the ceremonies with Hugh being the main character. The Irish wolf hounds and the crowd stood calmly near the stone crowning chair awaiting the arrival of their great leader and master Hugh O'Neill. He did not disappoint as he spoke the words of old stirring the crowd with his greatness. Here again, young local musicians played their violins and flutes adding realism to the moment. The ceremonial site sets amongst an earthen ring fort on top of a hill with a 360 degree panoramic view for miles in all directions. In silence and solitude, the earth evokes that this is truly a sacred site to the O'Neill's of past and present. The site has been preserved for future generations and efforts are underway to make the site more informative and user friendly. It has taken the efforts of many locals and the cooperation of different levels of government to protect this historical site.
At Benburb Castle, we were treated to a recreation of time gone by a basket weaver, a blacksmith and two soldiers. The soldier demonstrated the numerous weapons of choice for use in the Battle of Benburb and Yellow Ford. The Castle was the chief house of Shane (The Proud) O'Neill. From the grounds of the Castle we paraded to the Bottle of Benburb led by bagpipers and musicians in period dress. This bar dates to the !500's during the time of Shane. It was a cool night of Irish entertainment and food. Benburb is a quaint Irish Village similar in size to Philo, Illinois.
At the Servte Priory of Benburb we were greeted by the Friar and a lady playing the harp. This huge !890's house was the former summer residence for James Bruce a Belfast distiller. In 1948, the Servite's purchased the property and created a special place for prayer and retreats. Speakers presented history on different O'Neill clans broken up by a sumptuous banquet.
Armagh proved to be quite impressive. It is the City where St. Patrick began his introduction of Ireland to Christianity. It has not one but two St. Patrick's Cathedrals.
One is St. Patrick's Catholic Cathedral and the other is St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral. Each Cathedral is historically significant and have exceptional architectural features. During St. Patrick's time in Armagh and the surrounding counties, St. Patrick would have converted more than one O'Neill. It was important to St. Patrick to get the support of the Irish Kings and Chieftains of the area. At that time, a great deal of the area was O'Neill territory. Nearby to Armagh sits Navan Fort a top a panoramic hill. Navan Fort is one of the great royal sites of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland dating back to the time of the Druids.
We finished off the International Gathering of the O'Neill Clans with a farewell dinner at the Clyde Hotel in Dublin. To Rose O'Neill, a special thank you for bringing this Gathering to our attention. Rose it was nice to meet you and spend time with you at the different activities. The entire trip created delightful memories of Ireland and O'Neill history.
Patrick & Judy O'Neill
Photos of the gathering have been placed in the Gallery.