"" Writer's Wanderings: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at the Castle?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at the Castle?

About a half hour outside of Galway in Kinvarra lies Dunguaire Castle. It is also called a Tower House, a tall square stone structure built with a commanding view and towering over enemies so that it would be easier to defend. This one was built around 1520 by the O'Hynes clan who were basically farmers. The location on the water made it easier for them to take their goods into Galway to sell as the area around them was very boggy and difficult to travel by land.

In 1642, the mayor of Galway, Richard Martyn, owned the castle and modernized it with glass windows and chimneys. The castle was not updated much in the 1700s perhaps due to the fact that the Martyn's were Catholic and were just lucky enough to hold on to the property even though the penal laws forbid Catholic ownership. The Martyn family held the property until 1924.

When Dunguaire was purchased by Lady Christobel Amptill after World War II, it was in ruins. In 1954, she began restoring it and added living quarters as well as a garage. The modern-looking apartment in the picture was her main living quarters. She lived there for almost 20 years and eventually sold the castle in 1972 to Shannon Development to be preserved as a historical building.

Our self-guided tour through the castle was part of the tickets we had purchased in advance for the evening Medieval banquet. We did the tour in the afternoon and then hustled to our B&B in Galway so that we could freshen up and return for the banquet.

Legend has it that King Guaire looked out his window one day and saw 150 poets who requested his hospitality for a festival. The request was immediately granted as in Gaelic custom hostpitality was highly regarded and a king's greatest gift was generosity. Each night a banquet was held and poets would recite and musicians play. The festivities continued on for a year and a half. Ours would not last that long.

The evening was outstanding. The banquet hall holds about 50 people. Our host and hostess were also our entertainers and servers for the evening. I don't know how they did it all. We were seated and a "king" was appointed to reign over the event. The evening continued with Irish tales and stories and lots of song. Our hostess looked so much like our niece that it was almost uncanny.

The "servants" from the kitchen brought the food up. It was plated and passed out to us. The terrible part is that I can't remember what we ate. The good part is that it was probably because we were having such a good time listening to the entertainers. I do remember there being plenty of food.

The entertainment for the evening included a wonderful harpist who accompanied the singers/performers. The fare for the evening included many stories, songs, and tales from the many famous Irish authors, poets, and composers including such notables as Yeats, Joyce, and Wilde. This would definitely be a redo if we ever visit Ireland again.

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