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20 Jul 2011

Many people are already keenly aware of the historic importance of Armagh City and its surrounding countryside. The area is internationally reputed for its rich and colourful heritage – from its prehistoric origins as a seat of the ancient kings and queens of Ulster, through its role in the development of Christianity in Ireland and later as a regionally significant interface during the long and often bitter struggle between Planter and Gael.

The memory of many important aspects of Armagh’s past has faded somewhat in the popular consciousness of local people. However, in some parts of the Orchard County, the inhabitants are only too aware that they may potentially be sitting on a heritage tourism goldmine.

In recent years, a committee of local enthusiasts has been trying to gain official recognition for the historic sites associated with the Battle of the Yellow Ford. Arguably the most famous episode in the Nine Years War between the Gaelic Chieftains and the English Crown, the battle was fought on the 14th August 1598 and is known in Irish as ‘Béal an Átha Bhuí’. It played out across a number of townlands just north of Armagh City. Although the actual theatre of battle was restricted to an area between Armagh, the Grange and An Port Mór, the outcome sent shockwaves throughout the royal and religious courts of Europe.

Memories of the Battle of the Yellow Ford survive in local place names, legend, folklore and song. The battle’s fame and international reputation are evident in the number of enquiries related to the period that emanate from visitors from the four corners of the world – eager to learn more about the battle’s historical, cultural, political and environmental  legacy.

This year, the two day Yellow Ford Festival will be launched by cultural organisation CAIRDE Teo on Friday 5th August at 8.00pm in the clubhouse of Naomh Colmcille, Grange GFC. The GAA club is situated directly along the route of the battle and is hosting the event as part of its celebrations to mark the official opening of the club’s new training facilities. On the Friday evening, historical re-enactor David Swift will present a demonstration and lecture entitled ‘Weapons and Strategy at the Yellow Ford’ – an event which will employ artefacts, paraphernalia, weapons and armoury in order to vividly bring to life the events of that August day 413 years ago. David will be joined by a number of his companions who will be dressed in the attire of the late 16th century and who will pitch camp for the night at the Grange club in the manner of the Irish armies at the Yellow Ford.

An evening of traditional music and song from An Ciorcal Comhrá Ard Mhacha will entertain guests following the lecture and demonstration. There is no charge for these events and all are welcome.

The Festival continues throughout Saturday 6th August with a guided walk and boat trip exploring locations and features of historical interest along the route taken by O Neill’s armies to the Yellow Ford. Interested parties can assemble at one of two locations on the day. Stage One of the guided tour commences at 11.30am on Saturday at Charlemont Bridge on the River Blackwater. From here, participants can embark on a 2 hour boat journey south along the river in a traditionally crafted vessel, courtesy of the Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association. Places on the boats will be offered on a first come, first served basis (£10 charge) and pre-bookings can be made by contacting Colm on 07927932262 or by contacting the CAIRDE offices (details below). Alternatively, those with their own means of water transportation are free to join the ‘flotilla’ along the beautiful stretch of river between Charlemont and An Port Mór or Blackwatertown. Dr Antaine Ó Donnaile will provide a historical overview of the major points of interest along the route.

Following lunch by the river bank, participants will embark on Stage Two of the trip, which is comprised of a guided walk over the main sites of the battle between Blackwatertown and the Grange. Those people who do not wish to participate on the first leg of the journey from Charlemont are free to join the tour at the bridge in Blackwatertown at 2.30pm for the walk to the Grange. This stage of the walk will lay particular emphasis on the O Neill encampments as they awaited the approach of the English army led by Sir Henry Bagenal.

As the walk culminates at the Grange GFC at 5pm on Saturday evening, participants will arrive just in time for the Yellow Ford Shield Challenge – a hurling match between the holders, Cúchullains from Armagh and the challengers, Naomh Éanna from Co. Antrim. Having defeated the challenge of Eoghan Ruadh from Tyrone in last year’s competition, Cúchullains are keen to redress the result of this year’s Ulster Senior Hurling Final and to restore the bragging rights to Armagh hurling. The coveted Yellow Ford Shield will be presented following this eagerly awaited clash in the Grange.

The weekend’s events will close with presentations and closing remarks in the clubhouse at 6.30pm. CAIRDE Teo is keen to thank the committee of Naomh Colmcille, Grange GFC for their help and support in hosting this year’s events. The organisers would also like to acknowledge the financial support of Foras na Gaeilge and Armagh City and District Council for this year’s Yellow Ford Festival programme and the enthusiastic support of Lough Neagh Boating Heritage Association in Maghery.

For more information on the Festival or to register for Saturday’s boat trip, please contact Gearóid or Seán at the ‘CULT ÚR’ shop on the first floor of Armagh City Shopping Centre (Eurospar) or visit the CAIRDE website www.cairdeteo.com .      
Telephone: 028 37515229                                         E.mail: eolas@cairdeteo.com

CLÁR NA FÉILE

Friday 5th August

Grange GFC, Co Armagh

8pm   Illustrated Talk by David Swift      ‘Weapons and Strategies at the Yellow Ford’

10.00in          Traditional Music – ‘An Ciorcal Comhrá Ard Mhacha’                                                                

Saturday 6th August

11.30am           Meeting at the bridge in Charlemont

12.00pm           Historical Boat Trip on the River Blackwater (£10 adult, £5 child)

2.00pm              Lunch on the river bank at An Port Mór

2.30pm              Guided Historical Walk via the O’Neill Encampments

Grange GFC, Co Armagh

5.00pm              The Yellow Ford Shield Hurling Challenge

6.30pm              Closing Remarks and Presentations