Friday, April 18, 2014

1014 Eve of Battle

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In real life, you don't necessarily get to rehearse a battle. There you're only as good as your last one. But the re-enactment of the Battle of Clontarf is different.

Brian Boru had an army made up of Irish armies and some Viking ones, and by the time they got to Clontarf they had the measure of each other and could fight as a unit, hopefully.

The re-enactment, however, has a wider cast: Irish, English, Scottish, Germans, Russians, New Zealanders and, of course, Vikings. This was a re-enactment, not a fight to the death, so nobody was supposed to get really hurt. Nevertheless, the weapons in use were potentially lethal. Hence the need for a full scale rehearsal so that the different elements could take stock of each other. In this case, rather than to improve their efficiency as a killing machine, the aim was to simulate a real fight but without hurting each other.

So in the run up to the rehearsal, instead of the usual pre-battle tension, there was a great buzz and spirit of comraderie as the troops assembled on the field.

This Englishman has been involved in these re-enactments for over 20 years. His area is the Vikings and the War of the Roses. And he loves it as its a change from his 5 day a week sit down office job.

He met someone in the beer tent last night whom he hadn't seen for years. And that is happening all over the place this weekend, as a vast array of re-enactors, virtually from all over the world, are assembled for the weekend's event.

The event is organised by the Fingal Living History Society and it has been 5 years in preparation. This man is from Swords and is one of the organisers. He told me they had travelled all over in preparation for this, attending events at which they publicised this one and from which they learned new skills.

This pair are from Orlando, USA. He does the leatherwork and she does the pottery. They will be selling the genuine articles here this weekend and then they take off for the International Viking Market in Ribe, Denmark, at the end of the month. This market brings together re-enactors and craftspeople in a fantastic week long festival.

As well as being a dab hand at the pottering she also showed some considerable skill in international relations and grabbed this passing Russian warrior for a photo. So, this is her contribution and mine to US-Russian relations for the weekend that's in it.

We mustn't forget this fellow, the diabolical prow on a Viking longship. Not a sight to come upon at sea on a dark night.

And here's the full monty. There were loads of these ships in the bay on that day in 1014. Brodir had brought his people from the Isle of Man and there were troops from the Orkneys and elsewhere.

Now it's down to business, well, the rehearsal, as the stragglers take to the field.

It's not long before the skirmishing starts with the mixed gender troops showing great faith in each others' skills with most of them not bothering to wear their helmets.

The tide of battle ebbs and flows and you really get an idea of what this very close up stuff was like. Frazer's picture may not be so strange and confusing after all.

But there's still a little space on the field for some individual combat, posing the questio: which is mightier the axe or the sword (well two axes actually)?

This lady member of the cast, who is clearly not participating in the battle itself, is making sure that the record will be much more accurate than Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh, the Brian Boru family PR piece on which we base most of our knowledge of the battle.

And, finally, having rehearsed his men (and women) we leave Brian to go to his tent, don his crown and recite his Altú roimh Chogadh hoping that he keeps his head for another wee while at least.

The re-enactment is on at 1pm and 4pm this Saturday and Sunday (19-20/4/14) in St. Anne's Park, Raheny.

Link to other 1014 related posts.

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