Sixty Years of Banquets

The 60th anniversary of the Bunratty Castle Medieval Banquet was celebrated in County Clare with the launch of a new exhibition chartering the history, evolution and popularity of one of Ireland’s oldest running evening entertainment shows.

More than three million people have attended the banquets since the idea of a medieval meal in a 15th century Irish castle captured the imagination of travel agents, dignitaries and celebrities worldwide in the 1960s.

The launch event was attended by past and present banquet performers and producers, elected members and officials of Clare County Council, the trustees of Bunratty Castle and family members of the late Dr. Brendan O’Regan, who introduced the first commercial medieval banquet at the newly restored Bunratty Castle in April 1963.

Officially opening the exhibition, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council Cllr. Tony O’Brien said the banquet’s international appeal remains as strong today as it did back in the 1960s when the visionary Dr. O’Regan spearheaded its inception.

The Bunratty Banquet Exhibition, which is located within the grounds of the Folk Park, features pictorial records of the banquets over the past six decades, video footage of performances from the past to the present day, interviews with former and current performers and producers, and displays of costumes and instruments that have been donated by past entertainers.

Declan O’Regan, son of the late Dr. O’Regan, said his father would be proud of how the banquet remains an important fixture on the itinerary of many visitors to Ireland 60 years on.

“The family is honoured to be represented at the official opening of this exhibition, which stands as a legacy to those pioneering early days of promoting cultural tourism in County Clare and the wider Midwest to a growing international market,” he added.

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park will host a festival later this year marking the integral role of the Irish harp to the banquet offering and the importance of the instrument and national emblem in the growth and popularity of Irish music worldwide. The festival, hosted in collaboration with Deirdre O'Brien Vaughan of The Irish Institute of Traditional Music, will present visitors with the opportunity to enjoy performances by past and present Bunratty Castle entertainers and renowned harpists, as well as partake in specially commissioned harp workshops.