IF it had not been for Sir Hans Sloane, the inventor of Milk chocolate, there would not have been three days of fun and festivities in Killyleagh this past weekend.
Sir Hans was born in Killyleagh 350 years ago and apart from being the chief surgeon to royalty, and the founder of the British Museum, he other claim to fame is that he took the medicinal compound for cocoa back from the West Indies and after creating his own recipe, sold it off to Cadbury’s.
On Friday evening guests arrived for a champagne reception at the marquee in the bawn of Killyleagh Castle. Sir Hans first received his early education in this very castle. Treated to a sumptuous menu which included Finnebrogue venison, the guests dined and wined into the early hours. They had come from far and wide to support this black tie event, one even flying in from Provence in France.
On Saturday there was plenty of action with a zumba sessions for the young and not so young but on Sunday, large crowds arrived to sample the many chocolate products on sale and fine foods, and generally have lots of fun.
Down District Councillor Anne McAleenan, Chairperson of the Culture and economic Development Committee, opened the festival accompanied by Matthew Lynch, the winner of Killlyleagh’s Got Talent. They were greeted by Professor Bob Elwood, Sloane 350 Chairman, and Mrs Maeve Davison, Chocolate Festival Organiser, who presented them with chocolate copies of Killyleagh Castle wonderfully crafted by Derek and Bridget Smith of Chocolate by Design.
Bob Elwood said: “Throughout the afternoon, Sir Hans Sloane aka Clive Scoular, local historian, dressed in period costume, was on hand to greet the visitors who arrived in their thousands. His encyclopaedic knowledge of Sir Hans was tested as he answered many questions through the afternoon about his life and legacy.
“The crowds that turned up for the Chocolate are again just amazing. This has proven to be such a popular event. The Chocolate Ball was also a tremendous success and everyone was delighted with it.
“The grand marqee which hosted the Chocolate Ball on Friday evening was just alive with visitors who browsed and sampled the fayre of the many chocolateers and fine food producers that Ireland has to offer.
“The event was supported by Good Food NI and the NITB and sponsored by Finnebrogue Venison, Mash Direct, The Federation of Small Businesses, Down District Council and Ulster Bank.
We would also like to extend our special thanks to the Rowan-Hamilton family for the use of the wonderful castle grounds fro the weekend.”
A dedicated demonstration kitchen enthralled the foodies who picked up plenty of useful cooking tips. Cooking were Danny Miller from Balloo House, Liz Moore from Liz Moore Cooks, The Belfast Cookery School with the Mourne Seafood Bar, Jonathon Hall of Glassdrumman Cookery School and Niall McKenna of James Street South.
For the children, there was a special drumming session with the Circus School and Clowns, stilt walkers, jugglers and Circus Samba Band added to the fun day. Many children joined in the Chocolate Dance workshop.
As the closing hour of the festival drew nigh, and the many chocolate-faced smiling children left the castle behind them, Sir Hans stood on the steps of the marquee, wiped his brow under the heavy wig, and drew a proud breath, that another very successful Chocolate Ball and Festival had taken place in Killyleagh, the birthplace of the inventor of milk chocolate.