Tuesday 07 May 2019 03:06:55 PM

Lots of Fun at the Killyleagh Magnus Barelegs Viking Festival
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The Exodus Express Viking crew.

THE ninth annual Magnus Barelegs Viking Boat Festival was run in Killyleagh last Sunday (15 September).  Festival organisers somehow spoke to Odin again who arranged the excellent weather on the day!

The town parade was lead by  the Cleland Memorial Pipe band.  This young band are a credit to their leaders and their trainers and a favourite in Killyleagh ably led the parade around the town.  Cleland also played a concert at the Hans Sloane Square later in the day which was well received by the crowds who had gathered.

The Viking Fathers lead the parade as winners in 2011.  This year’s competition was an interesting blend of Old Favourites such as Peel Young Vikings Again, Might Oaks (National Trust) and Accident and Submergency (Downe A&E) while new comers included RSPB (2 boats), Nautical but Nice (Ulster A&E) and Friend-Ship, a local boat led by designers James Fisher and Donna Bates.  Donna particularly enjoyed the rowing, rowing for 2 teams in 3 races!

Harbour Star Accordion Band from Donaghadeeled the second part of the parade.  This band also has a lot of young players who again do their leaders and trainers credit.  “We are pleased to be associated with two local bands who have supported the festival for a number of years” said Tony Davies, Chairman of the Killyleagh Social Partnership.  “Harbour Star and Cleland Memorial represent the best of local music, not only using established players but bringing through the next generation of musicians.  With bands like these the heritage of music in County Down is secure”.

Rowing for The Folk on the Hill are, from left, Down District Council Vice Chairperson Councillor Maria McCarthy, Matt Keown rower, and MLA’s Jonathan Bell, Sammy Douglas and Simon Hamilton.

The parade was welcomed to the town by Down District Council Vice Chairperson Councillor Maria McCarthy ably assisted by Elaine Upton from the KSP and Roy Baker from the Peel Young Vikings again.  Maria later rowed in the competition with the Folks on the Hill, an ‘MLA’ team led by Simon Hamilton local Strangford MLA who was ably supported by his colleagues from Stormont, Sammy Douglas and Jonathan Bell.  While maybe not the greatest rowers it was great to get such support at the event.

On the water the fastest boats in the heats were the Peel Young Vikings who recorded a time of 2.11  They together with the Viking Fathers, the Mighty Oaks and Simply the Best, the all women’s team from Killyleagh who row in memory of Denis Bennet, were the Semi- Finalists.  Simply the Best are another team who have been in every competition rowed one of the best times ever in 2:56.  Unfortunately the Peel Young Vikings were too experienced for them and they were beaten in the Semi-Final.  The Mighty Oaks were also beaten in the Semi-Final for the second year running this time by the eventual winners, The Viking Fathers.

The final was a very fast race with The Viking Fathers not to be denied.  Gawn Rowan-Hamilton obviously likes polishing that trophy!  The Peel Young Viking were gracious in defeat “We lost but we won!” was a great way to sum up their weekend.

After the rowing the presentations were made of cups and certificates with the Viking Fathers taking the overall trophy, Peel Young Vikings the mixed trophy and Simply the Best the women’s trophy.  Winners of the Gerry Douglas trophy for the largest amount of money raised for charity was Killyleagh Youth for Christ.  Gerry Douglas was a good friend of the Magnus Barelegs and was a tireless charity fundraiser, especially for Cancer charities.  The trophy is presented annual in memory of him.

Vikings Jay and Harvey Neill get into the Viking spirit.

Peel Young Vikings then sprang a surprise by presenting the Killyleagh Social Partnership with a cheque for £500.  “We been coming to Killyleagh since 2004”, said the spokesman.  “We love the place, you people always make us feel welcome, you should be proud of yourselves.  We’ve done some fund raising this year and wanted to put something back into the community and so we are presenting this cheque to the KSP with our thanks for organising some great festivals.”  The donation from the Peel Young Vikings will be used to purchase some new Christmas Lights for the town.

In the marquee in Hans Sloan Square after the Punch and Judy and the Magician a new talent show was launched, Killyleagh’s Got Talent.  From the quality of performances this really is the case and it was great to see so many young people and their parents attending this inaugural event.

Matthew a young dancer won the contest.  He will receive a £50 prize and open the Sloane 350 Chocolate and Fine Food Festival at Killyleagh Castle next Sunday 23 September.  Cara an exceptional young traditional Fiddle player was runner-up, the competition featured singing, gymnastics, fiddle playing and dancing of a very high standard.

The judges led by Prof Bob Elwood QUB had an extremely difficult task judging the competition. Matthew proved to be an extremely popular winner and was carried out of the marquee on the shoulders of his friends when the decision was announced.  The marquee was full to capacity at this extremely popular event which proved that Killyleagh definitely still has lots of young talent.


The Magnus Barelegs Festival is run by the Killyleagh Social Partnership a group of volunteers from the town.  “We always need new members” said Tony.  “There aren’t very many of us so I am proud of what the team have achieved today.  Also a big thank you to our ‘friends’ who come out and help out at our events.  Our next event is the switch on of the Christmas lights which will take place on the first Tuesday of December.  If there is anyone out there who wants to help us with future events please email killyleaghsocial@gmail.com

The Killyleagh Social Partnership is a cross community group dedicated to organising events in the Killyleagh area to promote social cohesion and develop the local economy by bringing tourism and visitors into the town. This is the ninth year that they have organised Viking events in the town.

Rowing together was not easy as the wind picked up.