By OONAGH TIMSON in DUBLIN
The children have swopped their guns and combat jackets for lances, suits of armour (brown American-style supermarket paper bags, sprayed with silver paint), helmets (cereal boxes also silver Sprayed), and their sisters' tights._Their sisters wear their own or borrowed maxi dresses and a homemade headdress consisting of a large paper cone with a chiffon scarf pushed through the top and flowing behind.
Knights and their ladies are all the rage here in Dublin. Even small brothers are allowed in the game, as pages, waiting on their lords. It all started when, the other day Medieval England in the form of the British "Company of Knights" came to Dublin.
The king's knights and the baron's knights 'came together to give an afternoon of "medieval martial arts," displaying their skills with lance, quarterstaff, sword, mace and chain, and axe. The jousting was the most popular event.
The horses thundered down the "lists" — the jousting area — towards each other, the knights, straight in their saddles, lances held high in the air, then lowered and expertly positioned to enable them to unseat their rivals. How they
didn't mortally wound each other remains a mystery.
The Company of Knights was formed in 1969. They came together to present tournaments throughout the British Isles. More recently they have been as far afield as Canada and Australia. Each knight champion is a professional film and TV stunt performer — the television series of Ivanhoe automatically springs to mind.
Giving a display before the tournament was the Irish Crossbow Club, formed in 1972 by a small group of enthusiasts. This group, based in County Wicklow, held its first international tournament at Wicklow against the King's Bowmen Club from Kirbymoorside in Yorkshire, The King's Bowmen won the events and took the major trophy home with them. But the positions were reversed when the Irish Crossbow Club returned the visit. The next match takes place in the Autumn.
The Knights were brought to Ireland for their two-day tournament by a group of Dublin businessmen, including Mr John Manning. He was delighted by the reaction of the large crowds. On Sunday 4,000 people were there. The sun shone and the children cheered, booed and clapped. Everyone was caught up in the excitement.
Next year, Mr Manning said they hoped to have a medieval week and link the tournament with the popular medieval banquets already well established. The tournament was held at Leopardstown Racecourse, about seven miles from the city centre, driving up towards the Dublin mountains. From the course you can see miles of green countryside with the blue of Dublin Bay merging into the skyline. •
The history of Leopardstown is fascinating. Old Dublin had two leper colonies, St Lawrence the Martyr, between Chapeliz
ed and Palmerstown, and St Stephens, where Mercer's Hospital now stands. St Stephen's Hospital was later built outside the city by thepeople of Dublin, and part of the hospital's land was near Stillorgan, Co Dublin. The area was called Baile no Lobhar or Leper's Town, the name evolving into Leopardstown. In its early days the hospital was governed by the mayor and corporation, but in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century it was made over to a religious community. In 1542 this community of St Stephen was suppressed by Henry VIII in the general dissolution of the monasteries. But the hospital continued under the mayor until the middle of the seventeenth century when it, like the community of St Stephen, disappeared. After that, the banished Benedictine Fathers came from France as guests of the order which was then running Leopardstown as a model farm instructing landowners in the latest farming methods. Parts of the model farm dating from 1852 are still there, nestling into the large modern buildings with all the trappings of modern living — escalators, betting halls, bars, dining rooms not to mention the radio and television facilities all belonging to the Racing Board under its chairman, Mr P. W. McGrath.
s • The dallying in medieval days gave us a little rest from the realities of life. One reality that surprised and astonished most Dubliners was the Dail's "thumbs down" on the Government's Contraceptives Bill. It hadn't occurred to most city dwellers that this might happen. But most city dwellers forget that Ireland continues beyond the city boundaries and that rural Ireland does not necessarily share city views.
The Government's Bill, to allow the sale of contraceptives through chemist shops and to married people only was defeated by 75 votes to 61. Fine Gael and Labour were allowed a free vote. Fianna Fail was committed to opposing the measure.
Mr Cosgrave, the Taoiseach, crossed the floor with six of his party and voted against the Bill with the opposition. Fair enough, one could say: it was a free vote. But when the present Government won the Oeneral Election its biggest plank was its policy of reform,.
No doubt there would have been many difficulties had the Bill been passed — for example the chemist who would claim that it was against his conscience to sell contraceptives.
Nevertheless it would seem that each ordinary citizen cannot be trusted to make up his own mind, and the phrase "freedom of conscience" sounds a little hollow. The position in Ireland remains that contraceptives can be imported but not sold.
Mr Oliver Flanagan, TD for Laois-Offaly saw the Bill as an attack on family life in the Republic, and a rejection of God's teaching. He is totally opposed to contraception in any form.
The phrase "opening the floodgates of permissiveness" was used over and over again. Which seems rather odd when in any book or paper shop can be seen, and bought with impunity, magazines and newspapers 'which are up to their necks in permissive content.
The cinemas also reflect the permissive age. Showing in Dublin at the moment are "Nudes of the World" and "Forbidden' Photos," billed as "outrageously intimate" and an "all-adult show," As for Mr Flanagan's defence of Irish family life, what about the thousands of deserted wives, battered wives, and wives (or husbands) of alcoholics and gamblers? Perhaps these problems don't exist in the Laois-Offaly constituency!,