First 2024 Knighting Ceremony a Great Success

First 2024 Knighting Ceremony a Great Success

The first Knighting Conclave of 2024 took place during another wonderful Templar group visit to the emerald isle of Ireland from Wednesday 24th – Monday 29th April.

The format was essentially the same as the three Conclaves held last year, save for the addition of a whole extra day at the start of the trip. This was an experiment designed to overcome the jetlag which made our first full on day a bit too hectic for some.

The extra day allowed our guests to settle in with a relaxing morning at their hotel and a short journey to an award-winning whiskey distillery, followed by a traditional fish and chip supper and a visit to a band practice in a local militia hall.

This fascinating event was given additional purpose by the presentation of flowers to a group of young mothers involved with the band. Just over a year ago, our own Pastor Jim gave a talk at one of the weekly practice sessions on the importance of having babies. Remarkably, very one of the young women present then has now either already had a baby or is pregnant.

The evening finished with a couple of drinks with band members and locals in a nearby pub, followed by a fairly early night to get everyone in shape for the busy few days ahead.

The rest of the long weekend followed the same pattern as last year’s Conclaves. Friday saw an early start for the drive across the Province to the Ulster-American Folk Park, lunch in a traditional Irish country town restaurant, and the first part of the Knighting Ceremony itself.

Opening with a stirring rendition of The Old One Hundredth (“All People Who on Earth Do Dwell”) this instruction and oath-taking session was held as always in a wonderful private Roman Catholic chapel, which is regularly used for Tridentine Mass services by faithful congregants from all over the local area.

Early evening saw us heading back east, to join with local musicians and regulars at our regular Irish country pub. This session of traditional music and singing is now firmly established as a huge favourite with visitors and locals alike. This time, however, our guests had an additional treat – a display of Irish dancing by a young All Ireland Dancing Champion.

Saturday morning saw us heading southwards for the All Saints road trip. As usual, this took in the graves of Saints Patrick, Columba and Bridget, a Templar-linked medieval castle and the atmospheric country ruins of the original St. Donard’s Monastery.

The afternoon saw our visitors enjoy their first sight of our Priory, where candidates gathered for the final preparations for the Knighting itself. This ceremony being very private, neither photos nor video footage are ever released, but each new Sir Knight and two new Dames had the opportunity to be photographed in our Mary Magdalene Chapel holding the knighting sword and dressed in all their finery.

After enjoying a post-ceremony toast in the wood-panelled Upper Chapter House, our band of brothers (and sisters) headed off to the Made Men’s Dinner – a splendid meal in a top rate restaurant.

Sunday at these events is dedicated to God and to reflection, but good weather and a prompt start allowed our visitors to take in one of the best views in Northern Ireland by walking up to Scrabo Tower near Newtownards. From the iconic monument our intrepid band could see right over the sparkling sea to Scotland and England and down to mountains in the Irish Republic.

Having enjoyed this very special glimpse of God’s creation, we headed to a very different sort of church, a strictly Calvinistic Congregationalist chapel, where Bother Dowson gave a stirring sermon to our guests and local worshippers alike.

After a light lunch with the rest of the congregation, it was off to our final sight-seeing visit. This took us to the evocative Nendrum Monastery, which was founded by one of St. Patrick’s earliest converts on an island beautifully situated in Strangford Lough.

The visit to this beautiful place ended with a communal prayer and a deeply moving Latin version of the Nicene Creed sung by Acting Prior Peter, who had yet again travelled over from Hungary to perform our ceremonies.

With the whole trip rapidly drawing to its close, we then retired to our own Priory, giving our oversees brethren the chance to learn at first hand about the plans for the renovation of the main Priory House into high quality accommodation for brethren and guests.

Also greatly appreciated was the chance to learn about and even touch the remarkable medieval finds made during the Chapel restoration – artifacts which are surely providential in the way in which they confirm our site’s direct connection with the town’s original Cistercian Abbey and thus with St. Bernad of Clairvaux – the spiritual godfather of the entire Knights Templar Order.

All too soon, another hugely successful Knighting Conclave ended with newly made but firm friends saying their farewells, and the main group heading down to a final relaxed evening in a fine hotel near to Dublin Airport and their long journeys home the following day.

We can report that everyone did indeed get home safely, with many vowing to return to Ireland and our Templar base for another taste of life and history on the Emerald Isle. Deus Vult!