Owen to parachute in on O’Neill Clan gathering

COMEDIAN Owen O’Neill, Cookstown’s famous son, has said that he would love to parachute into the O’Neill clan gathering on the 25th May at Tullyhoge strapped to the Queen, after hearing that she was seeking another opportunity to show off her skydiving skills.

Owen said: “Growing up in Gortalowry, a stone’s throw from the famous Tulach Og mound, I was always aware of the ancient O’Neill clan, Tullyhoge fort is one of the most important historical sites in Ireland and I was delighted to hear that there is to be an O’Neill gathering there on May 25th which will hopefully boost tourism in the East Tyrone area.”

Owen’s interest in his ancestral history has been forged mainly by his brother Daniel who heads the Ancient Clan O’Neill of Tyrone. They are organising the O’Neill gathering which will be part of Cookstown councils ‘Tullyhoge a Hidden Heritage’ a two day event which will feature the re-enactment of the crowning of the great Hugh O’Neill, music, storytelling, poetry and talks on the history of the site and its importance to the local community.

Adrian McCreesh (Chief Executive of Cookstown Council), Tony McCance (Artistic Director of Burnavon theatre) and Tony Quinn (Chairman of Cookstown Council) are at the forefront of promoting this unique event.

A unique website www.oneillsofulster.com has been set up dedicated to the history and genealogy of the O’Neill clan and one of its most ambitious programs to date is its Family Tree project.

O’Neill’s from all over the World are invited to participate, recording the names of past relatives and their domestic history. There are plans to eventually publish a book containing this information which I will help edit. There are thousands of people worldwide who share the O’Neill surname, so it should make for a fascinating read. On its completion the book will be presented to the Cardinal O’Fiaich library in Armagh.

Owen O’Neill is performing his one man show ‘Struck by Lightning’ at The Waterfront Hall in Belfast on May 4th. He says he couldn’t have grown up in a better place than East Tyrone. The characters and eccentrics that populated the area when he was a boy fuelled his imagination and have influenced his writing and comedy. “I will endeavour to be at the gathering on May 25th and hopefully the Queen can make it as well.”

On Friday 24th a group of overseas visitors will be attending Tullyhogue and the Burnavon in Cookstown, then on Saturday 25th the main day for the ancient Clan O’Neill of Tyrone takes place with celebrations starting in Stewartstown at 1 pm in the form of a parade with bands locals groups and people dressed in period costumes.

The parade will march from Hill Head to the square for the unveiling of a memorial stone to the great Hugh O’Neill.

Daniel O’Neill, present Chief Guardian of the Ancient Clan O’Neill, will do the honours alongside Johnny Rush chairperson of the Stewartstown Community group who are organizing the event. This event is free of charge

The main event of the day at Tullyhoge, a hidden heritage and the gathering of the O’Neills and other clans will take place at Tullyhoge fort at 6pm there is a minimum fee for this event and all tickets must be booked through the Burnavon Cookstown, tel 028867 69949 or www.burnavon.co.uk to book.

There will be a great after event held at the Greenvale Hotel Cookstown a night of traditional Irish music and craic, topping the bill will be the Cookstown folk club headed by Donald Canavan and a guest appearance by the famous Jim McKee. This event is free of charge. For those looking to stay overnight please contact the Greenvale Hotel there are rooms available.