Wedding days at the Castle

Bellingham Castle, which will open this year under new owners, will once again become amajor wedding venue.

Bellingham Castle, which will open this year under new owners, will once again become amajor wedding venue.

The castel - which has been closed for a number of years - was bought from the Keenan family just before Christmas for €900,000 and weddings have already been booked, the first taking place in August.

The first wedding took place in July 1905 when Augusta Bellingham married the Marquis of Bute.

A film of the wedding was found in an attic cupboard at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute in 2001 and was decomposing so badly it took three years to restore it.

It is probably the oldest film of a wedding in the world.

The wedding took place on 6 July 1905 at St Mary’s Church Kilsaran.

The film begins with a garden party the evening before. The camera moves along the trees by the river towards the ivy covered walls of Bellingham Castle, and its open windows, until it arrives at the Edwardian summer garden party on the back lawn.

There are women in bright Edwardian summer dresses, gentlemen in dark suits. Panamas and parasols, a silk-hatted clergyman, a constable, and the bride-to-be, the honourable Augusta Monica Bellingham mingling with her guests, extending a white-gloved hand, her bemused smile directed towards the intruding cinematographic camera.

The next scene is the morning of the wedding. A schoolteacher in a white gown, and my seven-year-old grandmother, Anna Kelly, lead the wedding party into the church.

The young woman has her head bowed and hidden from the camera, but my grandmother’s face is clearly visible. There she is, walking before me, over a century later, wearing her first communion dress and carrying a basket of flowers.

Behind her walks the choir from Dublin’s St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, wearing surplices and sutans, and then Augusta and her father Sir Henry Bellingham.

She is wearing the wedding dress and veil that was worn by her late mother and her grandmother before that.

Then comes the four bridesmaids, the groom, wearing the Stuart kilt, and his grandmother who looks like Queen Victoria, and then the groomsman, and the dowager Lady Bute and Augusta’s step-mother, Lady Constance Bellingham, and then the local people moving in behind the party.

After the Mass they come out into the sunlight, a radiant bride smiling, bowing as she and the groom file past the crowd lining both sides of the path.

Boaters and bowlers are raised. A photographer steps out of the crowd and raises his camera towards them. A monk wanderers away. The groom’s brother Colm Stuart passes.

And then we see the bride and groom at Annagassan as they are rowed out to the SS Maud by oarsmen in white costumes. The oarsmen are all members of the Sharkey family, one of them grandfather to the Corrigan of Drumleck and Annagassan. A pipe band follows in another boat and in another - although not on the film - Dundalk’s TV Parks sings through a megaphone: Come Back to Eirin. Great stuff.