Sipping from a cup of Marge Kilkelly’s savory barley and goat meat porridge, a visitor couldn’t help feeling a bond with the eclectic mix of people who gathered Saturday for a medieval re-enactment not far from the banks of the Kennebec River in Dresden.
There was a circle of mingling men and women in 15th century period dress, a female harpist playing beautifully and a bagpipe player in a plaid kilt wolfing down Kilkelly’s apple crisp and whipped cream across the room.
Kilkelly and her husband, Joe Murray, the owners of Dragonfly Cove Farm — where they exchanged wedding vows — decided to celebrate their eighth anniversary by inviting the general public to enjoy some unusual entertainment. Setting up on the farm’s grass field normally used for goat pasture, The Neville Companye, a medieval re-enactment group based in Gardiner, erected large tents colorfully designed to reflect a 15th century camp. The couple also invited the husband-and-wife combo of Bruce Ridlon (bagpipes) and Deborah Ridlon (harp) to complete the festive atmosphere.
Murray, wearing his own period shirt and trousers, explained that both he and his wife enjoy medieval period role-play and even got married in period costume. Kilkelly recalled how much fun they had. “We had a roast pig, and tents set up with food like French fries for the kids,” she said Saturday. “We got CastleBay, a Celtic musical duo, to come and play. It was beautiful.”
So it wasn’t surprising when, in 2008, the pair found The Neville Companye at a medieval dinner hosted by the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston and invited them to their farm. Saturday’s re-enactment marked the third annual visit of the Neville Companye to Dragonfly Farm.
According to The Neville Companye’s website, the group is the only U.S.-based chapter of the British Plate Armour Society. John Ramsden, founder of The Neville Companye, said he was actually lucky enough to meet members of that group when he traveled to England. He even got an opportunity to perform in a medieval castle.
The Neville Companye — even the spelling is medieval — uses input from the British Plate Armour Society, along with other resources, to try to recreate a historically accurate picture of what medieval life looked like. The Maine re-enactors aim to recreate images of life during England’s “War of the Roses” (1377-1485), when wealthy Earl Sir Richard Neville, nicknamed “the Kingmaker,” craftily used his power to depose two kings.
It is this history, along with the colorful costumes and assorted weaponry, that sparks the imagination and draws people to the group. Brian Caton, who portrays a knight in the group, explained that he was drawn to the company largely for the history. “I love learning about the history of the period and then using it to educate others,” he said.
The Neville Companye also visits schools, sharing their knowledge with the students. “We’ve had events at Rockland Middle School,” Caton said. “We talk about medieval life, let the kids hold the armor, and describe our fight tournaments.”
Each member studies the history of the War of the Roses, then tries to replicate the personas of 15th century folk. There is a wide assortment of roles, including a knight, man-at-arms, pages, squires, maidens, craftspeople and arches.
Raina Keim, the self-described web mistress of The Neville Companye, who portrays a maiden, spoke Saturday about how the clothes they wear must reflect the right historical period. “I’m wearing a wool cape and my shirt underneath is a linen chemise,” she said. “There was no cotton then so we use wool and linen.”
However she was quick to point out that during the summer festivals, wearing a wool dress is not ideal. “For a future project I’d like to create linen dresses,” Keim said.
The company offers a maiden program for girls 10 and older. It teaches the history of the period, sewing, clothing styles and craftsmanship.
The squire program for boys 10 and older teaches the history of the period as well as serving as a kind of apprenticeship to the knights. Once a boy or girl reaches age 18, he or she is allowed to sword fight —although a modern girl must assume a male persona in battle.
To learn more about the Neville Companye, go online to Neville Companye. The group also maintains a Facebook page.
Source: The Times Record