John McCullagh October 21, 2005
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Pat McGinn, the Mayor of Newry and Mourne is hosting a reception for myself  (John McCavitt) and some colleagues who have collaborated on an innovative narrative and song CD about the Flight of the Earls.
 

The launch will take place in Newry Arts Centre on Wednesday 26th October at 8.00pm. Included below is a press release for the event which focuses on the famous story known locally as ‘Mabel’s Folly’.

‘Mabel’s Folly’

Historian Dr John McCavitt will reveal a new insight into the background causes of the Flight of the Earls at the local launch of an innovative/educational CD that combines story-telling with original music and song.  Pat McGinn, Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council, will host the event at Newry Arts Centre on Wednesday 26th October at 8.00pm.  The Newry connection to the Flight of the Earls is linked to the fact that two of the Earl of Tyrone’s four wives were Newry women, Mabel Bagenal and Catherine Magennis.  It was Catherine Magennis as Countess of Tyrone who famously accompanied her husband to the continent in 1607.  When the fugitive party arrived in Rome the following year they were to be the guests of honour at a canonisation, the Pope’s niece accompanying the countess (who was ‘much admired for her beauty’) to the ceremony where she had pride of place among the ladies present, that included the ‘Pope’s sisters….the duchesses and other nobility of Rome‘.

 It was the earl of Tyrone’s marital difficulties with his third wife, Mabel Bagenal that contributed to the turbulent background to the Flight of the Earls.  ‘Mabel’s Folly’, as it is known in local lore, was the famous incident when Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone, eloped with the sister of Nicholas Bagenal, the Queen’s Marshal, based in Newry. A Protestant, and barely half his age, O’Neill’s marriage to Lady Mabel was fraught with difficulty.  Tradition has it that Mabel finally tired of O’Neill’s womanising and left him, though he was to be shocked by Mabel’s intolerance of his admission that ‘I did affect two other gentlewomen’.  Tradition has it that Lady Mabel retired to her Tower (which still exists in the grounds of the Abbey Grammar School) where she died of a broken heart, barely in her mid-twenties.  Dr McCavitt’s new research has unearthed evidence that the ‘scorned’ countess did not go quietly, but played a key role in having her errant husband proclaimed a traitor, thereby providing powerful evidence to reinforce the suggestion by some historians that Mabel was the Helen of Troy of the Elizabethan wars in Ireland.

 Inspired by the local dimension to the story of the Flight of the Earls Newry teacher Dr John McCavitt and local composer, Maura Erskine, have pooled their talents to produce a CD entitled ‘The Flight of the Earls in Story and Song’.  It begins with a narrative piece called ‘The wooing of Mabel’.  The accompanying song entitled ‘Mo St

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