Medieval times come to life in Shiretown

11 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer
    HOULTON — If the thought of donning a set of armor or fair maiden dress to reenact the days of medieval chivalry sounds appealing, than perhaps a journey to the “Shire of Smithwick” is right for you.
    Formed on Jan. 9, 1999, the group is a part of the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA), which was founded in 1966 in Berkeley, Calif. The group covers most of Aroostook and parts of northern Washington counties.

    “Basically, we are an international medieval reenactment group,” explained Danforth resident Thomas Farr, president of the local SCA chapter. “We do many activities including medieval dance, archery and period cooking.”
Contributed photo
NE-CLR-Medevil-dcx-pt-46HAVE AT THEE — Sean Adams of Danforth strikes a menacing pose in his medieval armor. Adams is one of about 24 members of the “Shire of Smithwick,” a local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which meets once a month in Houlton.

    According to the group’s webpage, The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts, skills, and traditions of pre-17th century Europe. Members of the SCA study and take part in a variety of activities, including combat, archery, equestrian events, costuming, cooking, metalwork, woodworking, music, dance, calligraphy, fiber arts, and much more. If an activity was done in the Middle Ages or Renaissance, chances are someone in the SCA is interested in recreating it.
    The local chapter meets the first Saturday of each month at the Gentle Memorial Building at 1 p.m. in Houlton. Previously, the group gathered monthly in Presque Isle.
    There are 24 active members of the group and is very much family-oriented, Farr said.
    “We recreate everything from period music and dances, to blacksmithing and armor making to cooking,” Farr said. “We cover a wide range of time periods from 600 A.D. up to 1650. You have people dressing as Roman Centurions up to 15th century plate armor.”
    The group holds two major events a year — a full reenactment held in the summer in Houlton and the other a formal ball held in Feburary.
    Farr, who has been involved with the local group for the past 10 years, said medieval reenactments are very popular in Maine. Bangor recently became a “barony,” which means they have more than 25 members involved. Other groups are organized in Portland and the Midcoast.
    “We hold one of the largest re-enactments in New England, called the Great Northeastern War, down in Hebron.” Farr said. “Usually we get about 1,000 people at that event.”
    Farr said he got involved with medieval re-enactments when he started tracing his family’s lineage. He followed his family roots back to medieval England and Scandinavia. He was also always interested in blacksmithing, which goes hand-in-hand with these groups. He also does woodworking and plays music, which is another central point for period reenactment.
    One of the group’s member is a professional harp builder. Some in the group, however, do not like to openly talk about their involvement for fear of ridicule.
    “I think the big reason is it is simply misunderstood,” Farr said. “It’s not something that was prominent here in our history. You never hear of people scoffing at Civil War re-enactors. We get a lot of people who like to have us come to demos. A lot of people don’t realize there is a local group that does this sort of thing right here in The County.”
    Every person in the SCA picks a name to go by in the Society. It could be something simple and familiar (Mary of London or Thomas the Smith) or something elaborate and exotic sounding (Oisin Dubh mac Lochlainn). However, no one may use the name of an actual person from history or legend, such as “Richard the Lionheart.”
    The SCA has its own College of Arms to help members select and register an SCA name and heraldic device. The College of Arms has many resources to assist members in their research, to ensure that their names and devices are appropriate to the world they try to recreate, and that each registered name and device will be unique.
    For those interested in becoming a member, the local group offers loaner wardrobe so that individuals can get a feel for what it is like to be involved.
    “We really want to get the word out there and pique the interest of people here in The County,” Farr said. “To me, it’s a lot of fun.”
    For more information on the group, contact Farr at The group can also be found on Facebook under “Shire of Smthwick.”