Lord Rónán Ó Conaill of the Barony-Marche of the Debatable Lands passed away unexpectedly on August 19, 2023 at the age of 33. The cause of death has not been announced.

Lord Rónán was the recipient of multiple awards, including the Keystone, Golden Alce, and Cornelian as well as baronial Comets for service and martial skill.

Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope said, “Rónán enjoyed an enormous variety of activities including costuming, heraldry, brewing, and singing in the Debatable Choir when his work schedule allowed. He recently took up woodworking, and carved the sign shown above in honor of my late husband, Johan, for the “pub” (a small gaming cottage) in our Pennsic camp, Polyhymnia. He was also an equestrian and a heavy weapons fighter, but he truly excelled at thrown weapons, and most of all, archery, for which he served multiple times as both Baronial and Kingdom Champion and was on the Kingdom’s Pennsic Champions team. He was also the winner of this year’s Scarlet Guard Challenge, and proudly flew the commemorative banner by his tent at Pennsic.

All of that tells you what Rónán did, which was impressive, but more precious to his friends and family was who Rónán was. He was kind. He was warm and welcoming, especially with new people. He was helpful and supportive to people in need, whether they were friends or new acquaintances. He was funny. He was filled with joy in virtually everything he did, and that joy rubbed off on others. His infectious smile made everyone’s day better. He was truly loved, and I will be among the legions who will miss him.”

Rónán preparing for Baronial court with Baron Brandubh and Baroness Hilda. Photo by Mistress Ts’vee’a bas Tseepora Levi.

Brandubh and Hilderun, Baron and Baroness of the Debatable Lands, wrote this to their subjects: “We are heartbroken at his passing, as he leaves a giant Rónán-sized hole in our Barony and all our lives. Rónán was our Baronial Herald, previous Baronial Chatelain, a Kingdom Deputy Herald, student to Mistress Ts’vee’a, our Baronial Captain of Archers, archer, thrower, fighter, woodworker, tailor, brewer, camp fire master, and a very good friend.

Rónán had a voracious appetite to learn and create, matched only by his patience and kindness in teaching others, and with a loving heart as big as the sky. He was a shining star in our barony and now has been committed to the heavens. We are devastated and we miss him terribly.

Our hearts go out to his ladies, Allegra and Elinor, and his family and loved ones.”

Lady Elinor Walden spoke at Rónán’s funeral, which was mostly private to the family. She said, “If you asked [Rónán] about his hobbies in the last eight years, you likely heard about his adventures with the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment group where we imagine new identities for ourselves in the medieval and Renaissance eras.

Rónán with Lady Elinor at Pennsic 50. Photo by Mistress Ts’vee’a.

So I speak to you today not of Ben, but of Lord Rónán Ó Conaill, captain of the archers and loyal subject of the Kingdom of Æthelmearc. This is the man I knew and loved – someone who was fiercely passionate about everything he tried, devoted to our local barony, and determined to uplift and celebrate everyone around him. He found immediate success in the Society as an archer, winning tournaments left and right, and he could have left it at just that. But the Rónán I knew was a true jack of all trades. He was an archer, thrower, fighter, woodworker, tailor, brewer, camp fire master, and a very good friend. He and I couldn’t walk into a room together without someone pulling him aside to plan their next big project together or telling me how incredible of a person he was, something I already knew.”

Lady Elinor went on, “Ronan’s dedication to the Society, to the pursuit of knowledge of medieval Ireland, and to his martial practice was an inspiration to everyone he met. I truly believed there was nothing he couldn’t have done once he set his mind to it. And if what he set out to do was to leave a legacy of pursuing your goals with your whole heart, then he did just that. I know he would have won Crown in ten years, just as he planned. But it doesn’t take winning a sword fighting tournament to form a community around you who loves you as fiercely as we loved Ronan. He will forever be my inspiration, my love, and the reason that I never do anything half-hearted.”

Photo by Julie Alewife.

Lord Rónán was Mistress Ts’vee’a bas Tseepora Levi’s apprentice/protégé. She said, “It was September of 2016 when Rónán and I began to discuss his becoming my apprentice. In pure Rónán fashion, he first went and researched everything he could find on the relationship before we sat down to discuss what we wanted ours to look like.

Rónán was a true Renaissance man. He had so many interests, and did each of them with joy, energy, and attention to detail. The difficulty for him was what to pick to concentrate on next. He was into so many arts; costuming, brewing, leatherwork, woodwork, singing with the choir, fletching his own arrows, pewter casting, and more. Then on our first anniversary, he was going over all the things he was working on, becoming baronial Chatelain, deputy Archery Marshal, thinking about becoming a deputy to the brewing guildmaster, maybe autocratting an event, and he wanted to expand our relationship from apprentice to both that and protégé. He was just amazing.

I originally was teaching him sewing. He wanted to be able to do everything himself, and carefully researched Irish clothing to make period appropriate clothes for his persona. We eventually co-taught a tunic-making workshop at the Baronial A&S nights before the pandemic.

Rónán serving as Sycamore Herald.

I used to tease Rónán about adopting another Jewish mother. He was always appreciative of my cooking traditional Jewish foods. We enjoyed our annual meeting dinner and would have fun picking restaurants we hadn’t tried before, critiquing our meals as we discussed what our plans for our association should be in the next year.

Rónán was a favorite of my daughter, Rebecca. When he was singing with the Debatable Choir, she would get excited to see him and lovingly greet him. A few times I took her to archery practice to visit him and other SCA friends. I wish I had done it more. She was upset when I told her of his passing. This is a child who has been losing friends and family regularly since she was four, but losing Rónán was a big blow.

There is such a big hole where he should be. We had several plans and I was really looking forward to them. It is sad to turn to cherishing what was since what will be can no longer happen.”

Master Alaric MacConnal said, “I don’t remember when I first met Rónán. It may have been at an archery practice, or was it choir? It doesn’t really matter because he brought such joy to all he did, and shared that joy with all who knew him. We joked that we were related … Alaric MacConnal and Rónán Ó Conaill. We never did figure out which of us was the elder. I am so glad I got to spend time camping with him at Pennsic 50. He was a joy to be around. Such a bright light to have dimmed too soon. Rest well my friend.”

Rónán on the thrown weapons range at the Scarlet Guard Inn. Photo by Baroness Thalia Papillon.

On Facebook, Lord Cassiano da Castello recalls, “I’ve known Rónán since early on my SCA career in 2018, but not well. We had traded pleasantries and smiles around the archery range at Agincourt here and there, but it took until after the pandemic and with some nudging from mutual friends to connect. Just these past few months, trading stories about failed batches and watching him wrestle with a blueberry mead that just wouldn’t shape up, I felt us building something that I was sure would have legs. Those discussions about building space for our hobbies while managing our ADHD, his excitement about being able to make and tinker with short meads, that absolutely terrible blueberry mead…they told strongly that this was a guy worth knowing. He came into every conversation full of curiosity and respect, there was no ego when it came to him learning, even from someone like me who had far less experience at this than he did. He was a rare kind of person, the kind that makes an unknowing impact as they pass through the lives around them.

The Pennsic 48 Kingdom Party bar. Photo courtesy of THLady Alysoun of the Debatable Lands.

What I mean to say, at the end of it all, is this. When the rubrics and the rules fall away, what is left at the core of the brewing art are the connections you make across the table or at your tap. Whether from chance encounters with newcomers at the kingdom party, or from old acquaintances blossoming into something much greater, the opportunity for friendship is present in every cup I fill. My life is enriched, inspired, and magnified, knowing, and having the privilege to have known people like Rónán. While my eyes keep filling with tears as I type, I am just so sincerely glad that I had a chance to know someone of his caliber and quality. Thank you for being you, Rónán. You were the exact kind of person who helped me shake my self doubt and learn to love my art again. I would give so much to see your infectious smile over the bar one last time.

Rónán participating in mounted archery at the Iris Festival. Photo by Baron Friderich Swartzwalder.

One of my last memories of Rónán was across the Æthelbar at the kingdom party. He was back for a third time, asking for another glass of the “Cas Mead.” I teasingly told him that he needed to share with others, and he should try other things at the table or on draft. He briefly turned a grumpy mock-pout on me but then smiled and said, “I’ll just get more off your next batch.”

This one’s for you, Rónán. I really wish I could’ve poured it for you.”

Rónán’s other lady, Allegra (aka Eleonora), also posted on Facebook. “I’ve been trying to find words to express the tragedy that this is, but I don’t think they exist. Words can’t capture the light that poured out of [Rónán] everywhere he went, or the way his smile lit up a whole room. I have never known someone so full of life and with such a generous heart. Everything he did–from archery, to brewing, to loving the people in his life–he did with joyful abandon and boundless enthusiasm. It still lingers even now, when he’s no longer with us, in the memories of all those he touched, of which there are so many.

I have to believe that the grief we are feeling is the last gift he left us with. It hurts, but it shines a light on all the places he touched our lives, and reminds us of the depth of the love we felt for him.”

Finally, the following is from an essay that Rónán wrote but never got around to posting on Facebook about his experience at the Scarlet Guard Inn this year:

“To compete in the Scarlet Guard Challenge, the pièce de résistance tournament at the end of Scarlet Guard Inn, you have to be selected to be the representative of your Barony/Shire/Canton/etc., and there can only be one competitor from each group. Our Barony decided that the person we would send would be the next winner of our monthly Sky List Stellar Tournament. So in order to win the tournament, I first had to win another tournament.

With a little luck, my best timed round shooting in a while, and the results of my daily training starting to show, I was able to beat the defending champ to become Vindex Coelorum – Defender of the Sky! I get to be the bearer of our Stellar Tournament trophy and regalia for the next month. I get to defend my title in a challenge of my own design this month. And most importantly, I won the right to be our Barony’s representative in the Scarlet Guard Challenge!

Naturally what happened next is that I got sick. (Not covid, don’t worry Mom. ) I spent Monday through Friday this past week not really sleeping well, groggy, tired, sore throat. The works. I still went out and practiced in my yard every day as much as my tired bones could bear. Except for Friday, when I took the day off work and did absolutely nothing but recover and play the new Zelda game all day.

Finally the Saturday of Scarlet Guard Inn rolls around. I’m feeling a bit better, but I’m nervous, but I’m also way excited. The Scarlet Guard Inn is one of my favorite events in the whole of the SCA. A whole event devoted to the love of archery, where us archers get to be the stars of the show and celebrate our love of the sport. And it’s finally back after a long hiatus!

It was such a fun day, with some great ranges and great friends. I shot as many of the ranges as I could (and even got a tiny bit of thrown weapons in), but there were two things I wanted to avoid; tiring myself out too much before the challenge, and psyching myself out like I did in Kingdom Champs. I kept telling myself the end result didn’t matter. I was just happy I got to be one of the few chosen to compete. No pressure. Fooling no one, of course.

There were 14 competitors from across the Kingdom. It was a rather intimidating showing of talent and I was nervous as hell, so naturally I hammed it up and told a bunch of jokes to try and settle my nerves and keep my cool. I made it through round one easily enough with a solid strategy that worked out. In round two I had a couple of close calls, but they all turned out to be on target. I scored well enough to move on to the top 2, only beat by an up-and-coming young archer Kalen Kehoe who shot a perfect score that round! Serious shout-out to Kalen. He was on fire all day.

Then Juan Miguel announced the format for the final round – a friend/foe shoot that was a TIMED ROUND! I almost jumped out of my skin! I love timed rounds, and I had been practicing for this exact scenario non-stop for the last 2 weeks. But I remembered Kingdom Champs, I knew where my head was going, and I remembered to calm down and center myself. Pride comes before the fall and all that.

Rónán with the Scarlet Guard Challenge banner. Photo by Mistress Elska Á Fjárfelli.

I decided not to worry about speed, but rather to slow myself down and focus on quality over quantity. I knew I was fast, but if I pushed it too much I’d lose my accuracy, which could lead to inadvertantly scoring points for my opponent. And my strategy worked! You can watch the video, but I was on my rhythm, took an extra beat to aim, and even got in a buzzer-beating 2-point shot right at the end for the win!

Winning this competition means a lot to me. It means I get my name embroidered on that giant banner which I get to carry around for the next year. It means I’m now in a small group of only 5 other people to have won before me. And it means my hard work practicing over the last few weeks has paid off. I was able to achieve the goal I had set for myself way back in 2015 when I was only just starting my archery journey.

I also won a boat load of fabulous prizes! But I loved my tale of the last 3 weeks so much that I had to write all of this out before I could show them off. So my post with the thank yous and the display of prizes will have to be separate. I’m surprised anyone even read this whole thing, but I hope you enjoyed it! More to come!”

Mistress Elska took the video below at the Scarlet Guard Inn:

Benjamin Nemeth was an automation testing engineer for Hitachi Rail Corp. He is survived by his parents, Edward and Leslie Nemeth of Ligonier, PA, his sister, Kaitlin, his brother, Jacob, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, and his beloved dog, Raven, who has found a new home with his brother.

Lord Rónán’s obituary is available here.

An SCA memorial gathering in Rónán’s honor is in the planning stages.