Paul McCartney and Heather Mills marry at remote Irish castle

Tuesday, June 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GLASLOUGH, Ireland (AP) _ Church bells rang within the walls of an Irish castle Tuesday evening where Paul McCartney and Heather Mills were marrying.

There was no official word from inside Castle Leslie that the two had taken their vows, but fans outside took the ringing of bells to mean they'd tied the knot.

Two security guards who would not give their names said the service was over, and that the newlyweds had left the chapel for a reception on the grounds.

Media interest reached fever pitch as newspapers speculated about every detail, from the guest list to reports of a sumptuous Indian-themed vegetarian menu.

Ringo Starr, the only other surviving Beatle, was among the friends and family whisked through the gates to attend the 4 p.m. (11 a.m. EDT) ceremony at St. Sepulcher's chapel inside the well-guarded estate.

McCartney's spokesman, Geoff Baker, confirmed that Beatles producer George Martin and Pink Floyd frontman David Gilmour would be among the 300 guests. Television and newspaper reports said former President Clinton, Eric Clapton and Elton John also were expected to attend.

``Among the guests there are some well-known musicians so maybe they will have an impromptu performance,'' Baker said. ``There are no plans, but at parties like this it's possible they could all get up on stage.''

About 90 relatives and friends of the former Beatle arrived at Belfast International Airport on a chartered flight from Liverpool and were met by a fleet of coaches and limousines to carry them to Castle Leslie in County Monaghan.

Musicians Chrissie Hynde and Jules Holland and former model Twiggy arrived later on a chartered flight from London's Heathrow airport. Starr flew to Belfast on his private jet, airport authorities said.

Cars passing through the estate gates Tuesday ran a gauntlet of cameramen, and a group of bewildered caterers were mobbed by reporters.

When a huge cheer rang out in the village, journalists looked anxiously around, expecting to see a convoy of stars. It turned out to be Irish soccer fans in a bar watching their side play Saudi Arabia in the World Cup.

Baker said the dress code would be casual, and the menu would be strictly vegetarian.

``This is being held by one of the world's most famous vegetarians,'' he said of McCartney.

British musician Chinmaya Dunster said he and his eight-piece band would entertain the wedding party with a blend of Celtic and Indian music for 90 minutes between the service and the meal.

He said McCartney had contacted him after hearing his album ``Celtic Ragas'' and asked him to perform.

``There are elaborate decorations in the marquee, including Indian silks and luxurious cushions,'' Dunster said. ``It is sort of like a chill-out lounge at a dance party. All the guests will either have their mobile phones turned off or will have had them taken away from them as it is a relaxing period between the service and the meal.''

Television news showed footage shot from a helicopter of a yacht moored to a specially built pier beside the estate's lake, from which, according to reports, the newlyweds will watch an extravagant firework display.

The Daily Mail newspaper reported the couple would spend Tuesday night in the castle's Red Room, said to be haunted by former owner Sir Normal Leslie, who was killed on the battlefields of France in 1914.

McCartney, 59, and Mills, 34, smiled bashfully during a brief appearance at the castle gates on Monday as they spoke of their wedding plans.

The singer, whose mother came from Monaghan, said his brother, Mike, would be best man. Mills said she had helped make her own dress.

McCartney and Mills _ a model who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident nine years ago _ met at a charity function where she was raising money to oppose the use of land mines. They announced their engagement in July.

Mills, who was married briefly in 1989, established the Heather Mills Trust to raise money for young disabled victims of war and provide artificial limbs for land mine victims.

McCartney, who was knighted in 1997, has three grown children and a stepdaughter from his marriage to Linda, a photographer and crusader for vegetarianism and animal rights who died from breast cancer in 1998.