Writers and Scholars
‘Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain’ the words of Oliver Goldsmith, poet, playwright and essayist, who was born in Pallas near the town of Ballymahon in County Longford (1728-1774). His father was Rector of nearby Forgney Church and there is a memorial stained glass window to Goldsmith in this church while nearby in the town of Ballymahon his statue stands on the Main street near the entrance to the local library. It was in this locality in south Longford that Goldsmith first absorbed the ‘words of learned length and thundering sound’ from the village schoolmaster that illuminated his writings in later life. In nearby Ardagh stands Ardagh House, home of the Featherstone family which Goldsmith one night mistook for an Inn – an episode recalled in ‘She Stoops to Conquer’.
John Henry Patterson
In 1867, John Henry Patterson was born in Forgney. He was an Anglo–Irish soldier and author. He wrote ‘The man-eaters of Tsavo’ a description of his experiences while building a railway bridge over the Tsavo river in Kenya (1907).
John Keegan Casey
A short distance west of Ballymahon in Gorteen hailed John Keegan (Leo) Casey 1846-1870 the Fenian poet and author of The Rising of the Moon, Máire my Girl and other ballads.
Set in the fields around the village of Tang the author and teacher Mary Flynn has entertained children with her tales of the exploits of Cornelius Rabbit in an exciting series of books. Mary hails from Ballymahon.
More recently Vona Groarke who was born ‘two fields away from Lissoy parsonage’ is a multiple award winning poet and recent member of Aosdána. The plains of south Longford have continued to yield a rich literary harvest.
One of the first translations and analyses of the oral tradition in Irish poetry ‘Reliques of Irish Poetry’ was written by Charlotte Brooke in 1789. In 1792, Charlotte, ill and destitute was cared for by friends in Moneylagen Cottage in Co.Longford. She died in 1793 and is buried in St. Paul’s churchyard, Newtownforbes.
The Edgeworth family
We must not forget the Edgeworth family. Edgeworthstown House (now the Manor Nursing Home) was built by the much married Richard Lovell Edgeworth 1744- 1817. He was an eminent author, inventor and father of celebrated novelist Maria Edgeworth 1767-1849. The Abbé Edgeworth attended King Louis XVI in |Paris on the day he was guillotined on the Place de la Concorde, January 21, 1793.
In 1881, Padraic Colum, son of the master of Longford workhouse was born. The author of ‘The Old Woman of the Roads’ was always in tune with his roots in Longford. Padraic Colum, poet, novelist, platwright and biographere was a friend of W. B. Yeats, AE and James Joyce. He collected Irish folk songs including the hauntingly lovely ‘She Moved through the Fair’.
J.P. Farrell MP, produced the ‘History of County Longford’ and also founded, ‘The Longford Leader’ in 1897.
Noel Monaghan, poet and teacher, whose poetry is a gentle miscellany of rural rites and rituals speckled with the zoom and bustle of modern life. His works have features on the Leaving Certificate syllabus.
Other notable writers and poets
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of works by Longford writers and poets including the launch of several new titles by up-coming Longford authors, and many writers’ groups flourish in the county.
Co. Longford Historical Society’s President, Jude Flynn has published eleven editions of ‘Fireside Tales’ in as many years. James McNerney has edited numerous editions of ‘Teabhtha’, the Co. Longford Historical Society’ Journal.
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