A History of the Edgeworth Literary Festival
The people of Edgeworthstown are proud of their rich cultural and literary heritage through its connection with the Edgeworth family. In 1960’s an Edgeworth Society was formed in Edgeworthstown. Following on from that in 1996 a group of people came together and founded The Maria Edgeworth Literary Society. The founder members were; Angela Tuite, Jenny Sharkey, Grainne Doogan, Breda Sullivan, and June Murphy. The first Maria Edgeworth Literary weekend was held on the 22nd – 24th March 1996. There was a large number of people present throughout the weekend which kicked off on Friday night in The Old School House with the official opening performed by Deputy Albert Reynolds and presentation of prizes in the National Poetry and Short Story competition which was held in conjunction with the event. Dr Philip Brady read from his latest publication of poetry and launched The Edgeworth Papers Volume 1. The weekend continued with workshops on Saturday morning, with readings and musical recitations at Our Lady’s Manor (former home of the Edgeworth Family) a highly successful lecture on the Edgeworths was given by Dr. Paddy Murray in the Park House Hotel. The Committee were delighted to welcome a large group of multi talented visitors from Belfast Writers Group to participate in the weekend events. The first very successful Maria Edgeworth Festival came to a close on Sunday in the Ardagh Heritage Centre where informal readings were held. “This kind of self confident event, an event of vision, wouldn’t have been possible in the Ireland I grew up in” Michael Coady, tutor and one of the judges in the annual Edgeworth Papers poetry and short story competition, told the audience which packed the large hall in the Park House Hotel.
He made this honest revelation in praise of the Edgeworth Literary Festival 2000,
which confidently forged its way on to the exclusive National Calendar that is the
Irish Literary weekend circuit. In a relatively short time the Edgeworth Literary
festival attracted great interest by some of the great Irish names in literature. J P
Donleavy, John F Deane, Deirdre Purcell, Brian Leyden, Vona Groarke, Laurence
Foster, Prof. Terence Patrick Dolan, Michael Harding, Ann Enright, Dr Siobhan
Parkinson to name but a few . Each year not only poetry and short story adult
workshops were held but also children’s workshops with great inspirational writers like Michael Mullen, Don Conroy, Gerry Eager, Tom McCaughran, Mary Melvin Geoghegan, Pat Boran , Pucca Puppets, Tony Maud, and Marita Conlan McKenna encouraging the cultural creativity of our younger generation. The “real” Maria Edgeworth, in full, period dress, each year regaled the crowds with her insight into her view of life, Ireland, Connemara men and many other subjects. The part was brilliantly played by Nora Connolly (costume artist) who continued to return to her “own town” since the inauguration of the literary festival in 1996. The weekend had many highlights, but none as fulfilling as the performances in St John’s Church (former church of the Edgeworth family). This event was eagerly awaited each year attracting musical performances with poetry and short story readings by the many talented and entertaining literary and musical figures who came to partake in the event over the years.