The third Annual Padraic Colum Gathering, which took place on May 17 to 18, was the biggest so far and this year attracted interest from all over Ireland and from as far away as Australia and the USA.
Amongst the visitors who came to Longford especially for the weekend were relatives of Padraic Colum from Australia and the USA. The first event of the Gathering took place in St Mel’s Catherdral where Bishop Emeritus Colm O’Reilly spoke about the local influences in Padraic Colum’s work.
Local historian Kitty Hughes also spoke about recently-discovered material in the archives of St Thomas’ Church, Chicago.
Colum wrote reflections on the Stations of the Cross, which were designed for the church by Alfeo Faggi, and they were published as The Way of the Cross.
Bishop O’Reilly’s presentation was followed by librarian Theresa O’Kelly talking on some of the stories in The Big Tree of Bunlahy, which is a collection written by Colum for children. Theresa explained how Colum adapted stories from Irish history and myth and re-told them for children.
The official opening of the Gathering by Cathaoirleach Luie McEntire took place in Backstage Theatre on Friday evening. The winning entries from the poetry competitions were announced and two of the three top prizes in the adult category went to Cork and Clare. All three categories attracted a high level of interest, especially the adult category, with entries from countries as far away as Australia, India, Africa and the US.
In the children’s category, judged by Frank Galligan, the winner was Caitlin Connors (Scoil Samhthann, Ballinalee), with Jack Reilly (also a pupil in Scoil Samhthann) finishing second and Caitlin Campbell from St Sinneach’s NS, Colehill, finishing third. Three children from Killasonna NS were highly commended: Zara Drake, Zara Quintiliani and Gerard Corcoran.
In the teenage category, which was adjudicated by Dani Gill, Ruta Stoskute took the top prize, followed by Deirbhile Currid in second place and Saidhbh O’Reilly in third. The adult winner Molly Twomey, travelled from Cork to attend the event.
The runner-up was Roisin Bugler from Clare, who was also in attendance, and the third place went to local man James MacNerney who is also editor of Teathbha. Writer John Connell judged the category and commended the winners and the entrants for their work.
Prizes were presented by Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council, Cllr Luie McEntire, and Cathaoirleach of Longford Municipal District, Cllr Seamus Butler. Following the presentations, Clíona Colum Ní Shuilleabháin, grandniece of Padraic Colum, spoke on the history of the Colum family.
The rest of the programme consisted of a concert, including a wonderful performance by children from Killasonna NS along with their teachers led by school principal Patricia Kilduff. The second day of the Gathering began in Longford Library with a talk on Mary “Molly” Colum, Padraic’s wife, by Sr Rosarii Beirne, assisted by Sr Rose Moran. Sr Rosarii’s research has highlighted the importance of Mary as a major literary figure and critic.
The Gathering then moved to Granard Library, where writer and broadcaster, Aidan O’Hara made a presentation on Colum's life and work, which included some wonderful archival recordings. The Gathering drew to a close with a bus tour of the beautiful north Longford countryside guided by local man Seán Ó Suilleabháin author of Under the Thatch.
There were stops in Bunlahy, at Colmcille GAA pitch beside Aughacordrinan home of the Colum family and finishing in the churchyard in Aughnacliffe. The weekend was a huge success with great connections being made with members of the Colum family and our Longford diaspora.
PICTURES: SHELLEY CORCORAN