29 Jan 2022

Roundabout the Longford literary scene

Three roundabouts positioned on the Longford N4 bypass have been named in honour of of past literary figures- Padraic Colum, Charlotte Brooke and Leo Casey.

Three roundabouts positioned on the Longford N4 bypass have been named in honour of of past literary figures- Padraic Colum, Charlotte Brooke and Leo Casey.

In Edgeworthstown, the two roundabouts have been named after local literary heroes, Oliver Goldsmith and Maria Edgeworth.

Councillors debated over who deserved to have their profile honoured by this prestigious gesture at a meeting held in October of last year. In recent weeks, the new signs have appeared on the roundabouts sparking some debate and a small bit of googling among members of the public.

In the limelight last week, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented President Obama with a book of his Hawaiian children’s stories, Padraic Colum is probably the best known of the roundabout honourees. Colum was born in December 1881 and was reared in Longford Workhouse which was run by his father at the time. His early writings illuminated the importance of promoting Nationalism. This was outlined in the inclusion of his early works in a volume of poetry entitled ‘The United Irishmen’, his honouring of Easter 1916 with ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ and a provocative play which he penned to dissuade Irish soldiers from enlisting in the British Army.

He married in 1912 and emigrated to America two years later. This led to his sojourn in Hawaii where he was commissioned to Hawaiian legislation to write Hawaiian legends as short stories for children. He maintained a close friendship with James Joyce. They lectured together in the University of Columbia and Colum typed a few pages of ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ for Joyce.

Another well known figure John Keegan Leo Casey was born in 1870 and hedeveloped a strong Republican spirit which was punctuated by his participation in the Fenian Rising of 1867.

His passion for the cause permeated through his writings as an orator, poet and novelist. This impressive programme of talents enabled his gift for song writing as was justified by the acclaimed ‘The Rising Of The Moon’. His early years were spent in the remote countryside in Ballymahon and critics argue that most of his work was influenced by his home place.

As his works became more proficient and well received, he decided to move to Dublin to be more involved in the Fenian movement. Positive reviews of his work were circulating and this prompted the birth of his public speaking career. He addressed crowds in Dublin, Liverpool and London before he was imprisoned after the Rising. He endured extensive mistreatment while serving his sentence which triggered a swift decline in his health and eventual death in 1870.

The least known of the Roundabout Three is Charlotte Brooke. Ms Brooke was the sole survivor of a 22 sibling family and she was the primary carer for her Father Henry until his death in 1783. She commenced her profession as a translator in 1787 with hopes of preserving Anglo-Irish poetry. She consulted the texts of ‘Warner’s History of Ireland’ and ‘General History of Ireland’ while composing ‘Reliques’ which she hoped would arouse a “useful curiosity on the subject of our poetical compositions”. As well as directly translating scripts she also reconstructed texts such as ‘Laoghaire Lorc’. She contributed to the ‘Northern Star’ newspaper which was a publication centred in Belfast in the wake of the 1798 Irish rebellion. Her works were respectfully acclaimed by future literal figures such as Ireland’s first President Douglas Hyde. She died in 1793 and was buried in Longford.

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