Cairn Hill PICTURE: ALAN LEE
‘Longford has given so much to me but it is its people which are its greatest gift’
As a farmer and writer, Longford is my home. It is the place from which I draw the wellspring of my creativity. My books, my writing, my thoughts are of this place. I have known it all my life and it is the thing which enriches me.
I lived for many years as an emigrant overseas but I carried with me a piece of Longford on all those journeys.
It was in the memory of family and friends, the smell of the fields around our home in Soran, Ballinalee, or the thoughts of long summer nights of fishing by the Camlin or swimming by Loch Gowna.
Longford has been my palette as a writer and documentary maker. From its townlands, I have listened and gathered the history of this place, all of which have been infused into my work.
Its characters have seeped into my short stories, my fiction and my memoir. Without this country, I am nothing as an artist for it has given me everything from which to draw upon.
We live in a secret county, for few outsiders know of the greatness and beauty of our home. From the literary streets of Ballymahon, which knew lion-hunter and revered poets, to the scientific and literary endeavours of the Edgeowrth family, to the rebellious history of our flying column of north Longford.
It was this county which was the outpost of the Elizabethan conquest and this county which was the centrepiece of many bids for Irish freedom. All of these things infuse me, enrich me.
I have walked the back roads of Ballinamuck in the thought of the men of 1798 and they are as sacred as the Greek ruins for they hold in them our own native history.
As a farmer, I am honoured to live upon the Táin, the saga which is our foundation as a people.
I see in our farming practices a taint of our older culture and how so many groups and individuals work in order to preserve that old way.
To the back of my home sits Cairn Hill, a wonder of the midlands, and we are the people who live beneath it. It is a beautiful place and should be treasured.
Water is the great thread of our county and dotted amongst its many beautiful lakes I have seen the clear wonder of nature and God. In the summer murmurations of starlings or the mighty stride of deer in the woods of south Longford.
Longford has given so much to me as a writer but it is its people which are its greatest gift for in returning to make my home here, I have seen the power, poetry and wonder of the ordinary rural people that make this county what it is: my baile and beatha.
Author John Connell is Longford's first Literary Ambassador. John has returned from a very successful book tour of Australia and his book is about to be published in the United States, entitled The Farmer's Son. Longford Literary Month will take place for the month of May.