RATHKEALE was a strong and formative influence on Sean ó Faoláin, one of Ireland’s foremost short-story writers, and the forthcoming Sean ó Faoláin Weekend is intended to celebrate the writer’s links with the town.
ó Faoláin ’s mother, Peg, was a native of Rathkeale and met her husband-to-be Denis Whelan when he, a member of the RIC, was stationed in the town. As a child, Ó Faoláin spent his summers in Rathkeale, visiting relations on Roches Road and in the townland of Loughill East.
He was to write vividly of these summer days in his autobiography, Vive Moi. And his first novel, written in the 1930s, called A Nest of Simple Folk was set in Rathkeale. Throughout his long life, (Ó Faoláin died, aged 91, in 1991), his memories and impressions of Rathkeale and the surrounding area remained a strong influence. He even called his Dublin home Knockaderry. His literary output was immense, penning short-stories, novels, biographies and travel books. As a founding editor of The Bell magazine and a long-time contributor, he also contributed to Ireland’s literary and political discourse.
Last year, the Rathkeale Community Arts Group in collaboration with the Rathkeale Historical Society and the Ardagh Drama Group organised the inaugural Sean Ó Faoláin Weekend as a way to honour Ó Faoláin as a son of Rathkeale but also to bring some of his work back to life and to introduce him to a new audience.
“We were very pleased with our first effort,” Norma Prendiville, chair of the Arts Group said this week. “And we hope to build on it with this year’s ó Faoláin Weekend which takes place on Friday and Saturday, November 23 and 24.”
One of the big attractions this year will be an illustrated lecture by cameraman and author Godfrey Graham who knew Ó Faoláin and who interviewed and filmed him. His very personal word-picture of Ó Faoláin will be delivered on Friday, November 23 at 8pm.
County writer in residence Helena Close will hold a workshop The Short Story and The Short, Short Story on Saturday afternoon from 2.00-4.00pm. This will be limited to 10 people and will look at the techniques involved in writing short stories and flash fiction.
A guided bus-tour of the places associated with Ó Faoláin is planned for Saturday morning. Booking for both the workshop and the bus-tour is advised. You can do so by ringing 087- 1249955.
Saturday evening will be a blend of song and story, with short dramatic readings of Ó Faoláin’s work, a reading by Helena Close and songs from Josie Meehan and Ger Fennell.
All events take place at the Rathkeale Arts Centre, above the library on the Ballingarry Road.