Longford's Literary History

Over the past three centuries Longford's contribution to literature should not be underestimated. From three of its most famous sons and daughters, Maria Edgeworth, Oliver Goldsmith and Pádraic Colum (whose life and times in many ways provide a history of the whole of literary Ireland in the early twentieth century), to lesser known names, such as John Keegan Casey (Leo), right through to today with people such as Vona Groarke and Breda Sullivan receiving national and international recognition, Longford can be justly proud of its literary heritage.

Longford at present has in many ways the best of both worlds in that it is able to capitalise on its past (Edgeworthstown House continues to be used today as a nursing home while Goldsmith Country and the Goldsmith Summer School attracts a large amount of visitors, to give but two examples) and lead the way in encouraging writers today through novel initiatives.

These initiatives include Virtualwriter.net and publishing ventures such as All Because of a Toothbrush, Heartland, and Goldsmith's Ghost, all spearheaded by Longford County Council, Library and Arts Services. Furthermore writers groups continue to flourish and in addition to many local writers receiving publishing deals for their work, much research has been done in the past decade on individual writers. One of the most impressive of these studies being Tell Me Shawn O'Farrell, a work dealing with the life of John Keegan Casey, and published in 2002 by the John Keegan Casey Society, Gurteen, County Longford.

Perhaps it is wrong to think in terms of past and present Longford writers.

Much of the works of Colum and Edgeworth, and in particular Goldsmith are timeless and continue to have relevance and influence on contemporary writers. This influence in relation to Goldsmith at least, is best summed up by another Longford poet, Vona Groarke who recently said:

The Deserted Village finds resonance in every debate about the degradation of the communal impulse in the face of greater opportunities for personal wealth in the last ten years. Although based on one historical moment the nightingales may indeed sing in the village of Lissoy before the cautions and advice of The Deserted Village cease to be of relevance.

It is to be hoped that Longford continues to build on its fine literary past and present and continue the traditions of which it is justly proud. To this end it may be helpful if first of all we look at three famous writers from the past ie Edgeworth, Goldsmith and Colum, then look at some locally and nationally important writers from the present, and finally look at some initiatives which will help present and future writers.