Sunday, June 23, 2024

40th annual Goldsmith Festival promises to be the best yet

By Claire McCormack

The cream of Ireland’s literati will converge on the midlands on the June Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate the very special 40th anniversary of the Oliver Goldsmith Literary Festival.

Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, journalist and author Justine McCarthy of The Irish Times, and pre-eminent Goldsmith scholar Professor Michael Griffin of the University of Limerick (UL) are among the speakers that were announced at the press launch for the festival in Athlone on Friday night.

Large crowds are expected to arrive in ‘Goldsmith Country’ – which covers venues across south Westmeath and Longford – for the weekend providing a welcome boost to the local economy, while also continuing to spotlight the region as a major tourist and cultural attraction.

The theme of this year’s festival is: “Nothing he did not adorn” – The Oliver Goldsmith Festival at 40 and the committee is very confident that the event will continue in a most successful manner with a packed programme of events that includes a number of receptions, interesting dis-­ cussions, a bus tour of ‘Goldsmith Country’, a new theatrical performance, a visit to Goldsmith’s birthplace, and a poetry competition.

The action begins at The Rustic Inn, Abbeyshrule, on Friday evening, May 31, where the official opening by An Tánaiste Micheál Martin will take place at 7.30pm. It is then time for the first speaker Professor Michael Griffin who will be tackling the topic: “A Year of Goldsmith Anniversaries”. Award-winning columnist and public speaker Justine McCarthy will then deliver her keynote address titled: ‘Ireland, I hardly know you’.

Proceedings commence at 10am on Saturday morning with the Goldsmith Literary Tour beginning at the Goldsmith Monument in Ballymahon and then travelling to Lissoy Parsonage, the Hawthorn Bush, the Busy Mill, and the Three Jolly Pigeons among other key locations. This tour will also include some short readings from Goldsmith at selected sites.

At 12 noon an exploration into the works of the intriguing literary figure takes place in the Goldsmith Room at Ballymahon Library guided by four distinguished academics of 18th century literature. The esteemed panel of contributors includes Professor Aileen Douglas of Trinity College Dublin’s School of English who will present on ‘Goldsmith and Marriage’, Ian Campbell Ross Emeritus Professor also of TCD’s School of English will then speak on ‘Goldsmith as a Writer of Fiction’, and finally English lecturer Dr James Ward of Ulster University will delve into ‘Goldsmith Criticism and Scholarship since 1900’. The session will by chaired by Professor Michael Griffin of UL’s School of English who is also a member of the festival committee.

The popular ‘Goldsmith Live’ session kicks off in Skelly’s Courtyard, Ballymahon, from 2.30pm with a fine display of classical music, bookstalls, costumes, food and drink for all to enjoy including a performance by returning string quartet Simply Strings.

At 4pm acclaimed stage and screen actor Michael J Ford, alongside a number of fellow performers, will deliver ‘The Misadventures of Oliver Goldsmith’ – a much-anticipated new play about Goldsmith’s often chaotic life, charting his youthful adventures and travels and his rise to prominence in the London literary scene. The day’s festivities finish up at The Three Jolly Pigeons in Tang where, from 8.30pm, guests can enjoy an enriching mix of traditional music and Goldsmith readings.

Festivities recommence at 12 noon on Sunday in the Goldsmith Room, Ballymahon Library, for the well-liked ‘Goldsmith Miscellany with Musical Accompaniment’ where fascinating contributions are to be provided by Robin Baird, Niall Nally, Denis Glennon, John Casey, and Sean Ryan. The session will be chaired by festival president Seamus McCormack.
The festival winds up at 3.30pm at Goldsmith’s birthplace in Pallas with poetry readings from the winning entrants of the Goldsmith Poetry competitions – adjudicated by poets Eugene O’Connell and Mary Melvin Geoghegan – and chaired by Anne Tully. Poet and editor Eugene O’Connell, Cork, will then provide a poetry reading of his finest works followed by a cheese and wine reception to bring the 40th festival to a close.

For more details on the Goldsmith Festival 2024 programme and to register for tickets please visit

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