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Irish Writers Tour

Irish Writers Tour

A wag once noted that Ireland has had three varieties of occupiers: the Good, the Bad and the English. ‘The Good’ being the Celts and ‘the Bad’ being the Vikings respectively remain an integral, if somewhat distant part of our story. As indicated by the language you’re reading this in, with English, we have an ongoing living breathing connection.

English occupation was something the Irish never clearly warmed to. However, the English language, being a canvas of immeasurable malleability, was a zone on which the Irish were able to not just control, but dare one say it, conquer, forming what is known as Hiberno-English. We use it in a distinctive way in vocabulary, idiom and construction. Its characteristics reflect the political, cultural and linguistic history of the two nations, Ireland and England.

Hiberno English

The late great Terence Dolan in his 2008 Hiberno-English dictionary cites the  ‘irrepressible gift possessed by Irish people by Irish people for creative, expressive and reckless manipulation of the English language…The language will continue to evolve, the direction remains obscure, but Hiberno-English flourishes as a distinct variety that lends itself to colourful personal expression and impressive literary achievement exemplified in the writings of John Banville, Frank McGuinness, Colum McCann, Joseph O’Connor and many other distinguished authors’.

We speak and write with a vibrancy and a vitality that is immediately discernible, but occasionally there will be some satellite delay in our interpretation and assimilation of what is being said. A bit like the dialogue in Star Wars where one protagonist is speaking in English and the response is in one of the six million languages of the galaxy, we happily accept this incongruous exchange as normal and indeed enjoyable over time, even if our better judgement knows it’s all a bit mad.

Saluting our ancestors

For it is the madness, the colour and the originality of it that ensures that Irish literature, or Hiberno-Irish literature will always draw the attention of those with a love for words and bold thinking. This does of course extend into the precursor to Hiberno-English being Gaeilge, or the Irish language. Sharpness of thought and erudition are by no means modern tools for the educated Irish – they go right back to our ancients.

With your appetite suitably whetted, join us to salute Hiberno-English’s greatest exponents. And yes, we will be expecting you to brush up on rereading your favourite pieces in preparation for reading them aloud. We’ll also be recommending some pieces you might not heard of. It may sound like homework, but the hope is that it will enrich your valuable time in Ireland!


What to expect on tour

This bespoke tour will take you to the places where some of our great literature was inspired. Along the way, expect the following:

  • To be brought to the resting places of those scribes.
  • To hear extracts from their works as we travel
  • To get an overview of their lives and loves
  • To find out about nearby linked literary figures

Sample tour locations

The original Michael Furey

Whilst many will forever associate Dublin with James Joyce’s work, there is a site in the west of Ireland worth remembering. In Rahoon graveyard in Galway City lies the remains of one Michael ‘Sonny’ BodkinIn ‘The Dead’, the ‘lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried’, is the final resting place of Gretta Conroy’s late young lover. 

Michael ‘Sonny’ Bodkin, who had an earlier relationship with Nora Barnacle before he died at the age of 20 from tuberculosis. Joyce masterfully based the fictional character of Michael Furey on Sonny. Though we only ever get to imagine his singing in the rain in Nun’s Island, his ghostly presence is what lingers from what is widely regarded as the finest short story ever written.

The ultimate resting place

Louis MacNeice went far too soon in 1963. The great poet got a soaking after being down some caves for the BBC. Newly single, instead of being hounded to get out of his wet clothes and have a warm bath, he carried on regardless. He soon succumbed to pneumonia and was dead at 55. Three upcoming northern poets and acolytes, Heaney, Longley and Mahon, were devastated.

His resting place in Carrowdore, Co. Down is where his ancestors are buried. Climbing a tree-lined path to get to the church, you are rewarded with a fine view of the peninsula. It is the perfect resting place for such an esteemed writer. While in the area, we’ll also salute another poet, Blair Mayne, a modern day Cù Chulainn. 

The city of the dead

Glasnevin cemetery is home to over 1.5 million souls that have been buried there since 1932. Not surprisingly, many of them those interred are famous. Whilst its founder, Daniel O’Connell has the biggest grave and Michael Collins steals everyone’s thunder with the perennial devotion, we shall be seeking out the cemetery’s most celebrated writers.

Brendan Behan, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Christy Browne and Kate O’Brien all lie here. Behan is but a whistling stroll from the famous Gravediggers pub which housed his wake in 1964. We’ll also pay tribute to two important muses who are buried here, John Joyce and Maud Gonne, 

To the waters and the wild

Yeats loved the northwest of Ireland. It was here that the young poet’s dalliance with the Celtic Twilight began. From Sligo Town out to the Coolera peninsula down to Ballysadare, around Loughs Gill and Glencar before taking in Rosses Point, we cover all of the essential spots that inspired a young Yeats to write some of his most memorable work. 

This was the land of heart’s desire to this young romantic and you’ll soon appreciate why he was so captivated by the landscape and lore of the area. And yes, if we go nowhere else, we will pay homage to the man’s grave in Drumcliff, but also remember the great work of his wife, the long-suffering George, his literary executor.

A wide range of places to visit

Literary museums

Many deceased Irish writers have dedicated museums in their honour, often run by volunteers. Some of the best places we can think of to take you to include the following museums: –

Literary festivals

The best way to actually salute the living writers in Ireland today is look out for their appearances at one of the many highly-regarded book festivals that take place throughout Ireland, including: –

Other places to consider

  • Dalkey – Bono, Van Morrison, Neil Jordan
  • Mt. Jerome – Kinsella, LeFanu, Synge, 
  • St. Patrick’s – Swift, Lennox Robinson, Marsh
  • Deansgrange – Brian O’Nolan, Frank O’Connor
  • St. Fintan’s – Lynott, MacLiammoir, Nolan
  • Dundalk – Dorothy McArdle
  • Rathfriland – Prunty Homestead
  • Kerry – McMahon, Keane
  • Newtownards – Blair Mayne
  • Belfast – Linen Hall, Friel Centre
  • Dungiven – Stoker’s mother’s roots
  • Derry – Field Day theatre
  • Inishowen – Joyce Cary, Leon Uris
  • Glenties – Brian Friel, Patrick MacGill
  • Donegal Town – Four Masters
  • Mournes – C.S. Lewis
  • Rossnowlagh – Margaret Mitchell
  • Ballyshannon – William Allingham
  • Tullaghan – Conor McPherson
  • Frosses – Seumas MacManus, Eithne Carbery
  • Raghley – Dermot Healy
  • Strandhill – Louise Kennedy
  • Ffrenchpark – Percy French
  • Westmeath – J.P. Donleavy

Plenty to consider

We hope we have given you plenty of places to consider visiting. We can of course adjust the tour in terms of days and locations to suit your calendar. Once you’ve had a think about them, please get in touch at the link below and let’s start mapping out a pilgrimage to these writers who have given us all so much pleasure and insight over the years.