A Literary Holiday with a Difference
Eileen Casey reflects on a weekend spent out West in 1998 and explores what’s on offer almost two decades later!
Hotel Westport is pleased to announce a series of Literary Holidays commencing in January 2017. The theme of the first weekend January 13th and 14th will be George Moore the Mayo novelist, Moore was born at Moore Hall near Westport, lived for a time in Dublin and in Paris. He is an important figure in the literary revival in Ireland penning a short story collection, “The untilled field” as well as “naturalist” novels such as Esther Waters and The Lake. His career spans the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The weekend will be hosted by Joe McDermott who will introduce George Moore and his writings on Friday night. Saturday morning will commence with readings from and discussion of Moore’s novel The Lake, a novel set in the environs of Moore Hall and Lough Carra.
This will be a fun weekend spent with readers and booklovers who will delight in sharing their reading experiences. Everybody is encouraged to participate; all views and ideas will be shared in a spirit of literary adventure. There will be time for personal readings, shared favourite books, and an exchange of ideas.
A highlight of Saturday afternoon will be a field trip to Moore Hall, and Lough Carra to visit the places associated with George Moore and his novel The Lake. Hail and Farewell Moore’s biographical work will also feature in the field trip. Some time will be set aside to discuss digital publishing, and self-publishing, where participants can discuss their own experiences. Information will be available prior to each Literary Holiday. Joe McDermott taught English for over thirty years and has published a number of guide books as well as a historical novel. He is currently working on a new novel set around Clew Bay.
In 1998, it was my great pleasure to travel to Mayo to attend a literary awards ceremony held to commemorate the versatile and influential writer. That event was called The Moore Literary Convention and was hosted by Carnacon Development Association. Art 0’Suilleabhain, chair of the Convention, had organised a poetry and short story competition and part of the prize was a gold medallion of Moore Hall in relief. I was lucky enough to win the poetry medallion (and which I still have in my possession). My winning poem ‘For Emily’ was themed around Emily Bronté’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and the enduring passion between the main protagonists. Another important element of the literary awards was to raise funds for the restoration of Moore Hall, a building which was torched in 1923, at the bequest of Eamon de Valera. At the time, de Valera did not want to Moore Hall to be used as a Free State army barracks.
Needless to say, the hospitality myself and other prize-winners received was equal to none. Art 0’Suilleabhain was part of an eclectic group called ‘The Black Pudding Club’ and a great night’s entertainment was enjoyed by all. The next day, we were treated to a tour of the area, the beauty of rural Carnacon breathtaking in its winter splendour. Carnacon (in Irish, Ceathrú na gCon, meaning quarter of the hounds) is a small picturesque village in south west Mayo, central to Castlebar, Ballinrobe, Claremorris and Balla. The raw, natural wildness of the setting brought to mind the Yorkshire Moors where ‘Wuthering Heights’ is set. Carnacon village has a church, a shop, a pub, a community centre and a vibrant national school. Nearby Lough Carra is a limestone lake, relatively shallow but very popular for trout fishing. Moore Hall alas, was in ruins then but we could glimpse the grandeur it had once been when George Augustus Moore (born in Moore Hall in 1852) lived there. Moore was a landlord with a heart and when he won a staggering amount of money at the Chester Gold Cup (with his horse Coranna), he spent much of the winnings on grain and a cow for his tenants, as famine relief.
Initially, Moore was sent to Paris to become a painter but turned his hand to writing, making his name with ‘Esther Waters,’ published in 1894. Moore’s novels and short stories were controversial because of how he presented gender relations. His depiction of sex, prostitution, adultery and homosexuality, played a significant role in preparing the way for other writers such as T.S. Eliot and John Crowe Ransom. His writing career was at its height between the years 1883 and 1903 during which he published eleven novels, two collections of short stories and art criticism. His own influences were Flaubert and Zola, among others. He wrote a vivid autobiography ‘Hail and Farewell,’ which outlined the ten years he lived in Dublin. Moore’s son Maurice was a colonel in the Connaught Rangers in the Boer War, credited with founding the Irish Volunteers.
As well as offering comfortable accommodation to include full Irish breakfast/4-Course dinner each evening (Sun –Thurs inclusive), all of the literary weekends at Hotel Westport will feature a welcome reception, an introduction to the life of the featured writer (followed by Q/A). Also, there will be open discussions on writing, publishing, starting the process and workshops concerning the getting into print journey. Hotel Westport will ensure a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere with free transfers to and from local bus/train stations. In short, the literary weekends promise to be a haven for budding as well as established writers.
Full booking details of the George Moore Literary Weekend (and other such weekends) from Eithne@hotelwestport.ie
By Eileen Casey