Fes­ti­val in hon­our of the county’s first wo­man Sen­a­tor

Wexford People - - NEWS -

COUNTY Wex­ford’s new­est fes­ti­val will take place in Bridgetown on Septem­ber 14 and 15, com­mem­morat­ing an ex­tra­or­di­nary wo­man who de­serves to be re­mem­bered for her ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to Ir­ish pol­i­tics, farm­ing and the arts.

The in­au­gu­ral Kath­leen Browne Arts and Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val will fea­ture art ex­hi­bi­tions, writ­ers’ work­shops, his­tor­i­cal talks, the­atri­cal per­for­mances, chil­dren’s camps and a day­long con­cert hon­our­ing the mem­ory of the county’s first wo­man Sen­a­tor.

Born in 1876 in what is now Doyle’s dwelling house in the south Wex­ford vil­lage, be­tween Molly & Dolly’s cafe and Red Books, she de­vel­oped an early in­ter­est in the Gaelic Re­vival and the his­tory and cus­toms of the bar­onies of Forth and Bargy, go­ing so far as to teach her­self the ex­tinct Yola lan­guage.

She was en­am­oured with the Na­tion­al­ist movement and very proud of her her­itage, dress­ing in tra­di­tional Celtic dress and keep­ing Ir­ish wolfhounds.

Kath­leen was a mem­ber of the Land League, the Gaelic League, Sinn Fein and Cu­mann na mBan dur­ing po­lit­i­cally tur­bu­lent times and was close friends with lead­ing fig­ures of the day in­clud­ing Padraig Pearse and Arthur Grif­fith. She was ar­rested for fly­ing the Ir­ish tri­colour over the fam­ily home at Rathro­nan Cas­tle in 1916.

Later, she served as County Wex­ford first wo­man Sen­a­tor and was a fierce de­fender of the rights of women and ru­ral dwellers. Kath­leen was a suc­cess­ful farmer at a time when few women ran such en­ter­prises and even rec­om­mended Wex­ford to the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture as a suit­able lo­ca­tion for the grow­ing of sugar beet.

It was this re­mark­able legacy which prompted a group of lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple, com­mu­nity work­ers, artists and writ­ers to come up with a fit­ting trib­ute to the former Sen­a­tor, among them Wally O’Neill, a lo­cal book­shop owner who ad­mit­ted that he only learned about the wo­man who once used the build­ing where his shop is lo­cated as her art stu­dio, when he ar­rived in Bridgetown.

‘The sim­ple un­veil­ing of a plaque didn’t seem enough for some­one who had ac­com­plished so much in their life,’ said Mr O’ Neill. ‘Kath­leen Browne spent her years to­tally im­mersed in her broad rang­ing in­ter­ests, from art to lo­cal cul­ture to his­tory. It only seemed right that we should try to bring all of th­ese things to­gether in one fes­ti­val that could re­mem­ber her with def­er­ence as well as high­light­ing the huge tal­ent we pos­sess in South Wex­ford.

‘When we held our first com­mit­tee meet­ing in the spring, we never re­alised how big this was go­ing to be­come. I think we un­der­es­ti­mated the for­mi­da­ble artis­tic and craft tal­ent in Forth and Bargy and the fan­tas­tic com­mu­nity spirit and de­ter­mi­na­tion to grow the area of Bridgetown.’

The Kath­leen Browne Fes­ti­val will bring to­gether some well-known names in lo­cal and na­tional arts, writ­ing, mu­sic, the­atre and his­tor­i­cal re­search with con­trib­u­tors in­clud­ing the nov­el­ists Sarah Car­roll and Tina Cal­laghan, po­ets Fin­tan Mur­phy and Jim McGuire, Riff Raff The­atre, Bal­lycog­ley Play­ers, Point Blank, Dr Anne Mac Lel­lan, Dr Nes­san Dana­her, Bernard Browne, Rachel Grace and Cat Ho­gan.

The le­gendary Dr Ivor Browne, a nephew of Kath­leen, who is re­garded by many as the found­ing fa­ther of Ir­ish psy­chi­a­try, will give a rare pub­lic talk in the lo­cal AOH Hall at 5.30pm on Fri­day, Septem­ber 14.

Dr Browne will un­veil a new mon­u­ment to Kath­leen Browne at 12 noon on Satur­day, which was de­signed and hand-crafted by lo­cal artist Ciaran O’ Brien. The piece will be placed on the wall of the build­ing where Miss Browne was born.

Two books will be launched dur­ing the Fes­ti­val. A col­lec­tion of sto­ries and po­ems by the lo­cal South Wex­ford Writ­ers So­ci­ety will be launched in Molly&Dollys be­fore an Open Mic cabaret at 7.30pm on Fri­day. A new his­tory of the life of Kath­leen Browne by the lo­cal his­to­rian Bren­dan Wright will be launched in the AOH Hall at 3pm on Satur­day, Septem­ber 15.

A Craft and An­tiques Fair will be held on Fri­day evening and all day Satur­day along with an An­ti­quar­ian Book Fair on Satur­day in the vil­lage along with a chil­dren’s amuse­ment fair. A full list of the Fes­ti­val events can be found on the Kath­leen Browne Fes­ti­val Face­book page and at www. kath­leen­browne­fes­ti­val.net.

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