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Old friends to re-unite at Sneem Storytelling Festival

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By Angela Belassie

Old acquaintances are set to reunite nearly 60 years since first meeting – after they both appeared in an article about the history of an Irish ballad.

A young Batt and Maura at a dance.

Batt and Maura Burns on their wedding day in 1965.

The ‘Bishop’s House’ in Parknasilla Sneem.

Young Richard Graves in the 1960s performing in a play and at the University of Oxford.

Richard Graves with a collection of books written by family members.

Richard Graves made a trip to Sneem in 1965 to retrace his family’s history.

The author of 20 biographies descends from a rich literary legacy – including his grandfather, Anglo-Irish poet Alfred Perceval Graves (APG) and his uncle, poet and novelist Robert Graves.

During his summer trip, Richard, who was then 19, stayed with Batt Burns, who is a Seanchaí and an Irish teacher who grew up in the village.

And by chance they were both quoted in an article about the ballad of Father O’Flynn, written by APG about an unlikely friendship between a Protestant and Catholic priest.

Whiskey and poetry

“I recognised Batt’s name straight away," Richard (73) said.

"I was welcomed by him and his family and we spent an evening, with around 20 of his relatives, singing and reciting poetry.

“The local priest turned up at the party and introduced me to Irish whiskey. Despite the whiskey, it was a very memorable trip and I would return to live in Ireland some years later.”

BACK IN TOUCH

Batt and Richard have since got back in touch and reminisced about the 1960s and changes in the area.
And Batt has invited Richard, who has lectured widely on literary subjects, notably on the poets of the Great War of 1914-1918, to speak at the annual 'Sneem International Storytelling and Folklore Festival'.

The event, which celebrates the ancient art of yarn-spinning with artists of all ages, will run from November 11 to 13.

Batt, who founded the event in 2011 to help preserve the Irish storytelling heritage, said: “We look forward to hosting Richard at the next festival, which promises to be the best yet.

“Richard has a unique family link with Bishop Graves, APL and Robert Graves. He has many interesting stories to tell, as an author, lecturer and man with strong links to Sneem.”

The pair were set to meet two years ago – but had to postpone due to the pandemic.

Family history

Richard’s great-grandfather was the Reverend Charles Graves, the Anglican Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Agadoe.

The family’s holiday home in Parknasilla, Sneem, became known as ‘The Bishop’s House’ – by which it is still known today and it is at the site of a luxury hotel, which welcomed its first guests in 1895.

Richard, of the digital marketing agency GWS Media in Bristol, which specialises in multilingual sites, said: “My great-grandfather had died 66 years prior to my trip to Sneem.

“But people spoke about him as if he had just gone away for a long weekend. They have a long folk memory in the village and I felt very at home.”

Batt and his late wife, Maura, who were then recently married, hosted Richard and went on to run a bed and breakfast in the village.

To Return to All That

APG, who had been president of the Irish Literary Society, based his ballad on the Catholic parish priest of Sneem and family friend, Fr Michael Walsh.

Richard, who first read about Parknasilla in his grandfather’s autobiography, 'To Return to All That', said: “I had been keen to visit Sneem for some time, especially as my grandfather, APG, died before I was born and I wanted to visit the place where he had enjoyed so many happy family holidays as a child. I returned to the old family home, which had since become lodgings for summer staff. Sneem is a beautiful place and I look forward to returning there.”

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Wine, art and lots of catching up at popular fundraiser

By Michelle Crean Spirits were high and the atmosphere electric at this year’s Wine & Art Night which had a huge attendance on Wednesday night. Over 50 exhibitors gathered in […]

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By Michelle Crean

Spirits were high and the atmosphere electric at this year’s Wine & Art Night which had a huge attendance on Wednesday night.

Over 50 exhibitors gathered in the Great Southern Killarney as the Killarney Rotary Club’s fundraising event – which is one of the biggest in the town each year – was back after a COVID break.

During the afternoon the artists and crafters, many who travelled from all over Kerry, Clare, Cork and even Waterford this year, organised their display for the event. Later that evening there were a lot of familiar faces but also some new people who absolutely loved the evening.

There were many wines available to taste as well as cheese and breads at the event which is run in conjunction with Daly’s SuperValu, Killarney and Killarney Brewing Company.

“There was a huge attendance and everybody was in good spirits to be back to normal,” President of Rotary, Rayla Tadjimatova, said.

“Many of the patrons were buying some art as Christmas presents and the members of Rotary were delighted to be kept busy packing these. A portion of all art sales goes to the fundraiser. One local young man, who is only 16, exhibited his beautiful photographs of local scenic areas. There was an auction of donated works of art and a Kerry Jersey. All one hundred percent of the proceeds from this auction goes to the fundraiser.”

Mike Neeson entertained the crowd on arrival and right until the end of the night.

“Mike is a great supporter of our events and we would like to thank him for keeping everybody entertained.”

The Irish Pilgrimage Trust ran the raffle and they had some wonderful hampers and gifts to be won.

Beneficiaries from this year’s event are: Coolick NS, Gaelscoil Faithleann NS, Knockanes NS, Holy Cross Mercy NS, St Francis Special School, Kerry Stars, Killarney Athletic AFC, and Killarney Cougars Basketball Club.

She thanked everybody for attending and everyone for their help organising the event.

Some, she added, had never been before and said they did not know what exactly the night involved but will definitely be back again next time as it was “so enjoyable”.

“We hope the money raised will help the beneficiaries to proceed with projects,” she said.

“We are delighted for Rotary to be able to help these charities, community groups and schools through our fundraising event.”

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Comedy drama ready for the stage

By Michelle Crean Get out your diary and book in these December dates as Dochas Drama Group is ready to take to the stage. What does a hypochondriac, a grumpy […]

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By Michelle Crean

Get out your diary and book in these December dates as Dochas Drama Group is ready to take to the stage.

What does a hypochondriac, a grumpy father and a confused visitor to the dentist, all have in common? You’ll have to come along to the Killarney Avenue Hotel on Monday, December 12, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 at 8pm to find out.

The popular drama group will present their three new comedies featuring the work of playwrights Brian Bowler, Ger Madden and Mary Quirke.Come along for a night filled with fun and laughter. Just the right beginning to the festive season. Doors open at 7.15pm and tickets are available at the door. All tickets; adults, seniors, students and children are €10. Don’t miss a great night out.

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