The East Kerry Roots Festival & Brosnan Clan Gathering was held in Castleisland, Co Kerry, over four days last weekend. I am still trying to recover!
It was a fabulous event, well-organised and offering a whole range of walks, talks and everything in between. By a stroke of pure luck, I ended up in the same bed & breakfast establishment as a (previously unmet) third cousin and his wife from New Zealand, as well as two lovely women travelling on their own like me.
There didn’t seem to be any time to rest at all over the four days – the festival programme was jam-packed with events and you didn’t want to miss out on anything. For me the highlights were:
- hearing one of my favourite poems read in the original Irish at the poetry reading session
- Seán Brosnahan’s illuminating talk on Irish emigration to New Zealand in the 19th century
- learning to play the bodhrán, bones and spoons
- story-telling and songs at the rambling house in Farranfore on Friday night
- the polka and sean nós dancing workshop
And, of course, not forgetting the bus trips to traditional villages and graveyards in the area, Saturday night’s festival banquet, Mass on Sunday morning at Currow, and the bog walk in Kilcummin. Top of the list has to be meeting so many wonderful people, both local and from further afield. There were over 20 Brosnahans from New Zealand alone! (Pokarekare Ana was sung many times over the course of the weekend.)
There were opportunities to chat to local genealogy experts, but I spent most of my time enjoying the cultural activities and exploring the area my ancestors left a century and a half ago.
Unfortunately I had to leave on Sunday afternoon to catch my flight home from Cork, so missed out on the farewell concert, but I heard it was fantastic!
My only suggestion would be to have a larger pub/venue for the some of the evening events. For instance, the Poet’s Inn is a lovely wee pub in Castleisland, but couldn’t fit us all in on the Thursday evening.
My special thanks has to go to Joan, one of the festival organisers, who was so helpful before the weekend, putting me in touch with a relation from the area. I think this is what made the gathering so special – we were all made to feel very welcome, even before we’d set foot in Ireland, by the locals and organisers alike. Thanks also to Maggie, our terrific guide on many of the tours.