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The Life & Work of Frances Browne 7pm to 7.30pm

Scholar and playwright Shirley-Anne Godfrey, will give an overview of the life and work of Frances Browne.  If you would like to know more about the Stranorlar poet’s story this accessible introduction is for you. Shirley-Anne will demonstrate just how successful Browne was in her day and try to make sense of some of the possible reasons for her disappearance from the cultural memory. She will also discuss the unpublished letters Browne wrote to the Royal Literary Society seeking financial aid.

Dinner – 7.30pm to 9pm

Treat yourself to a delicious meal from the team at Lifford Old Courthouse. Set in what was once Donegal’s Grand Courtroom, The Courthouse Bistro offers a unique dining experience. Serving modern Irish cuisine you can book a two course meal for just €20 or three courses for €25.  Book at pay direct at Lifford Old Courthouse – Contact (074) 914 1733 . (Note. our ticket price does not include your meal. This must be reserved in advance with The Courthouse and paid to them direct).

If you prefer not to join us for dinner, simply come along in time for the 9pm performance of Strangers to Our Own

Strangers to Our Own  – 9pm to 10pm

Following its hugely enjoyable and moving  Rehearsed Reading at last year’s Festival, Strangers to our Own receives a full production thanks to the International Fund for Ireland and An Grianán Theatre. The action centres around Sarah and Richard Ramsey, who was Leech’s publisher, Trinity graduate, and gentleman poet from nearby Letterkenny. Leech’s poetry has reached his ears and he comes to Raphoe in search of her, determined to make her a literary star. A unique world awaits him, where three very different Donegal characters show us how the three languages of Ulster can merge, diverge, repel and delight, and how words and meanings can be lost when disparate tongues collide, leading to tragic and comic events.  It is the first play ever written about an Ulster-Scots weaver poet, and it features two real-life historical figures from Donegal.

After the performance, you will have a unique opportunity to meet playwright Pauline Holland in an intimate post-show conversation, moderated by playwright Shirley-Anne Godfrey.

This performance is kindly support by The International Fund for Ireland.  Produced by Patricia McBride.

About Sarah Leech (1809–1830)

‘Poems on Various Subjects’ was published in 1821, when Sarah was just 19. Her poetry explores a wide range of themes, including religion, nature and politics, but she is best known for the vividness and dexterity of her depictions of Irish society in the 19th centre, which are like a portal transporting the reader back in time. Born in 1809, she endured a harsh life of poverty, earning her living through long hours of spinning, which greatly damaged her health, leading to disability and chronic ill health. Largely self-educated, she began to write poetry, and it was one of these, ‘Elegy of a Loquacious Old Woman’, which so impressed publisher Richard Ramsey. The biographical account that he published with Leech’s poetry infuriated and humiliated her, but the public and withering riposte it drew from the ‘peasant orphan’ is perhaps one of the finest put-downs of saccharine Victorian sexism ever written. Sarah died in 1930, of an unspecified illness, at the age of just 21.

About Pauline Holland

Pauline Holland is the author of Treasure Each Voice, a 400-page anthology of English, Irish and Ulster Scots literature spanning the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It is the first of its kind to provide a comprehensive anthology of the literature of the unique pluralist society of Ballybofey/Stranorlar and its hinterland. A native of Ballybofey, Dr Holland was awarded her PhD, which featured ground-breaking research establishing Cavan poet Charlotte Brooke as the foundress of Anglo-Irish literature, from the University of Ulster; it has since been published by the British Library. She co-edited Sarah Leech: The Ulster-Scots Poetess of Raphoe, Co. Donegal, and has appeared on BBC’s TV series Languages of Ulster as a leading authority on Leech’s poetry. Her debut play Strangers to Our Own is based on Leech’s life and work.

About Shirley-Anne Godfrey

Shirley-Anne is a PhD candidate at the O’ Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway. A Government of Ireland Research Council Scholar, she is developing theatre practices to recover the legacies of marginalised Irish women writers in relation to the plays of Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932) and the writings of Frances Browne (1816-1879). Recent publication: ‘Lady Gregory’s Grania (1912) : Myth and Mythology”, eds. David Clare, Fiona Mc Donagh, and Justine Nakase. The Golden Thread: Irish Women Playwrights, Volume One (1716-1922). Liverpool University Press. She is also a playwright under her maiden name Bonner : In My Mind’s Eye (2021), The Legends of Ulster (2021) and The Tale of Fairyfoot, a magical performance for children, will premiere at this years’ festival.

About Frances Browne

Frances Browne, 1816-1879, the Blind Poetess of Ulster, is the most important writer ever to emerge from Donegal’s Finn Valley, in the North West of Ireland. Her masterpiece, the children’s storybook “Granny’s Wonderful Chair” was a bestseller all over the world, but she also deserves to be remembered for her unswerving opposition to slavery and all sorts of injustice.The Annual Frances Browne Literary Festival celebrates the legacy and spirit of Frances Browne. We work to bring not only Frances’s writing and astonishing life story to new generations but to celebrate the works of contemporary and modern writers who continue in her tradition.