Féile na bhFlaitheartach is fast becoming a joint festival of the people of Aran and the extended family of Liam and Tom O’Flaherty fans from around the world. The O’Flaherty brothers’ deep ties with the Islanders and the island of Inis Mór were evident at every Féile event held throughout the weekend.
Seamus Cashman, O’Flaherty’s Irish publisher and close friend, spoke of Liam’s life and work. Aran, he said, was a continual point of reference in his writings. He recalled Liam’s last visit to Inis Mór on Bloomsday 16th June 1980. On arriving at Gort na gCapall O’Flaherty tapped the large roadside rock beside his family home and began to talk to it “Bail ó Dhia ort, a chloch mhór; tá aithne agam ortsa….” The rock was a place of belonging, and of questioning and reflection. Seamus Cashman followed this anecdote with a reading of the beautiful little poem Na Bláthanna Craige in which O’Flaherty addressed and reflected on na bláthanna craige. During the session Cashman vigorously refuted the Catholic Church’s claim that Liam O’Flaherty had returned to the Catholic faith on his deathbed.
Tom O’Flaherty’s love for his people was expressed in a beautiful and moving reading by Aran based Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn of his short story Coming Home. A full house was on hand to enjoy a superb dramatic reading of Oifig an Phoist, which was performed by Aisteoirí Chois Fharraige. This drama is based on a short story by Liam O’Flaherty and was surely inspired by his native community,
A novel set on Inis Mór and inspired by actual characters on the island, a school master and a priest, Skerrett, was the focus of Sunday’s proceedings. Seosamh Ó Cuaig, shedding light on the actual people on whom the fictional characters are based, outlined the struggle between two autocrats for control of the local population – Fr. Murty Farragher, the parish priest at that time and the teacher David Ó Ceallacháin. The priest eventually won and evicted Ó Ceallacháin from the school residence. Farragher later went on to become a canon and parish priest of Athenry, while David Ó Ceallacháin died in the County Home in Limerick
Coming from a literary angle, David Lordan first commented on how Liam O’Flaherty was one of the great writers of the 20th century because of how he penetrated to the essence of the human struggle and so has never become outdated. He suggested that the novel Skerrett is an allegory, with the priest and teacher reflecting what was happening in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, showing the confusion of the European intelligentsia in those years following the collapse of historical certainties after WWI and optimism regarding the future of humanity.
Féile na bhFlaitheartach concluded leaving all participants with much food for thought and in anticipation of next year’s event, when we will reconvene on the last weekend of August 2016.