SIXTY foreign visitors and hundreds of Irish fans came together for East Kerry Roots and Brosnan Clan Gathering.
Any doubts about the effectiveness of the Gathering initiative were put firmly to bed at the weekend, when Castleisland attracted over 60 foreign visitors and hundreds more Irish fans for the The East Kerry Roots Festival And Brosnan Clan Gathering.
The four-day programme got underway on Thursday morning with a genealogy workshop facilitated by Mary and Catriona from Irish Ancestry Direct, while Castleisland native and Skellig guide Maggie Prendiville led the first guided walk of the weekend around the town on Thursday morning. The first lecture of the festival was delivered on Thursday night by Seán Brosnahan of New Zealand who outlined tthe wave of immigration that occurred between Ireland and New Zealand between the 1850s to1870s.
On Friday morning some of the guests headed off to the Bodhrán, Bones and Spoons"workshop facilitated by Thomas O'Sullivan, while others took to Glanageenty for a walk. Afterwards, visitors enjoyed a lunchtime music session with Jackie and Terence.
Later that afternoon travellers headed off for Knocknagoshel, where they were met by Anthony McAuliffe and sculptor Seamus Quinlan and visited the local Bible garden and were shown some Clarke stained glass windows in the village.
Then it was off to Brosna (the ancestral home of Brosnans) to visit Josie's Rambling House, where the visitors were treated to griddle bread baked by Dutch man Leo Suijkerbuigk and tea from Josie McCreech. Friday's activities drew to a close with Maura's Rambling House, where Fear a' Tí Tony O'Brien presided over a group of storytellers, musicians, singers and visitors.
A Sean Nós Dancing Workshop in Castleisland kicked off Saturday's lineup, which was followed an the afternoon by a Spirit Trail - A Guided Tour of East Kerry's Oldest Graveyards. Saturday night's programme culminated with a Historical Pub Trail around Castleisland's oldest hostelries, led by John Reidy.
The night's banquet at The River Island Hotel was a full house, the highlight of which was the inauguration of New Zealand's Sean Brosnahan by Monsignor Dan O'Riordan as Ceann Fine of the Brosnan Clan. Dating back to Gaelic Ireland, the Ceann Fine would have held all sorts of social responsibilities to his clan members, including the fertility of the land and for protecting his clan against the blight and plague of any sort.
On Sunday morning, hundreds attended the the featival's ancestral mass, which was made particularly poignant by the participation of all 18 members of the New Zealand travelling group. Gifts were also taken to the altar to represent the Brosnan diaspora, including a Brosnan family tree, a Brosnan book, a sod of turf and a selection of flags.
Later it was off to the bog in Kilcummin, followed by a visit of Kilcummin GAA clubhouse for lunch where Kilcummin Comhaltas Group provided the entertainment. Finally it was back to Castleisland for the last leg of the journey - the Farewell Concert by Ceolteoiri Sliabh Luachra.
"All in all it was four days, which felt like a lifetime, where roots were re-established, friendships were forged and bonds made which will far outlive this year's gathering event," a vistor remarked.