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Monday 24 September 2018

Bridgetown preparing for Browne festival

Kathleen A Browne
Kathleen A Browne
Rathronan Castle in Mulrankin where Kathleen Browne lived

Maria Pepper

The village of Bridgetown is gearing up to host the inaugural Kathleen Browne Arts and Literary Festival commemorating a woman who made her mark on Irish politics, championed women's rights and was involved in farming in the first half of the 20th century.

The festival taking place over the weekend of Friday and Saturday, September 14 and 15 will feature a range of artistic and cultural events to honour the extraordinary woman who was born in what is now Doyle's dwelling house, beside Molly and Dolly's Tearooms in Bridgetown, in 1876, and later lived at Rathronan Castle in Mulrankin.

Kathleen who died in 1943, was a successful politician, farmer, writer, artist, historian and early environmentalist who was arrested and imprisoned in 1916 after flying a tricolour from the family home in Rathronan during the Easter rising.

She played a pivotal role in the Gaelic Revival, the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence and served from 1929 to 1936 as a member of Seanad Eireann where she was active in the promotion of the rights of farmers and women. She was also involved in the development of beet growing in County Wexford.

As a writer, she contributed a series of articles to the Free Press newspaper and was the author of three books including one on Cromwell. She researched and wrote about the Forth and Bargy dialect of south Wexford. As an environmentalist, she promoted tree planting and campaigned for the Great Saltee Island to be designated as a bird sanctuary.

Dr. Ivor Browne, the well-known psychiatrist, a nephew of Kathleen who spent childhood holidays in Rathronan, will unveil a commemorative plaque at 12 noon on Saturday, September 15 at the house in Bridgetown where she was born.

The festival is being organised by local community and business organisations and historians who are keen to highlight the heritage of one of the county's largest and youngest villages and to promote the interests that Kathleen cared about.

'Kathleen Browne is remembered as a behemoth of local politics and a significant advocate for women's rights', said Wally O'Neill of the festival committee. 'But she was also a tireless promoter of the art, literature, culture and history of South Wexford and one of the foremost experts on the Yola language and the customs fo Forth and Bargy in her time'.

'We want to focus on these interests in the festival that bears her name and to highlight the incredible range of arts, entertainment and traditional crafts being practised in our area of County Wexford,' he said. The Wexford historian Bernard Browne who is also a relative of Katahleen will give a talk on her political career. An outdoor portrait painting competition will be held on Saturday, September 15 in the Orchard behind Kathleen's birthplace from 10.30 am to 1.30pm. with special guest model Cat Hogan, author of There Was A Crooked Man and They All Fall Down.

The festival will also feature a craft fair, an antiquarian book sale, art exhibition, literary talks, street buskers and children's workshops including a creative writing camp on Saturday from 930 am to 12 noon and general entertainment. Anyone wishing to take part in the festival can find out more by dropping in to Red Books in Bridgetown or emailing gubawn@yahoo.ie.

New Ross Standard

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