On the outskirts of Armagh on the Loughall Road, not far at all from where we make our Irish cider from apples grown in our orchards here at Mac Ivors Cider Co, there was a small hamlet of 50 tiny houses built for the workers of the Duncairne Spinning Mill.
The literary great, John O’Connor, was born here on April 4, 1920 and it was here where he lived with his family.
Tomorrow night, Saturday November 4, there will be an evening of music, writing and entertainment at The Charlemont Arms Hotel in Armagh, to celebrate the literary great as part of the annual John O’Connor Writing School festival.
The finest writers, musicians and poets come together to celebrate John O’Connor in what promises to be two hours of the best entertainment seen on any stage.
These artists and writers include Louis de Bernières, Horslips, Glenn Patterson, Fiachna Ó’Braonáin (Hothouse Flowers), Rosemary Jenkinson, Gareth Dunlop, Lisa Lambe, Karl O’Neill, and new writers, Erin Halliday and Louise Kennedy.
People are coming from far and wide and everyone will be able to enjoy our Traditional Dry Cider which will be served with cheese.
Tickets for the event cost £18. It starts at 8.30am and ends at 10.30pm.
To give some background, John O’Connor’s father, Johnny, was a First World War Somme veteran who returned in 1916 with shrapnel injuries to his leg and head. He was a cobbler by trade and he eked out a modest living with his wife Kitty by running a little shop from their tiny kitchen in the Mill Row.
It was a simple life, dictated by the working mill, the river floods and the simplicity of people’s lives.
In 1932, the family moved from the Mill Row in 1932 to a ‘grand’ house by comparison, at St Columba’s Terrace, Banbrook Hill, again, not far from here.
A blue plaque in honour of O’Connor has been erected at the house in Armagh.
His only novel, Come Day – Go Day, was described by Benedict Kiely as a ‘masterpiece’ beautifully capturing the ‘wonder, danger and magic of ordinary days’.
In the early 1950s, John O’Connor travelled to Papua New Guinea and then Australia, where he died suddenly from peritonitis in Ayr, near Townsville, in December 1959.
His emergence as a storyteller of genius did not happen in a vacuum. His immersion in the cultural and literary traditions of his native city in particular, and here in County Armagh in general, is evident in his work. The people and environment were his material. Local schools and institutions fed his creativity.
Now, a new generation of writers, poets, playwrights, songwriters, film-makers and their audiences are gathering again in Armagh to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of language in all its forms, to revisit the work of John O’Connor, to take inspiration from his beautiful city and from each other.
Have a great night everyone and enjoy the taste of the orchards. #followthefox