28 September 2008

Co. Leitrim remembers Anthony Trollope

You probably have never heard of the Irish village of Drumsna, and had I not lived in Co. Leitrim for a while, I would not be aware of it either. It has currently 173 inhabitants, and a further 532 live in the surrounding countryside. Like in most small communities in the rural west of Ireland, not much happens there usually.

However, last Friday Drumsna was for one day a very busy place and the centre of much attention, especially from readers and enthusiasts of the English 19th century novelist Anthony Trollope (archive photo left). Members of the Trollope Society, which is dedicated to the study of his life and work, travelled specially from England and the USA to visit Drumsna and Carrick-on-Shannon, the county town of Co. Leitrim, which is only 6 km away from Drumsna.

The reason for this special gathering was the official opening of the Carrick-on-Shannon & Drumsna Anthony Trollope Trail, created by local people to commemorate the fact that the now famous novelist lived in Drumsna in the 1840s, while working as an inspector for the British Post Office. And while there, he was inspired by local events to write the very first of his 47 novels, titled The MacDermots of Ballycloran and published in 1847.

Ireland's President Mary McAleese (photo right) came up from Dublin to attend the celebrations and perform the official opening ceremony.
Several politicians and local dignitaries attended as well, and it was certainly the most important day ever for the small village of Drumsna.

Anthony Trollope was quintessentially an English writer, whose best-known works are the six novels known collectively as the Chronicles of Barsetshire (a fictional English county), which were published between 1855 and 1867. He is also well remembered for the six Palliser novels, published between 1864 and 1879, which focus on the life and career of the (fictional) Victorian politician Plantagenet Palliser and his capricious wife, Lady Glencora.

However, he began his career as a lowly postal clerk and might never have started writing novels if he had not been sent as a postal inspector to Ireland, where he encountered the highly inspirational atmosphere of the Emerald Isle, which has produced so many great writers for centuries.
His first novel is set in the village of Drumsna, and several landmarks in the area are mentioned. Most of these landmarks and places are still there and almost unchanged since the 19th century, so it is understandable why this remote corner of Co. Leitrim - Ireland's least populated county - attracts the interest of Trollope scholars and enthusiasts.

The newly created Trollope Trail will bring more of them to the area, and the local people are fully behind the project.
For the opening day many people dressed up in period costumes and recreated the spirit and atmosphere that Anthony Trollope encountered during the 1840s.

At a time of economic recession and falling tourist numbers in Ireland, local initiatives like this are very welcome editions to the cultural scene, and especially in rural areas like Co. Leitrim.

The Emerald Islander

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