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Words by international playwright Brian Friel supporting ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’

Late Spring house cleaning can sometimes unearth the most intriguing of artefacts – such as a personal letter signed by the great Irish playwright, Brian Friel, who had 24 plays published during a career lasting more than half a century, including triple Tony Award winning ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ transformed into a hit movie starring Meryl Streep, directed Pat O'Connor with a script by Frank McGuinness.

Obviously impressed by plans to launch the ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ in his home county of Donegal, Brian wrote glowingly, “I hope it is a big success for you.” Responding to an invitation to speak at that year’s particular event (2009), he adds, “Thank you for your warm letter and for your invitation to take part in your festival” but, referring to a recent illness, he continues sadly, “Some time ago I had a stoke which left me damaged. So I no longer take part in public events. Consequently I must ask to be excused. I hope you will understand. And please forgive this curt letter – I have difficulty in writing.

Brian concludes his letter, with a personal note “I hope you continue to enjoy living in Bun na Leaca. And I thank you again.

The letter from Brian is clearly dated, ‘27 May, 2009,’ with his address, ‘Drumaweir House, Greencastle, Donegal,’ printed clearly on the top right-hand side of the notepaper.

One of Ireland’s greatest ever playwrights passed away on October 2, 2015, aged 86, with actress Meryl Streep describing him as a "tender dramatist, an insightful humanist and a lovely man."

May his soul rest in peace and may his spirit inspire us all in our Everyday lives and especially in our creative writings.

For more on the man who penned such terrific New York Broadway and London West End plays as ‘Philadelphia. Here I Come’ and ‘Faith Healer’ and founded the Field Day company with actor Stephen Rea (Interview With A Vampire, Michael Collins and Breakfast on Pluto), read Obituary: Brian Friel, the best known playwright of his generation.

An exciting line-up of activities, events and in-class tutorials await those participants now excitedly preparing to join us later this month for the week-long Summer session beginning Monday, June 26. Such activities include an enjoyable boat trip to the beautiful Gola Island, which some say was the inspiration for Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island,’ a tale of ‘buccaneers and buried gold,’ as well as a visit to the historic, lough-side Glenveagh Castle and National Park. In addition, creative writing tutors Anthony Quinn and Sean Hillen are enthusiastically looking forward to meeting you all for hours of stimulating conversations on the processes of creative writing and the world of publishing in general.

Multi-book author Anthony Quinn’s debut novel ‘Disappeared’ was shortlisted for a Strand Literary Award in the United States and by Kirkus Reviews as one of the top ten thrillers of 2012. After its UK publication in 2014, ‘Disappeared’ was selected by the Daily Mail and The Times newspapers as one of the best novels of the year. The Times praised it as ‘A highly original take on a much-traversed topic. He writes with melancholic elegance, and persuades us that the Troubles are never over,’ while the Daily Mail described it as, ‘Atmospheric, elegant ... It is a police procedural of the highest quality and has remained in my mind since I encountered it five months ago ... a crime novel to be savored.’

Since then Anthony, who lives in Tyrone with his wife, Clare, a doctor, and their four children, has written four other books – ‘Border Angels,’ in which a charred corpse and a set of footprints in the snow leads the lead character into the twilight world of people trafficking; ‘The Blood Dimmed Tide,’ in which Ireland's most famous literary figure, W.B. Yeats, is immersed in supernatural investigations at his London Bloomsbury rooms at the dawn of 1918; ‘Blind Arrows,’ set in Ireland in 1919 and involving charismatic Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins; a mysterious, seductive woman and an English journalist; and his latest book, ‘Silence,’ in which a bizarre road accident reveals truths about a death 30 years before. Anthony is also a working journalist and editor.

During a media career spanning 40 years in both Europe and the US, Sean Hillen has been war correspondent, medical reporter, arts reviewer, travel writer, editor, publisher and author, as well as media trainer on overseas development projects and creative writing coach with ‘Ireland Writing Retreat.’

Sean’s writings have appeared in newspapers and magazines including Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily Mail, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Business Post, as well as specialized publications such as American Medical News, the national newspaper of the American Medical Association, American Nurse, national magazine of the American Nurses Association and Nursing Times in England.

Sean’s latest book, ‘Pretty Ugly’ is a high-end, contemporary novel focusing on the dangers of nanoparticle in everyday cosmetics and the efforts by an unlikely trio – a doctor, a beauty Queen and an investigative journalist - to uncover corruption among political and business elites. His other books include a guide to media training and a light-hearted, intra-country travelogue entitled ‘Digging for Dracula,’ following the trail of the iconic vampire created by Bram Stoker. Sean’s international travel writings and arts reviews can be found at and

Sean shares his life with his Transylvanian wife, Columbia, and two enchanting collies, Siog (‘fairy’ in Irish) and Lugh (the Celtic Sun God) in the ‘Forgotten County’ of Donegal on Ireland’s ‘Wild Atlantic Way.’


For those who were not able to join the Summer retreat due to its being sold out, a second retreat, with an equally attractive agenda, will take place during September 25th - October 1st.

Please be advised: as has happened with the Summer session, the Autumn session may also fill up quickly, so please book early. Due to the personal nature of the retreat, we can only accommodate a maximum of ten participants at each retreat.

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