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Exciting news greets participants on eve of Donegal retreat

Three exciting announcements precede the arrival of participants to our upcoming week-long creative writing retreat in Donegal which could make next week’s retreat one of the most engrossing and enjoyable we’ve ever hosted.

The first announcement is that with the help of local history group Moving Mevagh Forward who literally ‘hold the keys to the castle,’ participants will experience an exclusive ‘just for them’ tour of a 600-year-old castle.

And not just any castle.

Sitting on a small peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water, with a moat cut into the rock on the landward side, 15th century Doe Castle has witnessed some of the most dramatic developments in northern Irish history as rival armies from Ireland and England fought for hundreds of years for its control.

It is the first time participants to any of our retreats have visited this particular castle.

The second of our exciting announcements is that through a personally guided tour of a Heritage and Community Centre known as ‘The Workhouse,’ participants will learn more about the darkest ‘episode’ in Ireland’s history.

Sadly, this ‘episode’ in the mid-1800s when blight destroyed the nation’s entire potato crop, led to the deaths of millions of people and the emigration of as many more, transported in terrible conditions to far-off lands on what became known as ‘coffin ships.’

The story of the famine and its aftermath is ‘told’ through the experiences of 'Wee Hannah', a local woman who lived in the workhouse, which was established to shelter the hungry and the homeless. Officials at ‘The Workhouse’ have kindly agreed to personally guide participants through the museum. It is the first time we have organised a visit to this museum for participants.

Our third announcement takes us from the past to the present and, indeed, into the future.

With Donegal home to one of several specially-designated Gaeltachts (Irish-speaking regions) nationwide, ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ proudly announces that our upcoming retreat starting Monday will feature for the first time guest writers of poetry, memoir and novels in our native language.

This exciting development is being organised in collaboration with Foras na Gaeilge, a national organisation responsible for promoting Irish language, both in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Established in 1999, this organisation facilitates and encourages Irish language use in speech and writing in public and private life; advises public bodies and other groups in the private and voluntary sectors; supports Irish-language projects of all kinds, including Irish-medium education; conducts research; and even develops dictionaries.

The inaugural Irish-language writers at ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ this coming week include accomplished poet, Colette Gallagher, whose other interests include acting, reading, education and genealogy.

Born in the Bluestack Mountains in Donegal, near the pretty town of Glenties, Colette (71) moved to Gweedore when she was ten, before attending Carysfort College in Blackrock, Dublin.

A teacher for most of her adult working life in various places throughout Ireland, including Monaghan and Dublin, and also in far-flung countries such as Ethiopia, Colette returned home to Donegal around 40 years ago.

Four collections of Colette’s poetry have been published so far including a book of her poems in both Irish and English. Describing her poetry, she said simply, “I write about real life. The simple things that happen in my life, in everyone’s life - including love and death, - as seen from the prism of my own personal experiences.”

Colette’s evocative and poignant, writing includes ‘The Last Look,’ the title poem of her bi-lingual poetry collection, which recalls bringing her mother back for the last time to see the place where she had been born.

With barely 48 hours left before our retreat kicks-off, the first in almost two years due to Covid, we are - to say the least - ‘over the moon’ about these new developments.

Come join us. There’s still time (though not much). Sometimes, last-minute decisions can be the best in life. We are confident attending our retreat is exactly one of those.

See an article about our upcoming writing retreat on Donegal Live and remember, deadline for the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) competition is September 30.

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