August 2017        

The O’Flahertys, Ireland, and the Russian Revolution

Féile na bhFlaitheartach is a distinctive event in the cultural calendar of summer schools. It commemorates the lives of two Aran-born brothers who went into the world with a desire to change it.
      Enthusiasts from different countries gather with the Inis Mór (Árainn) community to celebrate the O’Flahertys’ contribution to making the world a better place. Féile na bhFlaitheartach takes place on 26 and 27 August 2017 on Inis Mór. Programme details are available from the society’s Facebook page and Twitter.
      Féile na bhFlaitheartach is now in its fourth year. As always, the festival will take place on the O’Flaherty home island on the last weekend of August. This year’s principal theme is the Russian Revolution of 1917, and what it meant to Ireland.
      Just how did this historic event, thousands of miles away, affect Ireland and the O’Flaherty brothers? Soviet Russia was the first country to recognise the independence of Ireland, in 1918. What did the Irish think of a successful overthrow of Tsarist Russia eighteen months after their own insurrection?
      The October 1917 revolution was of untold importance to Tom O’Flaherty, who became passionately involved in the revolutionary movement in the United States, writing a column every day for the daily newspaper of the Communist Party of the USA. Soviet Russia also influenced Liam’s understanding of society; and it was the first non-English-speaking country to recognise his writings by translating and publishing his work.
      Seán Byers, historian of the Irish communist movement, and Maurice Casey, researcher on the international connections of Irish women radicals during the inter-war period, will address the festival on Saturday 26 August. Their talks are entitled, respectively, “Ireland and the Russian Revolution” and “‘To abduct the mistresses of the commissars’: The forgotten women who brought Liam O’Flaherty to Soviet Russia.”
      Every year the Féile draws attention to previously unknown and unpublished texts for the pleasure of O’Flaherty fans. This year Máirín Mhic Lochlainn will read Tom O’Flaherty’s short story “Bás an Ghainnéid” (“The Death of the Gannet”) at the Garden of Remembrance. Liam O’Flaherty’s short stories will be the focus of the dramatic evening events, with “An Beo” performed by Aisteoirí Chois Fharraige and “The Touch” read by Fionnghuala Ní Choncheanainn.
      The significant question of historical record, how we remember history, will play a part in the Sunday midday event. This ever-popular session of the Féile will have the journalist and broadcaster Seosamh Ó Cuaig in discussion with Jackie Uí Chionna about her book He Was Galway (Four Courts Press, 2016) on the life of another man with Aran links, the controversial Galway business magnate and Cumann na nGaedheal TD Máirtín Mór McDonogh.
      One important link between Máirtín Mór and the O’Flahertys is that he provided the model for Ramon Mor Costello in Liam O’Flaherty’s masterpiece The House of Gold. This was the first book banned by the Irish state, in 1929; it was only republished by Nuascéalta in 2013, through the endeavours of the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society.

■ For further information contact Seosamh Ó Cuaig (ocuaig@hotmail.com).

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