A group of people listen to a reading in a lush garden
Posters advertising literary events

Seán O’Brien

Blue plaque reading: Samuel Beckett, 1906-1989, Nobel prize for literature, at school 1920-1923
Blue Plaque reading: Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900, Writer and Wit, at school 1864-1871

A Rich Literary Heritage

The lakelands, rolling hills, villages and towns of County Fermanagh and the surrounding border counties are central to our story. It was from these northern literary lands that the region’s ancient storytellers emerged, its monastic heritage flourished, the Annals of Ulster were written and from where global giants of the literary world emerged. Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, Seamus Heaney, C. S. Lewis and Brian Friel among them.

The Fermanagh that inspired the mediaeval scholars of Devenish Island and later the young Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett remains an area of exceptional natural beauty, a county shaped by the water of its lakes and rivers and by its unique geology. And at its centre sits Enniskillen – its Gaelic name, Inis Ceithlinn (Ceithlinn’s Island) - an island town between two lakes, fully encircled by water.

In ancient times, the island town became the gateway between the provinces of Connaught and Ulster whose endless battles were immortalised in the oldest and most famous of Irish legends, The Táin. Later it would become a renowned crossing point for people and trade.

Tragedy and Transformation

A century ago, many of the town’s sons fought and died in World War I at Gallipoli. On Remembrance Day 1987, as the town paused to remember, its people suffered one of the worst civilian atrocities of the thirty-year ‘Troubles’. The town’s name became synonymous worldwide with the tragedy, but the events of that day also marked a turning point, spurring a new collective, civic desire for peace that gathered momentum across the island and ultimately paved the way for the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.

In recent years Enniskillen has risen from the shadows of this past and now celebrates the literary giants once schooled in Enniskillen - Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde.

There is now a unique opportunity to symbolically connect the two worlds of a progressive political legacy around reconciliation with the cultural and spiritual imagination of Northern Ireland and the northern counties through their shared, living, literary, and cultural heritage.

Paul SternbergCo-Chair, Happy Days Enniskillen