County Wexford’s newest festival takes place at Bridgetown on Friday and Saturday and volunteers have been busy in recent weeks assembling a wonderful programme of events and preparing in a festive way for the Kathleen Browne Arts & Literary Festival.
The two-day festival will embrace a range of varying pursuits, such as art, literature, music, theatre, poetry, children’s events, Wexford crafts, historical talks, creative writing workshops, traditional stalls, antiques, books and much more.
The festival honours an extraordinary local woman who made a major contribution to farming, the arts and Irish politics and became the country’s first female member of Seanad Éireann in 1929.
Born in 1878 at Rathronan Castle, Kathleen was daughter of Michael Browne, who was elected to the first Wexford County Council in 1899 (and resigned on his fifth term on May 8th 1912), and Mary Stafford of Baldwinstown Castle.
She was secretary of the county committee of the Gaelic League, was imprisoned with Nell Ryan of Tomcoole following the 1916 Rebellion, and was a founding member of the Uí Cinnsealaigh Historical Society in 1920.
Kathleen was a member of the Beet Growers’ Association and was one of the first farmers to grow sugar beet in south Wexford.
She was also a member of the managementof Loch Garman Co-operative Society and the County Library Advisory Committee, and as a member of the Ancient Monuments Committee was secretary and south Wexford representative for the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland.
Kathleen was an expert on Yola, the ancient dialect of Forth and Bargy and wrote many articles for local history and specialist publications.
Kathleen Browne was 65 years old when she died in 1943 and is interred in the family plot at Mayglass.
The highlight of the Bridgetown festival is, for many who will attend, a public lecture delivered by Dr Ivor Browne, Kathleen’s nephew, who is regarded as the founding father of Irish psychiatry, and that event takes place in the AOH Hall, Bridgetown, at 5.30 pm on Friday evening.
A new history of the life of Kathleen Browne by local historian Brendan Wright takes place at the same venue in the village on Saturday at 3 pm.
For more information contact www.kathleenbrownefestival.net.
FOOTNOTE: Historical information about Kathleen Browne used in this article is sourced from Living by the Pen – a biographical dictionary of County Wexford authors, by Bernard Browne (published 1997).