A treat is in store for lovers of the works of Jane Austen at this year's Cathedral Quarter Literary Festival in Letterkenny when one of the foremost experts on the author, Dr. Sophia Hillan, is the guest speaker.

Jane Austen

Dr. Hillan, author of ‘May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen’s Nieces in Ireland’ will officially launch the Second Cathedral Quarter Literary Festival on Friday, October 20th at the Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny.

This festival promises to be a real treat for lovers of classic literature.

While only in its second year the inaugural event in 2016 was such an outstanding success the Secretary of the Cathedral Quarter, Donnan Harvey has high hopes that it will become one of the highlights of the Irish literary year. And from the response for this year’s offering, it would certainly seem to be on the right track.

Jane Austen is one of the outstanding figures in the world of words, creator of such classic characters as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and to this day, and more than 200 years after her death her novels are still widely read. Television dramatisations of her work still draw huge audiences.

What is not particularly well known is that she has strong links with Letterkenny.

Her niece Cassandra Knight is buried alongside her Lord George Hill in the graveyard of Conwal Parish Church at the top of the Church Lane. She has other connections with other parts of the country as well; Dr Hillan will be exploring all those links during her wide-ranging lecture.

The Literary Festival is delighted to have someone of Dr. Hillan’s stature open this year’s event. She has had a distinguished academic career, and was a friend and colleague of Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney. A regular speaker at American and British universities, she has published widely on 19th and 20th century Irish Literature as well as writing a number of well-received books of fiction.

Her talk kicks off what promises to be an exciting weekend. Everyone who comes along is invited to actively participate, and there will be a Speaker’s Corner on the Main Street where open-air public speaking, performing, debate and discussion are welcome.

On Saturday, October 21st, there will be a tour of local sites associated with the novelist, including visits to places of interest in both Ramelton and Letterkenny. Then it’s off to Florence Cafe for the launch of ‘Wednesday Words’ – poems, essays etc by local writers’ group, the Diamond Writers.

A little-known aspect of Jane Austen’s life was her interest in music and a concert featuring her works by the International duo of Lauretta Bloomer and Elisabeth Goell will be held in Conwal Parish Church at 7.30pm on Saturday evening. Elisabeth Goell is an International Soprano singer, who moves effortlessly between the worlds of Baroque, Classic, Modern & Folk. She is joined by Lauretta Bloomer. As a soloist, chamber musician, and vocal accompanist, Lauretta Bloomer has played concerts throughout Europe, toured the U.S and more recently performed in Asia and Australia.

Interested? Here’s the timetable:

Friday, 20th October 7.30pm – Venue: Donegal County Museum – Launch by Dr Sophia Hillan.

Saturday, 21st October 11am – Venue: Dillons Hotel (meet up) Bus Tour of sites associated with Jane Austen’s nieces in Ramelton and Letterkenny including visits to the graves of May, Lou & Cassandra Knight lead by Dr. Sophia Hillan.

3pm to 5pm – Venue: Florence Food Company, Raphoe Diamond Writers Launch, 10th Anniversary anthology called ‘Wednesday Words’ – bringing together their 10th-anniversary collection of poems, essays, memory pieces & short stories. Open mic following Book Launch.

5.30pm ‘They Shoot Poets Don’t They’ by local man Paul McCollum. Venue: Universal Books

7.30pm – The Music of Jane Austen by Pianist Lauretta Bloomer and Soprano Elisabeth Goell in Conwal Parish Church

Sunday 1.30pm – Venue: Dillon’s Hotel – John Ruddy on The Evolution of Weapons Throughout History. Using his character Manny Man, John makes history easy and digestible for all. John Ruddy, actor, author and YouTuber wills ‘the History of Ireland’.

3.30pm – Conwal Graveyard, Church Lane – Jane Austen visits niece Cassandra Knights Grave. Performance by Maura Logue.


For more information, you can visit the Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter Facebook Page or contact Donnan Harvey on 086 345 2457.