September 20 -28, 2013 is a very special week-long celebration – The Leitrim Roots Festival. County Leitrim welcomed its Diaspora home for a visit long before the launch of The Gathering 2013. In fact, the Leitrim Roots Festival began in 2006, and Anthony Tighe was kind enough to tell us what the Festival is all about!
“Lovely Leitrim” was the title of a song that swept to the top the hit parade in Ireland in the early 1960s. It was sung by one of the top showband singers of the time, Larry Cunningham. It was composed by a Leitrim exile in New York, Phil Fitzpatrick. The song is about a Leitrim exile in America, dreaming about his “Lovely Leitrim” and his desire to see his native land again
In April 2006, Leitrim Genealogy Centre organised the first ever Leitrim Roots Festival. It was a wonderful success with people coming from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and Iceland for the week-long Festival. On the closing night Larry Cunningham and his band provided the music and Larry finished the evening with a beautiful rendition of “Lovely Leitrim”. It was a memorable culmination to a wonderful week. [Click here to watch video of Larry singing “Lovely Leitrim”]
Leitrim is a county that has a long and detailed history. It suffered a considerable population decline during the Great Famine and this decline continued up until the 1990s. The population fell from, at its height, 160,000 in 1847 to where it stands today at 31,798. Economic growth in Ireland in the last decade has meant that the population has shown an increase for the first time in over a century and a half.
Not surprisingly Leitrim is the most unspoilt county in Ireland. It is full of lakes and mountains and spectacular scenery. These are the places where your ancestors struggled to survive until they went to the “promised lands” of America, England and Australia. They always held the dream of returning, but very often they never saw their native home again.
The last line of “Lovely Leitrim” says:
Well I’ve travelled far through these great lands from the east onto the west
But of all the islands I have seen I love my own the best
And if ever I return again there is one place I will go
It will be to Lovely Leitrim where the Shannon waters flow
The 2013 Leitrim Roots Festival will be a wonderful week. It will be about fulfilling a lifelong dream for many Leitrim exiles both abroad and in Ireland when they return to their lovely Leitrim and visit their ancestral homes and get the opportunity to meet with the people there and discover the beauty of the county for themselves.
- Visit our website – www.leitrimrootsfestival.com
- Like us on Facebook – www.facebook.com/LeitrimRootsFestival2013
- Follow us on Twitter – www.twitter.com/leitrimroots
– Anthony Tighe, Leitrim Roots Festival