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Bardic Festival 2023

Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2023

Writing Competitions


  1. The James Award: Poetry (50 lines max) or Prose (2,500 words max), for writers 75 years young and above. 
  1. The Jer Lynch Poetry Award Award: Poetry (50 lines max).
  2. Quiet Man Maurice Walsh Award: Short Story (2,500 words max).
  3. Duais Phádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair: Dán – (50 línte ar a mhéad) no Gearrscéal (2,500 focal ar a mhéad) as Gaeilge.


  1. Poem – (50 lines max) or Short Story (1,000 words max) in English – The Chrissie Nolan Creative Writing Award.
  1. Dán – (50 línte ar a mhéad) no Gearrscéal (1,000 focal ar a mhéad) as Gaeilge.

Entry Fees: Adults, €10 for up to two entries in any combination. Children, €5 for up to two entries. Schools, €25 for block entry. Please pay via PayPal on ballydbardfest.com or by cheque if posting. Phone John on 087 625 7705 if you need help.

Prizes: James Award $200; Adults 1st. €150, 2nd. €100 and 3rd. €50 in each category. Children €100, €75 and €50 in the form of Book Tokens.

Email your entries to ballydbardfest@gmail.com or post to Noelle Hegarty, Secretary BBF, Loughanes, Lisselton, Listowel, Co. Kerry


BBF’23 Workshops, Saturday, March 25th

Book in advance at ballydbardfest@gmail.com or phone John on 087 625 7705.

Pay on arrival!

10 a.m. to 12.30: Sonia Elston Writing Humorous Verse

Sonia Elston graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English and a primary school teacher’s certificate.  She also has a background in drama, gaining a drama teacher’s certificate from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  – She appeared in many shows at Nottingham Arts Theatre, but comedies were always her favourites. On moving to Ireland in 2001 she joined the Group Theatre and Tralee Toastmasters, and now runs the Ragged Road Theatre Group in Ballyheigue. Since retiring from teaching, she has devoted her time to writing, particularly comic verse, and was placed in the prestigious Bard of Armagh before it ended in 2016.  For many years she ran the highly acclaimed Tralee Humorous Verse Competition.


2 p.m. to 4.30: David Butler – Fiction/Short Story Writing

David Butler is a multi-award-winning full-time author. His accolades include the Benedict Kiely, Maria Edgeworth, ITT/Redline and Fish International awards, not to mention first prize for the inaugural Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival Short Story! His publications include the novels City of Dis (short-listed for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2015) and The Judas Kiss (New Island, 2012), and the short story collections No Greater Love (Ward Wood, 2013) and Fugitive (Arlen House, 2021).


11 a.m. to 12.30: John Stack – Sean-Nós Dancing

 John Stack has been dancing since he was 9, which was a long time ago, he tells us! He taught his first dancing class when he was 16 and retired in 2022 after 45 years teaching. He joined Ballubunion CCE when he was 18 and had completed 43 years of teaching in the branch when he retired. He has taught Set, Céilí, Step, Sean-nós and Waltzing to all ages during his teaching years. In his own words, I am looking forward to returning, welcoming everyone to Tomáisín’s in Lisselton for the Sean-nós dancing workshop for a bit of fun and dancing.

Full details of venue, cost, etc. to follow. Pay on or before the day but places are limited so you must register beforehand, with John McGrath on 087 625 7705 or at ballydbardfest@gmail.com.

Traditional Music Masterclasses


Festival Launch, 8 p.m. Friday

in Tomáisín’s Bar 

Ceilí on Saturday

FB Ceili


9p.m. to 12 midnight in Tomáisín’s Function Room



Maidin na mBard

De Domhnaigh,11 a.m. go 12.00.

Caifé & Comhrá,

Filiocht & Craic

 in Tomáisín’s Bar

Míc Oscailte – 12.00 go 2 pm.



Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival

The Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival seeks to honour the memory of Pádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair, who was born in Lisselton in 1745 and died around 1820.  He was a Hedge Schoolmaster, Poet and renowned Academic who established The Lisselton Bardic Court, known as ‘Cúirt na Súagh’, The Court of the Wise.

A Brief History of the Ballydonoghue Bard

There are lots of famous people from Lisselton, writers, footballers, ambassadors, soldiers, teachers, priests, nuns and many others. In this last group are the poets. It’s not often we hear about the poets from this area but they’re here now, and at one time Lisselton was famed for the standard of its poetry and of the schools of poetry around here. At that time there was great respect for poets and poetry, for alongside of poetry, they were well versed in literature, science and Latin.

Pádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair was born in 1745 and died around 1820. He was married to Eibhlín Ní hArtnain. Pádraig was highly intelligent and well-read, an outstandingly skilled teacher and leader of a group of master teachers of similar skills and disposition. He was also a native Irish speaker.

Pádraig instituted an annual Court for poets in Lisselton. Famous people from far and near attended these assemblies, people like Micheál Óg Ó Longáin. The Court was known as ‘Cúirt na Súagh’, The Court of the Wise. In 1803, the title Príomh-Ghiúistís, Cumann na mBard, (Chief Magistrate, Bardic Association) was bestowed on Pádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair of Cúirt na Súagh in Lisselton. A great honour indeed!

When you think about people like this man and the history Lisselton has in poetry, isn’t it a pity we don’t have a statue in his memory and as an influence on young people today. I use the term ‘influence’ because specialists in this field assure us that Pádraig and the schools he founded had a huge influence on the famous writers that have come out of North Kerry over the years. As I’ve said, Pádraig was a man of learning who used his native language in his poetry and in educating the people.

What then brought that era to an end in Lisselton, you ask? The introduction of The National School System in 1833 is probably one answer. The Great Famine of 1845 to 1849 contributed also.

But courage springs eternal in Kerry and in the years that followed, poets began to write again, in no small way due to the seed that was planted by Pádraig two hundred years ago, the same seed that still flourishes in Lisselton today.


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