Competitions 2020 Results

2020 Writing Competitions – Results

Robert Leslie Boland Award – ADULT POETRY COMPETITION (Judged by Eileen Sheehan)

1st Place: “Freedom Fighter” Margaret Sheehan (Listowel)
2nd Place: “Mad Matt” Helen Simcox (Charleville, Co. Cork)
3rd Place: “Folksong” Patrick Doyle (Nohoval, Co. Cork)

Highly Commended:
“Of Redemptorists and Whores” Louis Mulcahy
“The Dancing Fiddler” Bernadette Ní Ríada, Beaufort
“Port Fairy” Nathanael O’Reilly, Texas


The Quiet Man Award – ADULT SHORT STORY COMPETITION (Judged by Eileen Sheehan)

1st Place: “The Unaccounted Hours” Helena Farrell (Bandon)
2nd Place: “First Love” Louis Mulcahy (Clogher)
3rd Place: “The Stone Collector” Kevin Griffin (Caragh Lake)

Highly Commended:
“Hanky Panky” Joan Lyons, Ballybunion
“In the Pink” Bernadette Ní Ríada, Beaufort
“Help!” Fran Beasley, Listowel


The Chrissie Nolan Award – CHILDREN’S COMPETITION (Judged by Eileen Sheehan)

1st Place: “The Fall” by Aimee Stack, Lisselton National School
2nd Place: “Baby Brother” by Sofia Zubeyko, Coolard National School
3rd Place: “The Haunted House” by Billy McDonough, Coolard National School

Highly Commended:

“Unicorns” by Olivia O’Carroll, Coolard National School

“Spring-Time” by Lucy Prendergast, Lisselton National School

“The Hairy Monster” by Gearóid Lenihen, Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail




AS GAEILGE (Gabriel Fitzmaurice, Moltóir)



Thug an moltóir an craobh do ‘An Aimsir in Éire’ le Grace Ní Ifearnáin, Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail



San Chéad Áit: ‘An Stoirm Intinne’ le Con Fitzsimons, Benmore, Ballybunion
San Dara Áit: ‘Mo Bhumbóg Bhuí’ le Eileen Connolly, Kenmare
San Tríu Áit: ‘Caoineadh do Cantillon’s’ le Dáithí Ó Cíosáin, Ardfert

Inmholta: ‘Filí’ le Louis Mulcahy, Clogher




Winning Entries



Robert Leslie Bowland Award


Freedom Fighter by Margaret Sheehan


When they were finished with you

there was skin on the road. 

There’s a man who says

that you are living still

chained to the memory. 

All those years ago

you could not have known

you’d be held so long.

I would sprinkle water

on the four corners

of your house

to set you free.

That would be my





The Quiet Man Award

The Unaccounted Hours by Helena Farrell

Winter had stripped the land of its flesh, revealing its bones. Surrounding the graveyard, shivering sycamores shook the last of empty nests from their bare limbs. A sharp wind blew, bending the spirits of all who resided within its walls. Everything was raw. As the land took a breath, it exhaled a drift of fog which floated over the headstones. The only sound breaking through the silence was the repeated rhythm of a spade shifting soil.

Early mornings suited Jack best for opening graves. It brought a sense of peace to his life, which rested upon him like a prayer. Three generations of gravediggers lay in the ground before him, his father, grandfather and great grandfather. Soon there would be a fourth. 

The first grave Jack ever dug was for his grandmother. Fifteen years of age, it was the only time he ever saw his father cry. With each shovel of earth hoisted over his shoulder, Jacks father smeared the tears across his face. He swallowed soft sobs that threatened escape from a place Jack never managed to reach. The memory of that day signified the loss of something much more significant than his grandmother. Amongst a childhood of hazy colour filled memories, it was Jacks first memory in grey.

As the spade hit the ground for the last time, Jack swore he could hear a sigh, signalling the completion of a lifetime of work together. Jack had come to the cul de sac of his life, where he was more comfortable inside the graveyard walls than outside. Wrestling the naggin of whiskey from his inside pocket, Jack unscrewed the cap, taking a few sips to loosen his muscles. Standing back to survey his handiwork, Jack threw the spade into the freshly dug grave. He liked to leave a little piece of himself behind every time he attended to the graveyard, to get used to the place for when the day would arrive, he would never leave.

The air stiffened, as a scattering of rain emerged from over the horizon. It was time for Jack to leave. Looking around, the grass was cut, verges trimmed. It should hold for a while until his replacement arrived, Jack thought. Casting a prayer out to those who lay at his feet, Jack was reminded of the advice his wife had once given him.  ‘Never leave your worries in a graveyard for fear of disturbing the dead’ she warned him. Jack had one worry, as he looked at the grave next to the one he had just opened.

She was his perfect day, the extra rhythm in a life less ordinary. The most difficult grave he ever dug. A spade stubborn with sorrow every time it hit the ground. Yet Jack knew he had sheltered under the memory of her for far too long. Once a memory had flown, it discarded itself like feathers from a dying bird. Jack had become a dying bird.


It was the last Sunday in August when he first noticed her, walking up the aisle of mass. She carried herself in a way that would capture a man’s attention. Sitting fifth row from the altar, his eyes followed her, exploring her. Strands of ruby red hair escaped from underneath her hat, disappearing down the back of her neck, to a place he wanted to linger. Every so often, he caught her gazing up at the stained-glass window, streams of rainbow light splashed across her face. She was far away, deep in thought. Jack wondered where she went, what he needed to do to follow her there. Moving in her seat, he could see the constraints of mass unsettled her. A wildness stirred from within. Mesmerised, Jack never heard a word of what the priest said that day, or any other Sunday after that.

Every week as soon as mass had finished, Jack would stand inside the church porch as it emptied itself of parishioners. As she glided past, their coats would brush against one another. That was all Jack needed to take the pain from him, to get through another week till he saw her again. It continued that way for months, until one Sunday, their eyes met. She smiled at him. It took a year before he heard the first shades of her voice in a soft ‘hello’, another few months after that before he plucked up the courage to ask her to the dance. A marriage and two children followed.

Jack saw the shape of her loss in the landscape that surrounded him. In the hollow winds that came across the mountain, carrying a song from below not above. A song where Jack heard the voices of those who have gone before him. Night-time was the hardest. Submerged in the blackness of night, lying in bed, Jack felt her loss more in the unaccounted hours. Reaching for the empty space alongside him, he rested his hand on what was left of her. A slight dent embedded into the mattress. Rolling over into space where she once lay, Jack buried his face in her pillow, inhaling to recover some of her lost soul. There was a pouring out of him, an emptying into the void she left behind. Tears fell till the faint glow of a new day edged around the curtains. Exhaustion took hold, pulling Jack into a parcel of sleep which gifted itself for only an hour or so. Every night was the same, bursting with sorrow and loneliness.


A rumbling noise rippled through the graveyard. Jack looked up to see his neighbour Paddy passing by in his tractor, tipping his cap at him. Paddy was on his way to collect his pension and to post a letter, as he did every Friday. A letter Paddy wrote to himself every week, giving the postman a reason to call on a Monday. A safety net in case Paddy drew his last breath and was never found, or so he led Jack to believe. However, Jack knew it was to have the guarantee of someone to call to the door, to ring a bell that only ever rung once a week.

‘There’s a long weekend there Jack, an awfully long weekend’ Paddy said in the few conversations he had with Jack. Conversations filled with hollow words, echoing with loneliness. Paddy was a stray man like so many others, hidden from view, living deep within the pockets of the land. They dwelt amongst houses with their mouths open to the elements. Men twisted from loneliness. Jack had become one of them.

Gathering his belongings together, Jack exited the graveyard. He thought of how hard it was to leave her behind. To go home to an empty house, to close the door and not talk to anyone for another day. Absence brings perspective. The spaces people leave behind that are impossible to fill.

Absence was the empty chair next to Jack’s in the consultant’s office when the doctor delivered the unwelcome news.

For years Jack had watched her suffer from a similar affliction he had been diagnosed with. Through the course of their marriage, he could only standby, helpless, as it robbed her of everything, breasts, womb, motherhood, dignity. The only solace for Jack, she did not have to deal with it alone. Without her, faced with the same prognosis, he could not do it alone. He would not do it alone.

Turning the gate for home, Jack missed the soft click of her shoes that followed him up the path. The rustling in her handbag as she searched for the front door keys. The mild curses that left her breath when everything else emerged from the bag except the keys. It was the little things he missed the most about her. In the days and months after her passing, Jack left her go in dribs and drabs until all her belongings were gone. All except the Tupperware box.

As Jack entered the house, the radio broke through the silence. Left on all day, it filled the emptiness she had left behind. The smell of freshly baked sourdough Jack had left resting on the kitchen countertop filled the air. Jack smiled as he remembered how herself loved a slice of sourdough for her breakfast. Before she rose for the day, he had it baked and ready for her. It was the same every morning until the day came she never got up.

Making his way to the kitchen, Jack put on the kettle. Rummaging through the presses, he looked for the pestle and mortar. Sitting next to the sourdough was a Tupperware box. Its label yellowed by time read ‘Dolours Maguire’. Jack traced his finger over her writing, tracing his sorrow. Opening the lid, he removed all the tablets from their packaging. They had taken the pain from her, hopefully they would do the same for him. Filling the mortar, Jack began to crush them into a fine powder. As the kettle boiled, he mixed the powder in with the butter. Cutting up his half of the sourdough, Jack layered the butter on thick until no more was left. The remainder of the powder he stirred into the tea. Jack took from his pocket, an envelope addressed to his two sons, placing it next to the mortar.

Carrying both bread and tea to the table by his chair near the fireplace, he placed them next to the television remote. Sitting down, he turned on the television. The booming voice of an American comedian burst through. The only reason Jack watched those shows was because of her. Every day as she faded away from him, they would sit together, drinking tea and eating bread. It was in those moments, if only for a short while, he saw the worry fall from her. 

Looking over at the empty chair opposite his, Jack thought he saw the cushions move; the impression of her still visible in them. As he took a mouthful of tea, followed by a chunk of bread, the usual creamy taste of the butter was speckled with something different. In the background, the comedian recanted some story about a bishop and his dog. Amused, Jack wondered what herself would have made of it all.

Finishing the last of the tea and bread, the world around Jack began to soften. The image of the comedian became hazy. Through his tears, Jack saw a shadow move. A familiar laugh came from the direction of the empty chair as all other sounds in the room begun to drift away.

‘What is he saying now Dolour’s?’

 Jack mumbled as the words slid around the inside of his cheeks. She laughed again; the last sound Jack heard before the darkness came.




The Chrissie Nolan AwardChildren’s Writing in English

The Fall by Aimee Stack

His hiding place had been discovered. What on earth was he going to do now.  Harry would normally read in the shed where nobody would be, but now that Jack found him he had nowhere to go. Harry was the youngest of three children. Anna the oldest was12, James the middle child was 8 and Harry the youngest was 6.

He looked around the house for another spot but everywhere seemed to be occupied. Mom was cooking in the kitchen while listening to Johnny Cash. Dad was fixing the TV’s in the sitting room and playroom. James was playing with Lego in their bedroom and Anna was making Tiktoks with her friend Gemma in her room, so Harry had nowhere to go except the toilet (but that was unhygienic), so Harry went outside.

Suddenly he had an idea. “The tree,” he thought. So without thinking any more he climbed it. After a few minutes of reading, Harry had fallen off to sleep.  When he just started dreaming about Tayto Park, he rolled over and fell out of the three with a thud.

Two days later …

In the hospital with Mom, Dad, James and Anna, surrounding Harry’s bed.

Harry opened his eyes slightly. He was confused because last time he remembered he was in the tree dreaming about Tayto Park, now he was in a strange place that he didn’t recognise. “Am I in heaven?” he thought.  His question was answered when Anna started calling the doctor. He was in hospital! Harry struggled to get up but when he did, he was pushed down again. “Dr Kennelly, Dr Kennelly, he’s awake, he’s awake,” called Anna. “Why am I here?” Harry asked, “You fell out of the tree and your heart rate is slow, so you can’t get out of bed,” replied Mom. Just then the door opened and a man with grey hair and glasses came walking into the room and started talking to his Dad. He only heard parts of the conversation like ‘tomorrow’ or ‘very good’.  After Dr Kennelly left the room everything seemed to go back to normal. Mom started listening to Johnny Cash, Dad was watching TV, James was playing with Lego and Anna was texting Gemma.  Harry took his book from the bedside locker and started reading.


Dúais Phádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair – Urraithe ag Ciste Turasóireachta na Gaeilge, CCC

An Stoirm Intinne le Con Fitzsimons

Tagann an stoirm isteach gan choinne

cosúil le saighdiúirí ar gcapaill taibhseach.

Caoineann an ghaoth mar mactíre i bpiain.

Tosnaíonn cnocha sneachta ag eitilt trasna na pairceanna 

ar shéideáin fíorfhuar gaoithe 

agus casann go bán é an sneachta tobann 

gach aon rud go bun na spéire.


Baineann an gaoth an díon meirgeach den bothán. 

Briseann sé craobhacha don crann.

Tógann na bláthanna a peiteal isteach.

Casann na capaill preachta a droim don gaoth

agus na ba i bhfolach i gcúinne na páirce.


Éiríonn an t-uisce thar bhruach na h-abhann.

Tagann tonnta ollmhóra suas ar an dtrá,

ag pleascadh sna pluaiseanna

agus ag caitheamh cáitheadh go h-árd sa spéir.


Istigh sa bhaile 

tá gach einne in a coladh go breá sonasach.

Amuigh sa clós

tá an domhan dían, dainséarach

agus an báisteach searbh ag bualaigh ar na fallaí.


Ar maidin tagann an síocháin.

Tá an farraige ciúin, suaimhneach.

Tá na scamaill imithe agus an spéir go geal gorm.

Go mall, go maránta, tagann na daoine amach.

Leáinn an sceachta 

agus tógann sé leis 

gach uile cuimhne 

don aimsir fuar crua.



Scríbhneoireacht Na Páistí

An Aimsir in Éire le Grace Ní Ifearnáin

Bíonn sí fúar is bíonn sí fliuch

Is cuireann sí fuacht ar na caora

Bíonn sneachta bán ann agus sioc

Oo nach brea í an aimsir in Éire!


Bíonn sí ag cur sneachta

‘S bíonn láimhíníar o mhéara

‘Ochón’, tá an sneachta ag imeacht

Aaa nach brea í an aimsir in Éire!


Ní bhíonn sí ró-grianhar

Bíonn scamall ins na spéartha

Bíonn sí dorcha ceomhar

Oo nach brea í an aimsir in Éire!



Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival 2020 is now closed


Competitions Guidelines


Poem – (50 lines max) Robert Leslie Boland Award

Short Story – (2,500 words max) Quiet Man Maurice Walsh Award

Dán – (50 línte ar a mhéad) no Gearrscéal (2,500 focal ar a mhéad) as Gaeilge. Duais Phádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair


Poem – (50 lines max) or Short Story (1,000 words max) in English – The Chrissie Nolan Creative Writing Award

Dán – (50 línte ar a mhéad) no Gearrscéal (1,000 focal ar a mhéad) as Gaeilge

Entry Fees: Adults €10, Children €5 for up to two entries in any combination

Prizes: Adults €150, €100 and €50 in each category; Children €100, €75 and €50 in the form of Book Tokens

Cheque or postal order to the address below, payable to Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival.


      Ballydonoghue Bardic Festival, Loughanes, Lisselton, Listowel, Co. Kerry

You can now also pay by PayPal payment system or Credit/Debit Card. Please go to REGISTER page for instructions.




Rules for all competitions

  • Please put the category of your entry at the top of the page.
  • Please put your name and contact details on a separate sheet and not on your poem or short story. If using email, please include your name and contact details in a separate attachment.
  • Please type your entries and print on one side of paper only.
  • All entries must not have been previously published online or in print, nor must they be entered currently for competitions elsewhere.
  • Prizes: All adult competitions carry a First Prize of €150, Second Prize €100 and 3rd prize €50. Children’s prizes in the form of book tokens – First Prize of €100, Second Prize €75 and Third prize €50.
  • The competitions will be judged anonymously and the winners will be announced at The Festival Launch in The Thatch Bar, Lisselton on March 20th.
  • The judge’s verdict is final. No correspondence will be entered into.

BBF 2019 Competitions – Results

Adult Poetry


1st. Violin Concerto in E Minor and The Joyrider – Louis Mulcahy

2d. Beach-front Property – Eileen Connolly

3rd. Reality – Lola Scollard

Adult Short Story

1st. Pink Steel – Noel King

2nd. The Calf – Helen Broderick

3rd. Christine – Priscilla Donovan

Irish Poetry or Prose

1st. Éalú – Matt Mooney

2nd. An Gaiscíoch – Eileen Connolly

3rd. Údair le Chéile – Matt Mooney


Children’s Writing (L = Lisselton, C = Coolard, GS = Gaelscoil Lios Tuathail)


1st. The Alone Wing (L) Aimee Stack

2nd. Our Sun Holiday (L) Jodie O’Keefe

3rd. Saturn the Talking Cat (C) Kaelynn Murphy



1st. Chuala mé an Ghaoth (L) Aideen Whelan

2nd. An Cluiche Cispheile (GS) Rebecca Spréacha



Joint 1st.

My Life – Brid Courtney – Ardfert

An tAon Duine Fágtha ar Domhan – Ava Nic Aodha

121 Adult Entries and 123 Entries From Children in 2019! Thank You All!


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