Máirtín Ó Direáin and Rita Kelly in the Luneburg Heath, near Hanover, Germany, 1983.
We are fortunate here in Birr to have living in our midst acclaimed poet Rita Kelly.
Rita wears her learning and her high reputation lightly and is always a pleasure to meet and chat with.
She and her wife Edel have been living since 2019 in one of the most idyllic dwelling places you could find anywhere, the Bothy cottage, on the grounds of Birr Castle Demesne.
Surrounded by one of the most beautiful gardens in Ireland this cottage is the ideal home for people with an artistic temperament and has been a roof over the heads of a number of creative, imaginative people including the Kildare singer / songwriter Luka Bloom who wrote a number of songs there.
As well as being a marvelous poet, Rita is also a gaeilgeoir and has just published a book about her long-running friendship and correspondence with the famous writer Máirtín O Direáin, which has been receiving much praise in recent weeks.
Rita has a number of connections with Offaly.
Her father, Peter Kelly, though born in Ballinasloe, was reared from the age of 9 with his aunt, Margaret Clyne, in Clara, after the unexpected death of his mother.
Peter then worked with Ned Fleming, a butcher, for 10 years, in Ferbane.
Rita lived in Shannonbridge from 1963 to 1967. She attended school there - 5th & 6th Class.
From 1999-2001 she was County Arts Officer for Offaly County Council and worked out of the Council Offices in Tullamore.
“During that time,” she recalls, “I made treasured and lasting friendships with a host of people in Birr, many of them involved with the arts, with theatre, with music etc.
“Edel and myself love living here in The Bothy within Birr Castle Demesne. We are alternating living here with living in Alicante City, Spain, as the climate really suits Edel’s health needs. Our plan this year however is to continue through the winter in the Bothy rather than go to Spain, as we are so delighted living here - hopefully the winter weather won't be too much for us! It is our intention that Birr will continue to be our Irish base.” Next month Rita is starting on a PhD at UCC with Eibhear Walshe, the well-known writer and academic.
Rita's book is called “Le Gean ó Mháirtín” and is available in Super Valu, Birr. Ó Direáin's poems expressed great affection for the old way of life on the Aran Islands. His work is also concerned with the tension between rural and urban, traditional and modern. One of his poems, “The Late Spring”, concludes - “currach full of fish / coming to the quay / over the golden sea / at the end of the day / in the late Spring”
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