Plague unveiled in honour of John McGahern

On Saturday last, July 14th, a plaque was unveiled by members of the McGahern family, ‘in recognition of John McGahern’s close association with the barracks in Cootehall.’ Mr. McGahern’s, semi-autobiographical novel, ‘The Barracks’, first published in 1963, was set in the adjacent barracks in which his father was a Garda sergeant. He was to follow this with a body of work, over the intervening years, which secured for him a position as one of the principle figures in Irish literature in the latter half of the twentieth century as well as an international reputation. The Commemorative project in Cootehall was the brainchild of Cootehall Development Group. Angela Dowd, on behalf of the Committee welcomed Mr. McGahern’s wife Madeline and his four sisters, Margaret, Rosaleen, Monica and Dympna with the other guests including Seamus O’Grady of NUIG. Miss O’Dowd spoke of Mr. McGahern being ‘an extraordinary writer who was widely admired by other writers and readers and we in Cootehall are proud to be associated with him.’ She thanked Arigna Leader and Roscommon County Council for their support and workers Hubert Higgins and Mickey Dunne. Cllr. Rachael Doherty re-echoed these sentiments, stating that ‘John wrote of women and particularly of strong women’ and that ‘he captured a lifestyle, time and the distinct character of the people of Cootehall’. Poet Alice Lyons read an appropriate extract from ‘The Barracks’. After a musical contribution from local children John’s sister Margaret spoke of; ‘appreciation always being acceptable especially when coming from Cootehall’ and stating that in their childhood ‘as John skimmed stones on the waters of the adjacent river, no one could have anticipated what he would become’. Father Liam Lacey spoke on behalf of local parish Priest Fr. Brian Conlon who was unavoidably absent. An International Seminar, incorporating a diverse and distinguished range of contributors, to Commemorate John McGahern, sponsored by Leitrim County Council and The National University of Ireland Galway, takes place in the Carrick-on-Shannon and Leitrim area from Thursday July 26 to Saturday 28.