Éigse Michael Hartnett 2022


We are on the final countdown to the Éigse Michael Hartnett Festival for 2022! There is a wide-ranging programme of events between workshops, poetry readings, music, exhibitions, film, book launches, street entertainment, and even a bus tour!

We’ve had some events already with the young people in the town in the schools and the youth organisations.  Colm Keegan has conducted workshops in creative writing in SMI and in Desmond College and the results of their labours will be on view during the Festival weekend. 

Aileen Nix, a local artist, has been working with the local Foróige group in town to produce lanterns for the opening parade.

Edward O’Dwyer also worked with the Foróige group and their poems will be on display around town.

The idea of the Éigse is to recognise Michael Hartnett’s genius and to celebrate his life and his poetry.  As you know he died in 1999 at the age of 58 and there has been an annual Éigse every year since – even during Covid we went online and kept it going. 

This year we are proud to announce that thanks to the generosity of Limerick City and County Council we have been able to increase the value of the annual Michael Hartnett Poetry Award to €8,000 and we are delighted that Eleanor Hooker from Dromineer on the shores of Lough Derg is this year’s deserving winner of the prestigious award.

We received great news yesterday with the confirmation that the recently acquired portrait of Hartnett by Edward McGuire which is now in the City Gallery will be on display in Newcastle West for the opening of this year’s Éigse.


We kick things off on Thursday the 6th of October at 7.00pm in the Square with a rousing street performance by The Hit Machine Drummers, a kilted brotherhood of rhythmic warriors who enthrall and entertain with dynamic, captivating drumming. They will lead us in a lantern parade with members of the Foroige Youth Club in Newcastle West. The parade will leave the Square and travel down Hartnett’s beloved Maiden Street to the Council Offices down near the Longcourt House Hotel. There this year’s Éigse will be officially opened by the Lord Mayor, Francis Foley who will present this year’s poetry prize to Eleanor Hooker.  Other special guests on the night will be Gerard Stembridge and music from Brian Hartnett.


On Friday the 7th we begin bright and early with a poetry reading by Eleanor Hooker which takes place upstairs in Marguerites at 11am.

This is followed by lunch with Mark Patrick Hederman former Abbott and Headmaster in Glenstal at 1.00pm at the Desmond Complex, where a light lunch will be served to accompany a reading from Dr. Hederman’s recently published works including Crimson and Gold: Life as a Limerick.

The evening events at the Longcourt House Hotel start at 6.00pm with a belated book launch that fell victim to Covid in 2020.  Keith McCoy will be reading from his debut novel Hello Larry Barry and from his recently published second novel The Jude Crew.  Both novels are set in Newcastle West although The Jude Crew spreads its wings a bit wider.

At 8pm in The Longcourt House Hotel, we have a fantastic poetry reading by two former Michael Hartnett award winners Kerry Hardie and Peter Sirr who were also our judges this year for the Michael Hartnett Poetry Award. The reading will be followed by live music from cellist Núria Vizcaino Estrada from Barcelona and currently studying for her MA in Classical String Performance in UL.

Also on Friday at 8.00pm you can enjoy two film screenings over at the Desmond Complex in partnership with Newcastle West Film Club and Askeaton Contemporary Arts. Based on the novel Foster by Claire Keegan, An Cailín Ciúin, is the acclaimed award -winning Irish-language film that has broken all Irish box office records this year. This will be followed by Seanie Barron: Only in Askeaton, a short film that dips into the life and work of wood artist Seanie Barron and examples of his work will also be on exhibition at the Red Door Gallery throughout the weekend.


Saturday the 8th begins at the Desmond Complex with the annual Michael Hartnett Memorial Lecture at 11am. This year the lecture is being given by Historian and former Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland, Caitriona Crowe. Caitriona will deliver the lecture on: How did Ireland do in its decade of centenaries?  So, the lecture should be very thought-provoking and I’m looking forward to that.

This will be followed at 1.30pm by music and memories of Hartnett from uilleann piper and former RTE producer Peter Browne.  He has some great stories to tell about being on tour with Michael Hartnett back in the 80s.

We are particularly happy this year to be taking the Festival outside NCW  in partnership with the Kileedy Development Association and to acknowledge the wonderful work and community building going on in Raheenagh.  So, at 3 p.m. the Hartnett Bus Tour will depart from the Desmond Complex taking in Camas, home of Michael Hartnett’s grandmother Bridget Halpin, whom he immortalised in his beautiful poem ‘Death of an Irishwoman’.  Then it’s on to the Poet’s Corner at Killeedy Eco-Park and finishing with tea and tunes at the Tigh Cheoil in Ashford. 

Saturday evening’s events will begin with a reading from author Mary Costello at 8.00pm at the Longcourt House. She will be reading from her short story collection, The China Factory (2012), and her two novels Academy Street (2014), and The River Capture (2019) which was shortlisted for many awards.

The reading will be followed by live music from Mick Hanly who needs no introduction to Limerick audiences.   He is one of our foremost singer/songwriters, and of course, Mick was born and reared in Limerick.  We expect a big crowd in The Longcourt House Hotel next Saturday night.


Salad Sunday is a new addition to the Éigse Michael Hartnett programme for 2022 and celebrates one of Michael Hartnett’s most amusing poems, The Balad of Salad Sunday, which pokes fun at an incident in Newcastle West back in the early 80s.

Salad Sunday is intended as a fun, entertaining event for the community and will take place in the Square, the Red Door Gallery, and the Desmond Complex.  Seamus Hennessy will be the MC for the events in the Square and there should be plenty of buskers and food stalls  – so come along and enjoy the craic – hopefully, the weather holds up!!

Our final two events of the weekend are the launch of two new books:  Gabriel Fitzmaurice is launching the new edition of Farewell to Poetry and Tom Moloney is launching his first collection of short stories called Overcoming the Joy and Other Yearnings.  Both take place at 1.00pm and 1.30pm respectively at the Desmond Complex.

As you can see it’s a full programme with something for everyone young and old, so we hope you can join us over the weekend.

Many of the events are free but some need to be booked on Eventbrite although money will also be taken at the door. Check out our website http://www.eigsemichaelhartnett.ie for up-to-date details of all the events.   

Éigse committee 2022: Vicki Nash, Norma Prendeville, Rachel Lenihan, John Cussen, Rose Liston, Rossa McMahon, Mary Carroll, and Vincent Hanley


The Mystery of Michael Hartnett’s Entry for the Eurovision Song Contest

There was a time in the ’80s and ’90s when Ireland dominated the Eurovision Song Contest.   We have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 55 times, missing only two contests (1983 and 2002). Believe it or not, Ireland has a record total of seven wins and is the only country to have won the Eurovision three times consecutively.

Ireland’s seven wins were achieved by Dana with “All Kinds of Everything” (1970), Johnny Logan with “What’s Another Year” (1980) and “Hold Me Now” (1987), Linda Martin with “Why Me” (1992), Niamh Kavanagh with “In Your Eyes” (1993), Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids” (1994) and Eimear Quinn with “The Voice” (1996). Johnny Logan is the only performer to have won twice and also wrote the 1992 winning entry.

Indeed, RTE was forced to host the competition so often that the station was in danger of going bankrupt.  They eventually began to share their largesse with the great unwashed outside the Pale and on one famous occasion in 1993 the event was staged in the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet, County Cork.  The Green Glens was more commonly associated with show jumping and other equestrian events at the time but RTE was known to make the occasional foray into the wilderness and so Noel C. Duggan’s state-of-the-art equestrian centre was chosen to stage the event on this occasion.  This was the 38th Eurovision Song Contest and, low and behold, yet again, Ireland, represented by Niamh Kavanagh, was the winner with the song, “In Your Eyes”.

Long before this famous victory, however, a young impecunious poet called Michael Hartnett, formerly from Newcastle West but now living ‘out foreign in Glantine’ had decided that it was about time that he tried his hand at songwriting.  He had been looking closely at the lyrics and he felt that surely a wordsmith of his quality could match the quality of Johnny Logan’s ‘What’s Another Year’!  He gathered a small, intrepid band of musicians and wordwrights about him, and in the Winter Poet’s Corner[1] in The Shamrock Bar in South Quay he produced the following entry for the Eurovision Song Contest of 1981.  Fittingly, for a poet that is, the song was entitled ‘I Can Read You Like a Book’.  Peter Fallon includes this version in the 2015 reprint of The Book of Strays. He tells us in a postscript to that edition that he received it from Seán Tyrrell the great traditional singer and musician who sadly passed away in October 2021. Unfortunately, Hartnett’s foray into songwriting did not find favour with the judges, and his ‘song’ with its quite intriguing Chorus disappeared forever, or so we thought …….

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……… and then, would you believe it, another version of the ‘song’ turned up on 8th October 2022 during a concert given by that great Limerick troubadour, Mick Hanly.  He told the  Éigse audience in The Longcourt Hotel in Newcastle West that one evening in the 80s he was in the snug of Doheny and Nesbit’s Pub in Dublin having a quiet pint with his brother David when Michael Hartnett arrived and took some papers from his inside pocket and said, ‘I have a Country and Western song for you, Mick’.  Miraculously all those years later Mick produced the original sheets of paper on which Hartnet had written out the song in his own distinctive handwriting.  In the recording below Mick didn’t use Hartnett’s chorus and substituted it with his own as, I think, he felt it was too bizarre and maybe a little too risque especially for his Country and Western devotees! Instead, he uses his own chorus:

Sometimes when you smile

Unless you rub my brow

I don’t know if you’re sad, happy, or mad

It’s the cheek (?) I’ve never found.

He readily agreed to give me a copy and I quickly photocopied them at the hotel reception.  The interesting thing about this version is that, as you can see, the chorus differs slightly from the Eurovision entry and there is the added bonus of an extra verse!  No doubt there are numerous other copies and variations out there in the poet’s own handwriting.  Maybe in time, we will come across extra verses to this unique undertaking – a song that doubles as a Eurovision entry and as a Country and Western classic!!


Click on the link below to see Mick Hanly sing the World Premiere of Michael Hartnett’s song, ‘I Can Read You Like A Book’:


Author’s Note: Thanks to Dermot Lynch for the video.


[1] Tony Sheehan and Peg Devine, and later George Daly and his wife Breda, were the owners of The Shamrock Bar in South Quay and both owners were great friends and patrons of the poet.  In fact, there were two Poet’s Corners in the pub – a Winter one and a Summer one!