Kindlings – Lanesboro Lasrai Writers’ Group

From an informal gathering around a fire to the launch of their first publication this year, it has been an interesting 16 years for Lasrai Writers Group in Lanesborough, Co Longford. Having previously been involved with two books under the auspices of the county’s arts office, they released their own book, ‘Kindlings’ – a collection of writings from all members.

The group’s beginnings are traced back to an informal setting of people sitting around a fireplace, sharing a common love of literature and writing. What sparked the decision to formalise matters, and create an official writers’ group was a talk given by a famous local author. “It arose from a reading that was given by Jack Harte from his short stories,” explained Margaret Nohilly, the group’s chairperson. “I think he was also detailed to tell us how a writing group worked,” she added. Those who attended on the night were asked to put their name down and so Lasrai Writers Group was born.

Sr Rosarii Beirne, who invited Jack to give the talk, explained the name. “We had a little women’s centre on the Rathcline Road – it was a group known as Lasrai, the Irish word for lights. We were trying to light the place up.“We had a little group going – about six or seven – who were writing and then felt a little bit lost. Eventually we invited Jack to formally launch the group,” she said.

The group now meet once a month, with each meeting lasting around two hours. The ‘rules’, as many writer groups know, are simple but important. “Everybody prepares something – a piece of writing – and reads it at the meeting,” said Margaret. “The others then give their criticism or feedback. Through attending readings and workshops we later got the idea of having copies of the poem or piece of writing so people can work on it there and then.” The result is an extremely active group who have members from all over the region, and from all kinds of backgrounds.

Budding playwright Paddy Lawrence, and one of the group’s newer members, explains that it has helped him bring his work to fruition, with a hope to stage his work on the local, if not national, stage. “It was difficult because it’s my first time to join a group, but I’ve settled in now. There’s a warm atmosphere – I was expecting it to be harsh, but it wasn’t.

“It’s been a great help. I’ve been writing a while and I met Margaret at the launch of Loose Leaves (anthology of writing by Longford authors), which is when I joined. I live in Longford town and there was no group there at the time.” In the time he has been with the group, he has completed two plays – one of which has been given to the local Backstage Theatre Group and the other one has been sent to The Abbey.

Mary McGuishin, native of Lanesborough who has recently returned to the area from Dublin, said she joined the group for the sociability. “I didn’t want to living out in the field away from life in general. I knew Margaret and she told me about the group. I have enjoyed every bit of it,” said Mary, who writes poetry, drawing on her younger days in the area for inspiration. Sean Cahill, another member, said the atmosphere among the group helps with the writing. “It has a very creative side to it and helps to enrich one’s life. We would write poetry and prose, from the sacred to the profane to the sublime, with quite a bit of humour at times. “The atmosphere in the group is light-hearted, but at the same time we keep the little bit of writing in focus,” he said.

Having been involved with two previous publications by Longford’s Arts Office – Heartlands and the previously mentioned Loose Leaves – their own book was a natural progression. “It was inspired and motivated by Kieran Furey,” Jimmy Casey noted. “He said earlier in the year ‘we have all this stuff and we’re doing nothing about it and it’s about time we get off our backsides and do something about it’. “He took the responsibility of putting it together. He got about seven or eight contributions from each member of the group and he worked on it and Kindlings was what come out of it.”

Jack Harte, who also is the director of the Irish Writers’ Centre, returned to launch the book in Lanesboro earlier this year. He has also invited the group to read in the centre in the coming months.