British writer’s little known Connemara retreat to host festival

Cashel home a retreat for Ted Hughes after death of Sylvia Plath

Doonreagan House, Cashel in Connemara where the first Ted Hughes Weekend will be held to mark the British Poet laureate’s connection withthe area.

Doonreagan House, Cashel in Connemara where the first Ted Hughes Weekend will be held to mark the British Poet laureate’s connection withthe area.

Wed, Apr 24, 2013, 06:00


When North American poet, novelist and short-story writer Sylvia Plath died 50 years ago, her husband, the celebrated poet Ted Hughes, took refuge in Connemara. Now Doonreagan house near Cashel, Co Galway, is due to mark that lesser-known connection by hosting a literary weekend in his name next month.

“A singer, story-teller, lion and world wanderer” is how Plath had described Hughes, who was British poet laureate from 1984 until his death in 1998.

He is said to have found both solace and inspiration in the west of Ireland after Plath’s suicide at the age of 30 in 1963.

Hughes leased Doonreagan with partner Assia Wevill, their baby daughter Schura, and Frieda and Nicholas, his two children by Plath.

He described in letters to friends latterly how Doonreagan had offered a breakthrough in his writing and personal life. “The flow of good inspiration he experienced there, resulting in some of his finest work, was sustained for a few years before being lost for good,” the Western Writers’ Centre, which is hosting the inaugural Ted Hughes weekend, says.

He had told his son, Nicholas, that leaving Connemara was “a case of muffing the best opportunity of his life to enter a wholly richer, more productive and complete existence”.

Doonreagan house owner Robert Jocelyn said he learned after buying the property that Hughes had been keen to buy it. “Ireland was a very private part of his life, which his biographers have not been so aware of,” Mr Jocelyn told The Irish Times .

The poet was a keen angler, and some of his favourite angling locations will be visited during the event.

International speakers at the weekend on May 24th-26th will include Prof Terry Gifford of Bath Spa and Alicante Universities, Dr Mark Wormald of Pembroke College, Cambridge – Hughes’s alma mater in England – and Dr Gillian Groszewski of TCD.