Oliver Goldsmith Trail

Ardagh House, Ardagh Village, County Longford.

Life & Times of Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith (1728 -1774) one of the greatest natural writers in the english language, was born in a tumbledown farmhouse at Pallas, a small hamlet to the east of Ballymahon in Co Longford. His father was the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, curate in the local Forgney Church. In 1730 his family moved to The Parsonnage of Lissoy in Co Westmeath where his father took on the role of curate in Kilkenny West. Here Goldsmith attended village school under the tutelage of Thomas Byrne. In 1741 he was sent to school in Edgeworthstown and then at the age of 14 he entered Trinity College as a sizar (servant) working for others in the college in return for tuition. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1749 and then left Ireland for Britain in 1752 where he was supposed to begin studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Unfortunately due to his penchant for gambling he squandered his finances and ended up studying at Leyden University in Holland for a year. In 1755 he left Leyden and took a Degree of Medicine at Louvain.

Thereafter he travelled widely on foot throughout Italy, France and Switzerland and then returned to London in 1756 where he became a school master and began writing book reviews for magazines. In 1759 he published a book of his own entitled ” An enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe” but it was the publication of his poem “The Traveller” that earned him his reputation as a writer of consequence and catepulted him into Londons intellectual and literary society.

His book “The Vicar of Wakefield” was published in 1766 followed by “The Good Natured Man” in 1768, his most famous poem “The Deserted Village” in 1770 and his comedy play “She Stoops to Conquer”in 1773. It is in these last too he focuses on aspects of rural life in sweet Auburn,(Co Longford), where he spent his youth. He also wrote a number of historical and biographical works and at the time of his death on 4th April 1774 he was in the midst of creating “A History of the Earth and Animated Nature”.

After his death his friends paid for a memorial monument in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey. The epitaph written by Samuel Johnson says” Oliver Goldsmith was one who left scarcely any kind of writing untouched, and touched nothing he did not adorn.” Trinity College Dublin also have a fine memorial statue in place in his honour.

The Goldsmith Literary Festival Committee host an annual event in honour of Goldsmith and his literary works. As part of this annual eventguided tours of Goldsmith country can be booked. However for those who wish to undertake a drive through Goldsmith country, visiting en route not only the places of relevance to Oliver Goldsmith but also many historic, scenic and interesting places in Co Longford, the driving route below has been suggested.

The Goldsmith Trail

Edgeworthstown: The Goldsmith Trail starts in Longford town and proceeds to Edgeworthstown via the N4 in the direction of Dublin. It was in Edgeworthstown that Goldsmith attended school for three years until the age of 16 when he entered Trinity College as a sizar (servant) and worked to serve others in return for tutelage.

Ardagh Heritage Village: From Edgeworthstown, take the N55 going southwards to reach Ardagh Heritage Village. Ardagh featured in Goldsmiths famous comedy play ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ immortalising a comedic incident in which Goldsmith, upon visiting Ardagh House, mistook it for an Inn and the daughters of the house for servant girls and attempted to seduce them. Ardagh House, once the property of the Featherstone family who commissioned the building of Ardagh Village, is now in private ownership of a local family.

Ballymahon: From Ardagh take the R393 and then connect with N55 to Ballymahon. The town of Ballymahon hosts the annual Goldsmith Literary Festival and Summer School. There are references to the author in several spaces around the town. The Bog Lane Theatre and Ballymahon Library hold the events for the Literary Festival. The Goldsmith statue in the town provides the meeting point for those wishing to complete ‘The Goldsmith Trail’.

Pallas and Forgney Church: Outside the town of Ballymahon, near to Newcastle Demesne, lies Pallas, the site of the Goldsmith family home where Oliver Goldsmith was born, and Forgney, the site of the village church where Goldsmith was baptised. There remains a memorial window to the author within this church.

The Pigeons & Lissoy: Further south along the N55, in the direction of Athlone, is the Pigeons. The ruins of the Goldsmith family residence is to be found in this area as well as Lissoy parsonage, the school house and Busy Mill. It was to Lissoy that the family moved in 1730 and here that Oliver Goldsmith attended village school under the tutelage of Thomas Byrne. Further along the N55 is the area referred to as ‘Sweet Auburn’ in Goldsmiths works. Located to the left in this area is the Hawthorn Bush and remains of the Alehouse.

The Decent Church: Continuing toward Glasson Village and taking a left at Auburn crossroads brings the driver to the site of The Decent church which is located in Kilkenny West and is the location where Rev Charles Goldsmith was curate.

Glasson: Glasson is a picturesque village in Co Westmeath and an area which was well known to Goldsmith and his family.

Guided tours of The Goldsmith Trail are organised annually during the Goldsmith International Literary Festival.
Further information on The Goldsmith Trail can be found on the Explore Longford App available to download for both Apple iOS and Android Devices:
Android Store: http://bit.ly/1gMKZYY   Apple Store: http://bit.ly/1n104Kk

 

 

County Longford Tourism Office Market Square, Longford, Ireland    Phone: +353 (0)43 33 42577 +353 (0)85 8888876    Email: info@longfordtourism.ie