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From Queen Maeve to Madison McWilliams, the Longford Connection.

Discover Ireland with me



County Longford, home to Granard  Motte and Bailey, an Anglo Norman fortification, is situated in the heart of Ireland's 'Lakelands and Inland Waterways'  region. With a population of 39,000  it is not the largest county in Ireland but it certainly packs a mighty punch'. This county is steeped in history and mythology. It is a county, in my humble opinion  (along with Monaghan, Leitrim and Roscommon) that should be garnering a lot more attention on the global stage for tourism and for its profound influence and contribution to literature, music and food, to name but a few. Queen Maeve, the 'Warrior Queen of Connacht' marched her army from Co Roscommon, through Co Longford, Co Meath and finally to the Cooley Peninsula in Co Louth to steal the famous Brown Bull.  The Tain Bo Cualigne, translated to English means the 'Cattle Raid of Cooley' is famous in Irish history. The Tain Trail is now the longest trail in Ireland. It is but a mere 365 miles in length,  perhaps a mile for every day of the year ! Having recently visted the Cooley Peninsula, I would dearly like to go back and walk part of this trail myself.  

Frank McCoppin, was the first Irish born Mayor of San Francisco in 1867 and called Longford home. The town of Ballymahon was the birthplace of Oliver Goldsmith, author of the well known play 'She Stoops to Conquer'  and I certainly  cannot forget to mention that truly remarkable woman Maria Edgeworth, who although born in England, moved to Edgeworthstown with her father upon the loss of her mother, at the age of 5 years old  in 1773. There they managed the estate. Maria became a prolific writer of both childrens and adult literature. She was close friends with Sir Walter Scott and in 1824 he visted her in Edgeworthstown. 

When visiting Longford, Viewmount House is certainly one of those hidden gems not to be missed, a 17th century manor located along the Dublin Road. http://www.ViewmountHouse.comThis magnificent property combines the old and the new in perfect harmony.  Gary O'Hanlon is the head chef and has married both traditional Irish methods of cooking with his experience in Boston and indeed around famous Irish restaurants. His restaurant  'VM'  in the converted old stables, was named 'Best Restuarant in Ireland' in 2014 by Georgina Campbell ( whom I write a monthly column for) http://www.Ireland-Guide.com

 Quite a few years ago, I met a family from Austin, Texas. The McWilliams family. They were going to Ireland for the first time. Over the years they have returned to Ireland and I have discovered that their family roots are in, yes, you guessed it, Longford. So, it is perhaps only fitting that I introduce you to another little powerhouse from Longford, albeit via Austin Texas ! Her name is Madison McWilliams. She is the 15 year old daughter of Andrea and Dean McWilliams and older sister to 2 brothers. 

When she was in Kindergarten, this little lady began to sing. She loved to sing. Her choir teacher pointed out to her parents that they may want to harness this talent and get her some voice lessons. She got involved in  musical theatre in Austin and played the part of Annie at the age of 7 years old. Madison loved it. She told me recently that "It was a place I simply wanted to be". She is of course referring to the stage. At the age of 11 she spent a few weeks training with the 'Broadway Training Artist Alliance in New York. It was here that she finally knew she wanted to be part of her own music and began writing. At the age of 13 she was listed in 'Austin Woman' magazine as one of the 'Young Women to Watch. The months that followed saw her performing in Disney, launch 2 new videos and she wrote teh song 'Fighter' after her performance at the Dell Children's Medical Centre of Central Texas. 

Last year, while flying on a Southwest Airlines flight from Austin to Los Angeles, she found a pen on the floor, picked it up and wrote a song on the napkin. That song is called  'We've Got Today'

Madison has not visited Longford, yet, as I only discovered their family  roots a year ago but she is now longing to visit. This young Texan girl is  blazing her own trail, just like Queen Maeve did through this mystical county all those centuries ago !