Roots festival gathering4

Leitrim staging its very own gathering



There are many individual gatherings in the year of The Gathering. Some of them are based on county allegiance and Leitrim is first out of the blocks in reaching out to its sons and daughters in America.

And the county is using a catchphrase familiar to all who use social media in order to draw attention to its planned Leitrim Roots Festival in September, 2013.

Generally, "LOL" is taken to mean "laugh out loud" or "lots of love." You can now add "Love Our Leitrom" to the popular retort/greeting.

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The festival organizers led by Leitrim Genealogy Centre, Leitrim Tourism, and Leitrim's local authority, hope that the new meaning catches on for those with Leitrim roots around the world.

Organizers of the festival estimate that there are many as one million people in the U.s. alone with a link to Leitrim which may or may not end up in social media use as "LTL."

"2013 is set to be an incredible year when The Gathering Ireland takes place I'm delighted to see that Leitrim will be at the heart of the Gathering with the Leitrim Roots Festival," said the Irish government's minister of state for tourism, Michael Ring.

"This festival is an opportunity for visitors and tourists to come back to the community of their ancestors, rediscover historical places, re-connect with their communities, and renew their bond with Ireland." he said.

The festival is being designed to give visitors the opportunity to engage with on-site genealogists and local communities, and to find out more about the county their ancestors came from. The festival will also feature cultural events including music concerts, heritage lectures on roots-related topics and tours of county which, in the eyes of many, is one of Ireland's less traveled gems.

"We are looking to use a modern day cultural term to capture and promote our historical and cultural links of the county. The festival will be of great interest to people young and old whose ancestors came from County Leitrim, or people who were born in County Leitrim. But I must highlight we also welcome people wanting a genuine Irish experience not just those of Leitrim ancestry, said festival organizer, Joe Lowe.

Some Leitrim facts: Leitrim suffered a considerable population decline during the Great Famine and this decline continued up until the 1990s.

The population fell from 160,000 in 1847 to where it stands today at 31,798. Economic growth in Ireland in the last decade has meant that the population has shown an increase for the first time in over a century and a half.

* "Lovely Leitrim" was the title of a song that swept to the top the hit parade in Ireland in the early 1960s. It was sung by one of the top show band singers of the time, Larry Cunningham. It was composed by a Leitrim exile in New York, Phil Fitzpatrick. The song is about a Leitrim exile in America, dreaming about his "Lovely Leitrim" and his desire to see his native land again.

* In April 2006, Leitrim Genealogy Centre organized the first ever Leitrim Roots Festival. It was deemed a wonderful success with people coming from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and Iceland for the week-long event.

On the closing night, Larry Cunningham and his band provided the music and he finished the evening with a by singing his signature "Lovely Leitrim."

More on the Leitrim Roots Festival, which runs from Sept. 20 to 28, can be found at or check out @LeitrimRoots on twitter.