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An Tostal

An TOSTAL meaning Pageant or Muster was conceived by the Marketing Dept. of Bord Failte, the Irish Tourist Board in the early 50’s to attract tourists (mainly American) to Ireland. Every City, Town and Village in the country was encouraged to form An Tostal Councils and devise a programme of events during the last two weeks of April using the theme ‘Ireland At Home’. 

An Tostal in effect introduced the concept of Festivals to Ireland and the entire population entered into the spirit of the idea with An Tostal Councils springing up literally everywhere. The programme of events were to reflect the area or region in which they were organised so when the late Joe Mooney proposed to a meeting of local townspeople that Drumshanbo should form an An Tostal Council and present a programme with the emphasis on local music, and culture, there was an enthusiastic response. 

The opening Ceremony was performed by a representative of Bord Failte and Leitrim Co. Council planted several Cherry Trees along the Main St, many of which remain to this day adding a colourful start to the the Summer as they flower in late Spring to coincide with the original dates of the festival. The idea of holding the events during April was to extend the tourist season by offering visitors to Ireland a programme of events at a relatively low cost showing Ireland at Home… 

 A highlight of that first Drumshanbo An Tostal programme was the All-Star Concert in Mooney’s Hall later Doherty’s and today the site of An Chrannog Restaurant in Carricknabrack. The star of the show was Delia Murphy who was by then a household name through her various recordings of well-known Irish Ballads. Delia was the wife of the former Irish Ambassador to the Vatican H.E.Excellency Dr.TJ Kieran whose brother Brendan is Godfather to Senator Paschal Mooney. The Mooney Family are related to the Kieran Family through marriage and obviously Joe Mooney used the family connection to some advantage in persuading Delia Murphy to perform a concert in Drumshanbo at a time when she was in demand worldwide! 

The An Tostal Festival was the biggest thing to hit Ireland since Independence and Bord Failte were ahead of their time in their marketing concepts. A special Set of An Tostal Stamps was issued in 1953 and is now much sought after by collectors. Postcards, Key Rings, Badges and other merchandise were on sale around Ireland.  A special An Tostal Flag was instituted based on the Harp of Tara and was unfurled in each venue. All officers of the local Councils were supplied with lapel Badges and there were also special Tie pins featuring the An Tostal emblem for sale. 

A Tostal Festivals continued to flourish in Ireland for the next decade and many of today’s events were originally inaugurated under the An Tostal concept. The Wexford Opera Festival and the Rose of Tralee Festival are just two examples. Sadly every idea, even good ideas have their time and by the mid sixties An Tostal was in decline to be replaced by other festival ideas. But the one place in Ireland where the idea refused to die was Drumshanbo. By the mid seventies, Joe Mooney and his wife Eva helped by a small but enthusiastic band of local volunteers organised an annual Festival based on the original concept of showing off ‘Ireland At home’ for our visitors. The date of the event was moved to late June to attracts more visitors and for decades, the emphasis has been on free street entertainment with Ceili Bands, Singer, Dancers and Storytellers performing on the High St. in all weathers for tourist and resident alike. 

The opening Day ceremonies always attracted the largest crowds as they do to this day and down through the decades some of Ireland’s most famous politicians sport and show business personalities have officially launched ‘Ann’ as the Festival is affectionately known by the townspeople of Drumshanbo. 

Included among the big names who have unfurled the An Tostal flag on High St. are An Taoiseach Jack Lynch TD, H.E.Margaret Heckler US Ambassador to Ireland whose ancestors came from Leitrim, Pat Jennings, Northern Ireland’s most capped International and a footballer who would be on any World Football XI; Eamonn Coughlan World 3,000 Metre Champion; singing star Daniel O’Donnell. The one person who has eluded the organisers is the President of Ireland despite several false starts, the organising Committee are still hopeful that the Country’s First Citizen will visit what is now known the world over as Drumshanbo-Home of An Tostal.   
Full information on the An Tostal Festival is available at: http://www.antostalfestival.ie/