A group of IT Sligo Tourism undergraduates has teamed up with a Sligo-born author to promote a literary son of the county and his world-renowned work.
No, not WB Yeats, but Bram Stoker and his iconic Dracula.
The students are appealing for a record number of ‘Draculas’ to gather in Sligo at the Halloween weekend as the centrepiece of a ‘Bram Stoker Experience’ celebrating the creator of the blood-sucking Transylvanian count who first saw light of day, so to speak, in 1897.
Linking up with Stoker/Dracula aficionado Dennis McIntyre, a former teacher now living in Clontarf, Dublin, they say Stoker’s links with Sligo – his mother lived in ‘Correction Street’, which is now Teeling St – could become a lucrative tourism niche for the town and surrounding counties.
Dennis, who is originally from Cloonacool, near Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, said: “I have come to the conclusion from my research that ‘Dracula’ is a totally Irish story and that it has huge west of Ireland and, especially Sligo connections, because Bram Stoker’s mother, Charlotte, was born in Sligo.”
According to Dennis, author of a new book, Bram Stoker and The Irishness of Dracula, Charlotte also worked in a local ‘big house’, Longford House, at Beltra, near Ballisadare, possibly as a governess or manager, and in later life became a supporter of social reform.
Charlotte’s maiden name was Thornley-Blake, the Thornleys being an army family from Ballyshannon, and the Blakes, who long ago were Sheriffs in Galway.
Dennis believes the genesis of the story and the image of “the undead” lies in heart-rending stories that Charlotte recounted to Bram when he was a sickly child about cholera victims being put in pits during an epidemic that swept Sligo in 1832.
And he is also confident that the character of Count Dracula is a horror-laden metaphor for the iniquities of “blood-sucking” landlordism in the west of Ireland at that time.
Given the year that’s in it, the students are hoping to bring together 2013 participants on October 26, each suitably attired , in an effort to enter the Guinness Book of Records by breaking the current record for a single Dracula assembly, which stands at 1300.
Dennis said: “Dracula is one of the world’s biggest literary phenomena. It is still the biggest selling novel ever written in any language. It is an international byword for spine-chilling horror fiction. The name alone is one of the enduring greats of popular modern fiction.”
The ’ Bram Stoker Experience’ is being planned as one of the end-of-year highlights of ‘The Gathering’ in Sligo, the nationwide celebrations which are promoting Ireland as a must-see destination to people across the globe who have Irish roots. The organisers, who are studying Tourism and Event Management, have received funding and marketing supporting from Fáilte Ireland for their project.
Tourism and Event Management lecturer Joanna Sweeney, who is co-ordinating the project team’s initiative, said: “We’re hoping that this will become an annual event and that Sligo will become synonymous with Stoker as it is with W.B. Yeats.”
Signing copies of his book and meeting up with the student organisers at the Institute of Technology, Dennis said the tourism potential of well marketed Stoker-Sligo link must be enormous.
He became particularly interested in Bram Stoker when, researching a book he was writing about the history of Clontarf, he discovered that Stoker was born there.
He and fellow-enthusiasts have established the Stoker Dracula International Museum in Clontarf. He said: “We run summer schools and conferences to promote Stoker with a view to helping tourism and spreading the word about this world-renowned trail-blazing writer.”
For more information on the Halloween events, email email@example.com or follow on twitter @BramStokerSligo.
Caption for photo above: ‘Dracula’ about to pounce on Joanna Sweeney (left), IT Sligo Lecturer Tourism and Event Management, and Tourism student Michelle Henry, as ‘Bram Stoker’ wonders what horror he has created, at the launch of Bram Stoker and the Irishness of Dracula and Halloween’s ‘Bram Stoker Experience’.