More than 350 years since their ancestors founded Mountmellick, Quaker families from around the world are returning for a homecoming festival next week.
Visitors from America, Australia, the UK and Canada are converging for the William Edmundson Homecoming Festival from July 21 to 28.
William Edmunson establised the Irish Society of Friends, or Quakers. He settled in Rosenallis and with five other Quakers, developed Mountmellick from a tiny riverside settlement to a bustling industrial and craft hub.
The homecoming will celebrate and examine that past, through exhibitions, lectures, tours, music, theatre, storytelling, art and craft.
It was organised by Mountmellick Heritage Society.
“We decided to start at the beginning. When the Quakers came in 1659, the town was just a few houses on a bend in the river with 175 people. By 1831 it had a population of 4,577,” said organiser Mary O’Brien.
The week will be launched by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mountmellick native, Charlie Flanagan, on Tuesday July 21 at 7.30pm in O’Connell Square.
It ends on July 28 with the planting of an Irish oak by William Edmundson’s descendant James, followed by a picnic and barbecue in Rosenallis community centre.
With everything from a lecture on the peace process by Dr Martin Mansergh, to Lambert Puppet Theatre shows and a Neven Maguire cookery demonstration, there is something for everyone.
“It is geared around local people. We are planning a very warm welcome for our visitors, but we could not have done this without great local support,” said Mrs O’Brien.