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Reliving Oscar Wilde’s days at Portora

Heather White

Heather White

AN EVENT that will hold significant interest for local people during the inaugural ‘Wilde Weekend’ festival next month is a talk involving local author, Heather White.

The Enniskillen woman has written a book ‘Forgotten Schooldays’ which looks at the former Portoran’s time at the school, and a talk with Jarlath Killeen (TCD) at the school during the fesitval examines that period in Wilde’s life.

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It is one of many events taking place at the festival here from May 1 to May 4.
“What has always interested me is the part of his life that, to this day, largely remains in the shadows,” Ms White explained, “Namely, his early life in Ireland.”
“Oscar Wilde was nine years old when he, and his older brother Willie, first came to Enniskillen to attend Portora Royal School.

Oscar would spend  seven years at this establishment  1864-1871; excelling academically and leaving on a royal scholarship to Trinity College Dublin.
“As a scholarship winner his name was inscribed on one of the school’s black notice boards. However, in 1895, the year of his disgrace, his name was painted out and the initials which he had carved by the window of a classroom scraped away by the headmaster. His name has since been regilded.”

Ms White said that Wilde’s first known piece of writing comes from his time at Portora, a letter to his mother, where he refers to a cricket win over the officers of the 27th Regiment, stationed in Enniskillen.

She went on: “At school his  passion for Greek and Latin was nurtured.  In 1868 a master at the school, JF Davies published an edition of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus that so captured his imagination that it was said that he never left off quoting from it.

“In later years, he would be decidedly amnesiac about this time.  In my research for my book ‘Forgotten Schooldays’ I looked at his time at Portora beyond the stereotypical anecdote.
The result has been the opening of the floodgates into a disturbing period of his life that has long been withheld from us.”

You can hear more from Ms White’s book at the talk in Portora Royal on Saturday May 2. For a full list of events, see the website at www.wildeweekendenniskillen.com


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