Mayor’s enquiry leads to substantial arts windfall for Athlone

Glenda, Edwin John, Paddy and Patricia Breen are pictured braving the elements at Athlone Christmas market last weekend. Photo: Mags Cunney

Glenda, Edwin John, Paddy and Patricia Breen are pictured braving the elements at Athlone Christmas market last weekend. Photo: Mags Cunney

Arts in Athlone have received a substantial financial windfall from a surprising source.

An enquiry from Mayor Aengus O'Rourke led to the discovery of around €400,000 from the estate of the late writer and arts enthusiast, John Broderick.

Renowned internationally, Broderick was born in Athlone in 1924. He wrote more than a dozen novels and was regarded as a trail blazer, often writing about matters considered risqué in 1960s Ireland. He lived out the final years of his life in England and died in 1989.

In his will, Broderick instructed his executors to take care of his house-keeper, Mary Scanlon, for as long as she lived. He further instructed that any money remaining after Ms Scanlon's death be passed to Westmeath County Council and invested in arts in Athlone.

The money was to be administered by the Arts Council of Ireland. However, when Mary Scanlon died in 2007, the instruction to pass the remaining funds to the council was not acted upon.

The issue was brought to the attention of Mayor O'Rourke by an admirer of Broderick. When the Mayor investigated, he discovered that the money had not yet been drawn down by The Arts Council. Prompted by the mayor, The Arts Council discovered a sum in the region of €400,000.

Mayor O'Rourke said Westmeath County Council will work with the Arts Council to determine how best to invest the money, while staying true to Broderick's wishes.

“I would personally like to see the establishment of a multi-annual programme where Athlone would have an artist in residence one year, a writer another year, a musician another year and so on," Mayor O'Rourke commented. “A programme like this could be reviewed mid-term to ensure that our aims of advancing the arts in Athlone are working and are in keeping with John Broderick's express wishes."

George Eaton, president of the John Broderick Society, said: “The John Broderick Society are delighted to hear that John's generosity to Athlone, the hometown he loved so well, is going to result in a tangible benefit for the arts in Athlone from next year. And, most sincere thanks to Aengus O'Rourke for unearthing this wonderful news!"

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