Steinbeck Ulster and Ireland Douglas Bartlett book cover


The Ulster and Irish Influences

All his life Steinbeck would “claim the Irish as his own” and with some justification. This book examines the extent of Steinbeck’s Ulster roots, his “Irishness” and the influence all this had, both on his sense of himself and also on certain aspects of his creativity.

Content covered

A European Tour

Steinbeck & Northern Ireland

John & Elaine In Derry

John Steinbeck in Ballykelly

Samuel Hamilton

The 'Ulster Scots' influences

Steinbeck in Ireland

Steinbeck's Irishness


A European Tour

In August 1952, John and Elaine Steinbeck came to Northern Ireland intent on visiting the tiny village of Ballykelly. Their visit was part of a working holiday that had begun in March of that year. John had been commissioned to travel Europe writing articles for Collier’s Magazine and Elaine had been employed to take accompanying photographs. The trip had ...

Prior to arriving in Belfast, the couple had driven ‘all around Scotland’, but there is no record of them having visited Burns Cottage in Ayrshire, the birthplace of Robert Burns. This seems a strange...

Given that the family name was Hamilton, is it more than likely that Steinbeck's Ulster Scots ancestors came from Ayrshire. Steinbeck may, or may not have been aware of this connection, but by this point he was focused on a long-cherished mission to uncover the reality of his Irish ancestry and its background. He said he had grown up with a strong sense of 'demi-Irishness' ever-present in his life. Aged fifty, this was an appropriate time to investigate the roots of this Irishness first-hand...

John and Elaine Steinbeck portrait photo
Douglas Bartlett portrait photo. Festival founder and author of Steinbeck Ulster and Ireland.


Douglas Bartlett

Douglas Bartlett founded the Steinbeck Festival Limavady in 2019. As well as this booklet on Steinbeck, he is the author of 'A History of Limavady and the Roe Valley (Prehistory to 1900)', which is available to purchase at www.limavadyhistory.com. The author is a native of Limavady and a former Vice Principal and Head of History in Limavady High School where he worked for thirty five years.

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Festival Programme

Festival Overview

East of Eden - A Talk by Dr Linda McKeown

A Live link up with the National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California, will provide an opportunity to view some of the Steinbeck Center's East of Eden related artefacts. This will be followed by a talk by Dr Linda McKeown (Open Learning Lecturer, Queen's University Belfast)who will place the novel, East of Eden, in its social context, and consider Steinbeck's thinking behind writing the novel.

John Hume: The Persuader - Mark Curruthers in conversation with Stephen Walker

Join us for a fascinating and engaging evening as renowned journalist and broadcaster Mark Carruthers chats to Stephen Walk, former BBC political journalist and author of John Hume: The Persuader, which has been hailed by the Irish Times as 'the definitive biography' or Nobel Laureate John Hume.

An evening with local storytellers and poets

Local poets and storytellers come together to present an entertaining evening of verbal art and tales to the public, many for the first time. Some more experienced performers will also take to the stage. Everyone welcome.

An illustrated talk by Greer Ellison

An illustrated talk by Greer Ellison, featuring clips from his latest film and insights into his film and media career. Greer co-founded London-based production company Paradox House which has produced 10+ features and had films playing at Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals.

The Swingtime Starlets

Sway and groove to the timeless tunes of The Swingtime Starlets, delivering the best of classic Swing, Big Band, and Retro pop hits from the 40s and 50s. Drawing inspiration from The Andrew Sisters, their captivating sound and vintage style and 'kitsch' choreography, transport audiences through the enchanting eras of music.

Dust Bowl Photographic Competition

Entries are invited for the third annual John Steinbeck Dust Bowl Photography Competition.

John Steinbeck was a US Nobel Prize Winning author whose work includes; Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Cannery Row. Steinbeck’s maternal grandfather, Samuel Hamilton, was born in Ballykelly in 1830, and his influence on the author, and his Irish roots generally, had a profound effect on the creativity and passion in his writing. His work, though often describing grim reality and disappointment, usually expresses sympathy for the oppressed. It celebrates the simple joy of life and reveals a great fondness for the natural environment.

This year’s theme is “People”, and the judges would like to encourage a wide range of submissions, whether they be staged character portraits or spontaneous observations of life and human interaction. A first prize will be awarded on merit and outstanding runners up will also receive commendations. The judges will consider general photographic and artistic merit as well as relevance to the recurring themes in Steinbeck’s works.

Successful photographs will be exhibited in February 2024 in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre.

A maximum of three original Single Digital Images that have not been used commercially or been entered in any other competition may be entered. Digital images should be submitted along with full name, contact details and image title to the following email address; steinbeckfestival@gmail.com.

The closing date for the competition is 10 December 2023.

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