An expert on the legend of Dracula says Derry’s year as cultural capital would be a “wonderful opportunity” to explore the links between north west Celtic legend and the story of the Transylvanian vampire.
Sean Hillen, author of ‘Digging for Dracula’, which has just had a e-book release, says 2013 would be the perfect time time to hold an international conference in Derry to ascertain the connection between the world’s most published novel - the Gothic horror ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker - and county Derry
“For many years, literary historians have been examining closely how much of an influence an old legend from Derry regarding a character called Abhartach who rose from the dead and demanded human blood, might have had on Bram Stoker in his writing of ‘Dracula,’ “ he told the ‘Journal.’
“A tyrant, Abhartach terrorized local people until finally he was killed by local chieftain, O’Cathrain - believed to be a corruption of O Cathain or O’Kane, still a common name in that part of Ireland,” said Hillen, who was foreign correspondent for The Times in Romania when he wrote his book and who now lives in Bun na Leaca, in Gaobh Dobhair. Donegal.
The legend was recorded by Patrick Weston Joyce in his ‘The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places’ published in 1875, around a place called Slaghtaverty, a corruption of ‘leacht abhartach’ or ‘stone of abhartach.’
A large stone known as O’ Cathain’s Dolmen, still marks the spot in Glenullin. Hillen was involved in a recent BBC documentary production that investigated this stone and its significance to Stoker and his writing.
The Digging for Dracula author says as well as the Derry conference visitors could be taken to the site of the legend.
He says Stoker - the centenary of whose death is being marked across the globe this year - would have been familiar with the story of Abhartach.
‘Dracula,’ was published after the legend had become well known and Stoker, as a middle-class cultural figure in Clontarf, Dublin, interested in Gaelic story-telling, probably read about it or was told it by his parents.
Stoker and his family were also acquaintances of those well-known in Dublin literary circles such as Oscar Wilde and his parents, collectors of folklore, who may have discussed the legend with him.”
More info is available online at www.diggingfordracula.com