Category: Festival 2018

That Beats Banagher – What does it mean?

If you announce a connection with the town of Banagher almost anywhere English speaking in the world, you’ll be likely to get the response “Well, that Beats Banagher”.

It’s history is a strange one. The phrase in it’s best known form is “That beats Banagher” but that’s not it’s only form. Some say “Well, that beats Banagher”. Then others claim that the complete phrase is “That beats Banagher, and Banagher beats the band”, while others claim it to be “That beats Banagher and Banagher beats the devil”. Another variation is “and Banagher beats the world”. Then there are some that say “That bangs Banagher.

It’s not even universally agreed that the phrase pertains to Banagher in Co. Offaly. This Irish Times article from 2001, claims the phrase to be from a town in Co. Derry and references the use of sand from a grave to “beat the devil”. Ironically, this Irish Times article from 2016 seems to link the phrase to Banagher in Co. Offaly and even credits the That Beats Banagher festival with prolonging the life of the phrase. That article though uses the “and beats the band variation”.

The Wikipedia entry on Banagher posits various explanations for the phrase including that it may refer to a wandering minstrel named Bannagher. A number of writers, even one of Banagher’s most famous literary residents (Yes Banagher has more than one) Anthony Trollope mentioned it in his writings. Also it apparently was used in the House of Lords in response to a particularly difficult to win borough. It’s unclear what Banagher this borough is referencing though. Eric Partridge’s “Dictionary of Catch Phrases” dates the phrase to before 1850.

How long will it be before people write that the phrase comes from the events of a lively festival in a town in the Irish midlands?

Come along to the festival and be a part of future history!


Remembering Past Festivals

As this is the fifth annual “That Beats Banagher” festival we thought we’d take a look back at previous years and see how we got to where we are today.

“That Beats Banagher” festival began in 2014 as a celebration of traditional skills throughout Offaly. The festival was the culmination of a year long series of workshops and events exploring the wealth of traditional skills available within the county. The success of the festival prompted a look to the past to see what else in the area deserved attention. The past didn’t disappoint…

The second festival in 2015 honoured the writer Anthony Trollope in his 200th anniversary. Trollope lived and worked in Banagher for a number of years. The Trollope festival included a number of readings and activities based around his life and his writings and proved to be very popular.

The Anthony Trollope “That Beats Banagher” festival outdid the previous one and plans soon were drawn in hopes of repeating it’s success. In any other town, this would mean a yearly Anthony Trollope festival, given that he was the main point of historical interest. In a town where there are several main points of historical interest this was not to be so.

Coincidentally, where the first festival celebrated Anthony Trollope’s 200th anniversary, the 2016 festival celebrated another famous author with Banagher connections. The second festival was in honour of the author Charlotte Bronte who had a brief stay in Banagher. The town was also home to her husband Arthur Bell Nicholls. Anthony Trollope was born 24th April 1815 while Charlotte Bronte was born 21 April 1816 almost exactly a year apart. Among the events of the Charlotte Bronte festival were a beautiful miscellany of readings and music held in St. Paul’s church, followed by a birthday celebration for Charlotte on the grounds of Charlotte’s way where she stayed in Banagher and where her husband lived for many years following her death.

The 2017 festival left Charlotte and Anthony in peace for the moment and the festival instead celebrated and remembered Banagher families who had been involved in World War I. The festival included a miscellany of readings and music and an Edwardian Tea Party where guests arrived dressed in period themed outfits.

Each festival was filled with activities both on and off the Shannon, including workshops and demonstrations which were given by local craftspeople, and food and craft fairs. On Saturday evening every year people can be found relaxing, eating and listening to music at Banagher park while they await the festival highlight, the magnificent fireworks display over the river Shannon.