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

Dust Bowl Photographic Competition 2023

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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