Friday, May 22, 2009

Michael Kirby, a truly Great Man and Artist from Ballinskelligs

If there ever was a man who inspired me learning about and going to the Skelligs
it was Michael Kirby, or Micheál Ua Ciarmhaic, as he was called in his native Gaeltacht of Baile an Sceilg, Ballinskelligs.
I was thinking of him a lot before and after being on Skellig Michael for a few days recently and I reread the three books he wrote in the English language, a further eight were written in Irish.
He was born on 31 May in 1906 and he lived to be almost a hundred years when he died in April 2005, and what a rich live it was. Like his ancestors and family he became a small farmer and fisherman, who learned all about the abundant marine and natural life in and around the shores of Ballinskelligs Bay at the edge of the Atlantic Sea.
Especially in his book Skelligs Calling, published 2003, he shares with us his observations of nature as he reflects fishing, the weather, bird life and more natural history of the region, his “Latin being Irish” as he also was a great and scholarly Irish speaker.
In his first book written in English, Skelligside which was published in 1990, Michael Kirby pictures rural life in Ballinskelligs in the first half of the 20th century, with personal and local memories about nature, localities, customs and he interweaves his story telling with poetry and facts.
The third book in English, Skelligs Sunset, was published posthumous in 2006, he had written this recollection of his childhood, poems and essays for the last five years prior to his death with a view to publishing a third volume in the Skelligs Trilogy.
To witness the wonders and simple joys of life, Michael Kirby lived and worked, wrote his books and poetry, shared his knowledge and observations and was a true philosophical mind of the last century.
And last but not least the man started painting beautiful pictures in his seventies with the beauty of nature his subject. We are very glad he let us choose this wonderful oil painting of Skellig Michael which has pride of place in our house.

His books are available at Lilliputpress

  • Skelligside, 1990,
all published by Lilliput press,