18th December

The Artist on the Island

Review artist on an island

This is a beautifully illustrated follow-up memoir to Pete Hogan’s highly acclaimed The Log of the Molly B.

After the adventures of building his own boat and sailing it from Canada down the west coast of the US, through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic to Ireland, Pete decided to settle down and dedicate his life to his art in the remote surroundings of Achillbeg Island, just south of Achill, Co Mayo.

A very different kind of adventure ensued. As the only inhabitant on the island, Pete had to use all his resources to survive the kind of harsh winter experienced in the west of Ireland, while all the time making art. With a touch of Robinson Crusoe, Pete describes in detail what it’s like – physically and mentally – to fend for oneself in a stunningly beautiful, but extremely isolated, environment.

With over 100 full colour plates, The Artist on the Island is a remarkable record of one man’s attempt to forgo modern-day conveniences and social conventions in order to focus on what is truly important.

The book was launched by Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan TD, joined by Anne Chambers, the well-known author of Granuaile: Grace O’Malley – Ireland’s Pirate Queen.

A few word from the author…

'The book is an illustrated journal of a winter spent on Achillbeg Island, just south of the main Island of Achill, Co Mayo, in 1983. What fascinates me are the minutiae of daily living, the struggle for life in a harsh environment with very little income. That’s one strand. Then there are the people and characters I meet and interact with.

On an uninhabited island one would not expect to find a lot of those. But in fact there are quite a few and the slightest encounter with a shepherd, a fisherman or a visitor becomes a big event. Like Robinson Crusoe meeting Friday. I also call on a big cast of historical figures to keep me amused.

When the going gets a bit slow, when the reader has had enough of tending the turf fire or making interesting meals out of tinned baby food and limpets, (honest), I change tack and write something interesting about Paul Henry; Granuaile; the Pirate Queen; Heinrich Boll or my godfather, Peadar O’Donnell, who all spent time in Achill.

The flora and fauna and the terrible weather are also themes running through the book. There are at least 500 sheep and lambs knocking about all over the island and I say repeatedly: ‘"Achillbeg would be a lonely place without the sheep."

'There are also seals; whales; birds galore (including the rare, red-billed chough); sea otters; foxes; rats and several others to keep me company. But the weather is probably the most persistent element, determining whether I stay in by the fire or wander out to repair stone walls and drains or tend to my lifeline, the ‘punt’.

'At times I am cut off from the mainland. I had a lot of help from both the publisher and my sister, a qualified editor, in completing the book and made many changes and rewrites on their suggestion. If somebody can write about one day in the life of a city and it becomes the world’s best book ever; if somebody else can achieve fame by writing a play about two tramps waiting for someone who never shows, why not I write a book about winter on an island?

I enjoyed doing the illustrations for this book perhaps more so than the last Log of the Molly B. They are more varied and interesting, I think, as there was a greater range of subjects to tackle. In addition they allowed me to spend a good deal of time in Achill this summer working on them!

Published by The Liffey Press

ISBN: 978-1-908308-49-8 €19.95

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