Gaeltacht, Irish History

What makes a small place so special?

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Carraroe, Connemara
an old oil painting of mine, a sunny day near Carna

So there was this conversation about what was the true Connemara – was it the mist-covered mountains, was it the bogs and the myriad lakes, was it the stone walls and the little fields or was it Cois Fharraige by the sea…

When there’s no television and no broadband, some people go a little crazy, I suppose, but I remember insisting: –  that there had to be the sea, and floating seaweed, and the lonesome cry of the curlew;  there had to be the scent of turf fires burning; there had to be mountains in the distance, and always, the possibility of rain – but most of all – there had to be the Gaeltacht people, and Gaeltacht life.

And Ros Muc has all that – no wonder that the poet and revolutionary Patrick Pearse was drawn to it, back in the last century. “The most intensely Irish-speaking part of Co. Galway (indeed of Ireland) is Iar-Connacht”, he wrote to a friend, “and the most Irish speaking part of Iar-Connacht is the parish of Ros Muc. It is out of the tourist track but the scenery is wild and glorious…”.

Last week we were over there again, this time with independent filmmaker Marcus Howard, and we were working on a film about Patrick Pearse. We did an interview with Colm Ó Mainnín who has a great store of knowledge about the area and about Pearse’s time in Ros Muc. We also interviewed my brother Fearghas who is a schoolmaster in Indreabhán.

photo of Coilmin O Mainnin and Fearghas Mac Lochlainn
Coilmín Ó Mainnín agus Fearghas Mac Lochlainn i Ros Muc    Photo: Seán Ó Mainnín
Marcus Howard and Eoin Mac Lochlainn filming in Ros Muc
Marcus agus mé fhéin i mbun scannánaíochta ag Caladh na Leice, Ros Muc    Photo:  Fionnuala Rockett

So what do you think?  Why do we keep going back?  Do you have special places that you return to again and again?  What is it that draws you back there?  I’d love to hear your stories…

Slán go fóill, eoin

Marcus Howard – Easter Rising Stories



community festivals, Gaeltacht

Holy Mountain

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

Now, a bit of a photo essay for you today.  I’m just back from the wilds of Connemara and yes, I can confirm that it’s all four seasons there, in the one day.  What a wonderful place to visit.

But did you ever hear of Mám Éan? – It’s a holy place in the middle of the Maumturk mountains and we had the special privilege of joining the local community there last week for the annual pilgrimage on the first Sunday of August.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

This pilgrimage, linking back to the Celtic harvest feast of Lughnasa, was revived in recent years by An tAthair Micheál Mac Gréil. The pilgrims walk from either side of the Maumturks to the site. Two holy wells, St. Patrick’s Bed and some other leachtana are the focus of older customs, while more recently the revival has involved the Stations of the Cross and then Mass at the restored Mass rock. There is a statue up there too, sculpted by Clíodhna Cussen.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

I have to admit that we beat a hasty retreat afterwards, as a roguish raincloud dumped bucketfuls of rain on top of us as we clambered down the mountainside. However, in no time at all, the sun retook control of the elements and pierced the clouds with glorious shafts of sunlight.


photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

community festivals, Irish art

Friends – and not just Facebook friends

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Veronica Bolay RHA, Shay O'Byrne and myself at the Hamilton Gallery
Artists Veronica Bolay RHA, Seamus O’Byrne and myself at the Hamilton Gallery

It has come to my notice that people actually read my blog-posts from time to time and this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Yes, it’s really nice to get comments and smilies and such – and I feel very privileged to have made such good friends around the art world, over the years.

And I don’t just mean the artists, it’s great to hear from people who are genuinely interested in the Arts – in fact we artists depend on them!

But I was about to say that the Cairde Arts Festival exhibition is on in Sligo at the moment and of course, the word Cairde is the Irish for friends.

And we met up with many old friends last week, first in Boyle and then in Sligo. The group exhibition “Crazy Jane” is still on at the Hamilton Gallery and then there’s the exhibition at The Model which looks really impressive.

This one is entitled The Model presents Cairde Visual and it’s the fourth annual open submission exhibition of the Cairde Arts Festival. It features work by 87 artists with paintings, drawings, sculpture, lens-based work and installation – and I’m chuffed to have one of my Tinteán Tréigthe paintings selected for the show.

The Model, Sligo from the front
The Model, Sligo from the front
The Model, Sligo from the back (or the new front)
The Model, Sligo from the back (or the new front)

The Model is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art centres. Built in 1862 as a Model School, the present building has been completely refurbished and extended to include a restaurant, a bookshop, a purpose-built performance space, wonderful bright galleries and a suite of artist’s studios on the top floor.

This award-winning building is home to the Niland collection, one of the most notable art collections in Ireland, featuring works by Jack B. Yeats, Paul Henry, Estella Solomons and Louis Le Brocquy to name but a few.

But back to the present. Do please keep sending in your words of wisdom, your comments and your requests. Is there a particular subject that might be of interest to you?

Just click on the brown ‘comment button’ to the right of the top photo.

art exhibitions, community festivals

Probably the best arts festival in the country!

Oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of empty fireplace entitled Tintean Treigthe 15

It’s true what they say – the Boyle Arts Festival is a real gem of a festival with great music and art, and a special emphasis on small, intimate events in the various historical buildings of Boyle, Co. Roscommon.

Now in its 28th year, this festival has a well deserved reputation for being one of the best local celebrations of the Arts in this country.

Of course, there’s plenty of drama, poetry, storytelling, singers’ evenings and street performances and there’s a great mix of workshops and children’s programmes as well; there’s local art exhibitions, pop-up galleries and craft trails utilising the vacant premises and there’s just a wonderful community spirit in the town – but my main interest this year is in the art exhibition at King House – because I was invited to show one of my Tinteán Tréigthe paintings there (see above).

the crowd at King House Boyle Arts Festival. photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Minister for Arts and Culture at the Boyle Arts Festival

the crowds at Boyle Arts Festival. Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

This year, the theme (and title) is: Facing West and it brings together established and emerging artists in a great array of painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography and drawing. Over 100 artists! The exhibition was curated by Paul McKenna and was officially opened last Thursday by Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. (yes, one wonders about that title alright)

Anyway, it was great to be there and, as you can see from the photos, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the occasion!

Concerning the Other, Irish art

Who is the Other?

portrait by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Charlotte Fien

I was watching the film “Basquiat” about the street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and his fraught collaboration with Andy Warhol, a leading figure in the American art world of the last century.

Both of them worked in turn on the same canvas and I remember Warhol was quite miffed when Basquiat painted a big sloppy red mark over a carefully painted section by Warhol. Ah well, I suppose that’s what can happen when one is collaborating with others.

And we’ve been at it ourselves. “Concerning the Other” is an art project that involves 10 artists working together over each other’s work. All of the artists started off with one image and passed it on to the next artist to work on – and the whole process continued until each artist had worked over all ten images. We’re nearly finished now – we’ve all reached stage 10.

Yes, and I added a portrait that I’d painted of Charlotte Fien (see above) to the collage. This collage had started off with a profile of Kate Murphy’s daughter but then some of the following artists introduced references to the Nazis and to various eugenics programmes. So, if you’re wondering who Charlotte Fien is, she is a young English woman with Down syndrome who delivered a moving speech to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in March this year.

Concerning the Other final collage Eoin Mac Lochlainn

The artists involved with “Concerning the Other” were: James Hanley RHA, Brian Fay, Claire Halpin, Joanna Kidney, Gail Ritchie, Miriam McConnon, Kate Murphy, Ben Readman, Susanne Wawra and myself, and the project was curated by Olivier Cornet, Claire Halpin and me.

The final ten artworks along with a selected number of ‘in-between’ images will be exhibited at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in September 2017. The exhibition entitled: Concerning the Other will also feature individual works by the participating artists.

It will be officially opened on Sunday 10th of September by Patrick T. Murphy, Director of the RHA Gallagher Gallery.

There’s a lot more information about the project on our Facebook page at:

And of course, your comments are always welcome here!


artists, Creative Writing

Stories on the wind

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Montbretia in Connemara

Crocosmia is the official name for that exuberant roadside flower that blooms all over the west of Ireland. (We call it Feileastram in Irish, or Montbretia).  It actually comes from southern and eastern Africa but it has adapted impressively to our misty shores and it now flourishes in the hedgerows adding a luxurious splash of orange colour to the verdant Irish countryside .

Crocosmia is also the name of a group of writers and poets who are seeking asylum here in Ireland.

Today I want to tell you about a collaborative art project between the artist Clodagh Emoe and the poets of Crocosmia. It all started in the garden of the Spirasi Centre – Spirasi is the intercultural NGO that works with refugees, asylum seekers and disadvantaged migrant groups in Ireland.

on the boardwalk, Dublin city centre
Audio work by Clodagh Emoe on the boardwalk, Dublin City Centre  (photo Clodagh Emoe)

A weekly gardening session led to the creation of a shared space of equality and a mutually supportive environment. Storytelling developed naturally in this environment and this led to a series of audio works that were subsequently transmitted on the river Liffey, the Lee, the Corrib and the Barrow.

The audio works were sited in specific places along the rivers, on bridges and boardwalks, ‘in-between’ places evoking the precarious situation of each of the writers. Voices in Croatian, French, Kinyarwanda, Luganada and Urdu could be heard on the wind, revealing the hidden narrative of the asylum seekers’ stories.

The Plurality of Existence in the Infinite Expanse of Space and Time

The project was also presented at Visual, the Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow and then, just recently, a beautiful collection of poems was launched in the Pearse Street Library in Dublin. The poems are complemented by drawings which show the various contours of the countries wherein they are set, the empty linear forms perhaps echoing the experience of the asylum seeker “disconnected from their homeland.”

“I believe that art offers an alternate perspective”, writes Clodagh Emoe, “one that allows us to re-imagine our world. In re-imagining our world, we question the status quo, opening up the possibility of embracing difference.”

As I’ve written before – in these days of global conflict, mounting racism and intolerance, artists can lead the way in promoting diversity and showing concern for minorities.


art exhibitions, community festivals

A most special place

water colour painting of Ben Bulben by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Well, you probably know already that County Sligo is the most beautiful and interesting county in all of Ireland.

And you probably know about the poet W.B. Yeats and his connections with Sligo, about the lake water lapping around the isle of Inishfree, about bare Benbulben’s head and about the clouds bundling high over Knocknarea…

And then there’s the mysterious megalithic sites of Carrowmore, Carrowkeel and Creevykeel. There’s Queen Maeve’s tomb and the place where the unfortunate Diarmuid was killed by a wild boar…

There’s the holy wells, the secret valleys, the shady woodlands and glorious beaches; there’s the heart-warming new film entitled: Halal Daddy and much, much more…

Well, luckily for me, I’m taking a trip up there soon – for the Cairde Arts festival.

This is a festival that has been going from strength to strength since its inception and the Cairde open-submission exhibition, now in its fourth year, is my main reason for visiting this particular time.

Oil painting by eoin Mac Lochlainn of empty fireplace Tinteán Tréigthe 29

This year the exhibition is entitled: The Model presents Cairde Visual because it has expanded once again and moved into the Model, one of Ireland’s leading centres for contemporary art. The selection panel was Patrick Murphy, Mark Garry, Barra Cassidy, Emer Mc Garry and Lorna Watkins.

There is a wide range of subjects and media from national and international artists and I’m delighted to reveal that my own painting entitled: Tinteán Tréigthe no. 29 (seen above) has been selected for inclusion this year.

The exhibition continues until the 6th of August.

PS: if, by any chance, you think that there’s a more beautiful or more interesting county, then by all means, let me know and drop me a comment 🙂