Trying to see into the past – and to take a photograph (!)

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Skellig from St Finian's Bay

I came across one of those pay-as-you-go telescopes on the side of the road in Kerry. There was a sign beside it with a drawing of the Skelligs.

Well ok, I thought – if it wasn’t so misty, I’m sure I could’ve seen the Skelligs out there, about 12 kilometres off the coast, but when I read the rest I had to wonder if it was a Kerry joke.

The sign showed where one could see the ancient beehive huts perched on the side of the rock and also, where the gannets were nesting and flying around the smaller Skellig – all for the price of a euro.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Skellig telescope, Kerry

The next time I was passing, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to donate my euro and try out this incredible viewing machine. Well, it was a beautiful clear day this time but I could hardly believe my eyes when I looked through the telescope and saw  – yes, I actually saw the row of beehive huts on the rock where the monks lived long ago.

Sceilg Mhichíl – what a special place!  Sacred. Unique.

St. Fionán is thought to have founded the monastery there in the 6th century.  I managed to visit this ethereal rock some years ago and I remember standing there in silence, looking up at its great height and trying to imagine what it must’ve been like for the monks, risking life and limb to establish this place of prayer ‘far from the madding crowd’.

painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Skellig Rock

I don’t know if I’ll ever return there. For now, it is a looming presence that has invaded my artist’s retreat at Cill Rialaig, a silent sentinel that cast a spell over me as I walked to Bolus Head…

But then, we had a brilliant idea – we thought we could take a photograph of the Skelligs through the telescope, with our phones. It sounded so simple and so cool 🙂   – but it wasn’t. It was well nigh impossible to hold the heavy telescope still and to position it so that we could see the beehive huts on the phone. Jean Saunders, one of the artists more experienced with a camera, took this image below.  I dunno. I just couldn’t manage it.  So many euros, so little time.

photo of Skellig by Jean Sanders

And yes, that’s my image at the top of the page – but I had to use photoshop to produce it.

Meanwhile, back in Dublin, don’t forget that VUE is on this weekend at the RHA.

VUE is Ireland’s annual Contemporary Art Fair and it opens tonight, the 7th of November at the RHA Gallagher Gallery.  There’ll be about eighteen of Ireland’s top contemporary art galleries there, all vying for your attention and promoting their own particular strands of contemporary art.  Look out for the Olivier Cornet Gallery with a special exhibition inspired by Don Quixote.

Jean M. Sanders

Cill Rialaig Arts Centre


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