Saturday 16 December 2017

Sea pilgrimage in traditional Irish fishing boat claims life of Kerry writer

Danny Sheehy died following the overturning of the boat Photo: Mark Condren
Danny Sheehy died following the overturning of the boat Photo: Mark Condren
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

A sea pilgrimage in a traditional Irish fishing boat, whose four-man crew included Liam O Maonlai of Hothouse Flowers, has ended in tragedy after the craft capsized off Portugal with the loss of Kerry writer and poet Danny Sheehy.

The four were on board a small naomhog, built by Mr Sheehy and similar to a currach, which overturned near the mouth of the river Minho, on the Spanish- Portugese border.

All four, including musicians Breanndan O Beaglaoich, Liam O Maonlai and Padraig O Duinin from Cork, managed to make it ashore, but Mr Sheehy later died.

Last year, Mr Sheehy featured in a TG4 documentary Camino an tSaile (Camino by Sea) which followed their journey from Ireland to La Coruna in Northern Spain in the same vessel and then overland to Santiago de Compostela.

The Naomh Gobnait, a traditional west Kerry fishing boat, which went on a voyage from Dublin to Spain Photo: Mark Condren
The Naomh Gobnait, a traditional west Kerry fishing boat, which went on a voyage from Dublin to Spain Photo: Mark Condren

Mr Sheehy, also known as Domhnall Mac Sithigh, was a retired woodwork teacher, poet, writer and linguist. On his televised adventure last year he was accompanied by his friend Mr O Beaglaoich, Liam Holden and Breanndan O Muircheartaigh.

Oscar-winning song writer Glen Handsard also joined them.

News of Mr Sheehy's death has been met with shock and sadness in west Kerry.

A native of Baile Eaglaise near Ballyferriter, Mr Sheehy taught woodwork in Co Louth before he retired and returned to Corca Dhuibhne.

Liam O’Maonlai Photo: Mark Condren
Liam O’Maonlai Photo: Mark Condren

Close friend Micheal de Mordha described him as someone who was "deeply immersed in culture and language" and a renowned storyteller and author.

"He was well known in maritime circles and was an avid seaman and the sea was definitely in his blood," Mr de Mordha said.

He was also a poet and author, his best known work being Iomhramh Bhreanainn (The Odyssey of St Brendan).

His nephew is TG4 and RTE journalist, Sean Mac an tSithigh.

Mr Sheehy came to prominence when he and Ger O Ciobhain travelled around Ireland in a naomhog, visiting every Gaeltacht area.

He also completed an epic pilgrimage, setting off from James's Gate in Dublin on board the Naomh Gobnait to Wales, then making their way to Brittany and on to Spain.

"We're doing it for ourselves, just as a challenge we set for ourselves," Mr Sheehy said at the time.

Arrangements are being made to repatriate his remains to Ireland. He is survived by his wife Maire and their three adult children.

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News