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Maria Simonds-Gooding, The Blasket Painter and Kerry Coastal Life

8th December 2022
Maria Simonds Gooding and Mícheál Ó Gaoithín outside her cottage in Ceathrú, Dún Chaoin
Maria Simonds Gooding and Mícheál Ó Gaoithín outside her cottage in Ceathrú, Dún Chaoin in 1970 Credit: Mícheál Ó Dubhshláine

Award-winning Irish and international artist Maria Simonds-Gooding has a unique relationship with the Kerry coastline, where she lives, and she introduced the Blasket island of Inis Mhic Oileáin to its late owners, Charles J Haughey.

Life on the Great Blasket, with depictions of gulls and puffins, lobsters, seals, and men towing a cow behind a currach, are among images which late islander Micheál Ó Gaoithín painted, due to Simonds-Gooding’s encouragement.

As Afloat reported previously, that was back in the early 1970s, and Simonds-Gooding has now ensured that his work is reproduced in a book published by Lilliput Press.

An Blascaod Mór an tan a bhí sé i réim | The Great Blasket in its prime | coloured pencils, blue biro and graphite | 25.4 cm x 34.8 cm. Artwork by Mícheál Ó Gaoithín. Copyright Maria Simonds-Gooding.An Blascaod Mór an tan a bhí sé i réim | The Great Blasket in its prime | coloured pencils, blue biro and graphite | 25.4 cm x 34.8 cm. Artwork by Mícheál Ó Gaoithín. Courtesy Maria Simonds-Gooding

Simonds-Gooding first met Ó Gaoithín 54 years ago, when he was living on the Kerry mainland and was known locally as “An File” for his poetry, storytelling and translation work.

Simonds-Gooding introduced him to painting, after she left paper, paints and brushes on his kitchen table.

“If I had taught him how to paint, I wouldn’t want anything better,”she recalls of one of his first pieces, an image of his late mother, Peig Sayers.

Mícheál Ó Gaoithín's drawing of his mother: Peig spinning  Courtesy Maria Simonds-GoodingMícheál Ó Gaoithín's drawing of his mother: Peig spinning  Courtesy Maria Simonds-Gooding

Simonds-Goodings speaks to Wavelengths about the book in the first of a series of occasional interviews on Kerry coastal life.

An File Micheál Ó Gaoithín: The Blasket Painter” : Selected and Introduced by Maria Simonds-Gooding has been nominated as an Irish Times book of the year.

Book cover for An File (The Poet), Mícheál Ó Gaoithín, The Blasket Painter edited by Maria Simonds-Gooding. Sochraid ar an Oileán | An Island funeral | watercolour | 20.2 cm x 27.5 cm. Artwork by Mícheál Ó Gaoithín. Copyright Maria Simonds-GoodingBook cover for An File (The Poet), Mícheál Ó Gaoithín, The Blasket Painter edited by Maria Simonds-Gooding. Sochraid ar an Oileán | An Island funeral | watercolour | 20.2 cm x 27.5 cm. Artwork by Mícheál Ó Gaoithín. Courtesy Maria Simonds-Gooding

Available in all good bookshops, and here

Listen to Wavelengths below

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

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