#seascapes – Tonight's re-broadcast on RTE Radio 1 at 10.30pm of W M Nixon's maritime-themed Thomas Davis Lecture of 2002 is the final in the series of special repeats which have been transmitted to mark the 25th anniversary of the regular Seascapes marine programme, established in RTE's Cork studios by Tom MacSweeney, and continued weekly on Friday nights with Marcus Connaughton as presenter.
Nixon's thesis thirteen years ago was that, despite Ireland's island status, enthusiasm for sailing the sea – whether professionally or recreationally - has always been a minority interest. Yet despite its lack of broad popular support, specialist sailing such as the monastic voyages of seafaring saints like Columba of Iona or Brendan the Navigator were a significant thread in Irish life during one of the most civilised epochs in our history.
And then when recreational sailing began to develop as a recognisable interest in northwest Europe in the 17th Century or even earlier, a small section of the Irish population was to play a leading role in its development and codification.
Yet even within the families of some of the leading proponents of the new amateur sailing, there was a lack of understanding and support of what the Irish maritime pioneers were trying to achieve. Nixon quotes the case of a world-renowned Irish amateur voyager whose cousin – a man distinguished in the shoreside professional world – expressed the view that his rough seafaring relative would have had much more to show for his extraordinary life had he stayed quietly ashore, working steadily at his trained profession as an architect.
While he still holds many of the views expressed in this lecture more than a dozen years ago, W M Nixon admits that some of his thoughts on the relationship of the Irish and the sea have since, with "mature reflection", changed quite radically. He aired some of these thoughts at the Glandore Summer in July 2014, and they will be further developed in a new broadcast for Seascapes in the near future.