View this site:
As Gaeilge
In English
Sailing Update
Ship Position
Cape Clear Island
Fastnet Tours
Customer Charter
School Tours
Packaged Tours
Cartoon History
Our History
Photo Gallery
Island Map
All Ferry Services
Schull Ferry
  Launch of Poetry Book of Island Poet JK Cotter

Sometimes it’s hard to write about something, the reason not being reluctance or laziness but rather a feeling of inadequacy to do justice to the events being described.  This happened as I put pen to paper attempting to describe this past weekend when a group of descendants of JK Cotter arrived on Cape Clear Island to celebrate the launch of a book of his poetry, Ó Charraig Aonair go Droichead Dóinneach ( From Fastnet Sound to Blackwater Bridge).

Over the nearly 30 years I have seen glimpses of this man’s work and heard about him but to see the book itself  for the first time on Friday evening and to read the poetry in Irish and English opened a door for me to another place and time in the long history of the Island. For John K. Cotter was an eloquent and gifted young man when the Island was in its heyday, with a harbour full of fishing boats, every man a sailor and  a fisherman, each better than the next, proud of their boats, their sweethearts and their Island home. His poems are stories which stimulate the imagination to see that world in multicolour and have the poignancy of a joyous youthful long ago.

Writing is one thing but quality, presentation and attention to detail is another and well-crafted writhing’s of this calibre deserves to be treated with respect.  And to Éamon Lankford and his team of Michaela Collins, Alannah Mathews and MairéadFamily of John K Cotter at Keenleen Pier, Cape ClearNí Loinsigh there can be no higher accolade than to say their efforts were  worthy of the great man himself. The writings are complimented by beautiful illustrations, meticulous attention to detail and a love and respect across the divide of time and generations. Everyone who holds Cape Clear Island in their hearts will cherish their copy of the poems of JK Cotter and the great literary heritage and tradition of the Island has rediscovered another great Champion.

 But these poems are special, they need to be brought to life again, dusted off and enjoyed as they were in days gone by, recited in company, both on the Island and in far corners of the globe where Cape Clear Islanders found their exile. For if they resonate with us today, how much more did they mean to his friends and neighbours who knew him in person and carried them like old comrades to be brought to life again on special occasions.

And for all those reasons and more it was appropriate that some of his descendants together with the present Island community gathered for a scoraíocht in the Club on Saturday to recite his poems, interspersed with music, song and story, by young and old. His portrait was brought from his home for the occasion and hung with pride over the mantelpiece. It was a gentle, poignant and happy atmosphere that prevailed, led by the music of the accordion, the popular instrument of his time.

All performed their pieces with aplomb, some were called upon more than once, some spoke of their loved grandfather and great grandfather, a man who although he loved the Island, made a new and happy life for his family on the banks of the Kerry Blackwater River. It was clear that the talents of JK have been widely dispersed amongst his descendants, and best of all the capacity to appreciate and enjoy life.

On Sunday some made a tour of the Island, of places that would resonate with sea faring folk, including the Pier in South Harbour from where the family moved lock, stock and barrel in their boat the Gabriel, in 1920. They also visited the old homestead in the Glen, until recently the home of Mary Francis Cotter, recently deceased, who was last of the extended family to live on the Island.

The Celebration in the Heritage Centre also recalled John K. Cottor’s place in Irish History when he and his crew suddenly found themselves called upon to land the guns from the Asgard in 1914, a feat achieved in 40 minutes by those used to landing quite different catches. This story is nicely told and illustrated in a new display part funded by Cork County Council Centenary Fund.

The last proceeding was a well-attended, interesting and enjoyable talk by Dr. Éamon Lankford on John K.Cotter, his life, poems and place in history.

And as the visitors departed on the 6pm ferry on Sunday, for those involved, from near and far, there was a feeling that, though times have changed, Cape Clear Island remains a very special place indeed and John K. Cotter’s place of pride it that has been restored.


Cléire abú.


Séamus Ó Drisceoil

email:   telephone: 028 41923