Wheel turns from pottery to poetry

Wheel turns from pottery to poetry
Wexford-born Louis Mulcahy gave up his job in RTÉ in the 1970s to open a pottery business on the Dingle Peninsula. Picture: Des Barry.

Louis Mulcahy reads in Cork this weekend for the Winter Warmer fest, writes Colette Sheridan.

Best known as one of the country’s leading potters, Dingle-based Louis Mulcahy is also an accomplished poet, currently working on his fifth collection.

When Wexford-born Mulcahy becomes interested in something, he says he gives it his all. He started writing poetry at the age of sixty-four, 14 years ago.

For the 60th birthday of his Swedish wife, Lisbeth, he wrote her a poem which was considered good. Up until then, Mulcahy had been writing prose.

“I had over 30 long short stories and I never did anything with them,” he says.

“They were horrendously long. I went to a couple of poetry gatherings and workshops in order to try and learn how to be concise.

“It went on from there. I became totally engrossed in poetry. I spent a lot of years getting up at 4.30am trying to learn how to write poetry. I found poet, Paddy Bushe, a very easy man to talk to. He went through a series of poems I had written and he marked them ‘poetry’ and ‘not poetry’,’ good’ and ‘bad.’”

Mulcahy’s early poetry dealt with his background and his poor relationship with his father.

My father had his own problems. I think he drank a lot when he was young. My mother stopped him drinking when they got married. But it destroyed his personality. He had a dreadful temper. And he was a religious maniac.

"I was very sad for him when he died because he never had a relationship with me. We never spoke about anything serious. That was a killer for me.”

Mulcahy says writing saved his mind during the recession. “The recession was so traumatic that I’d wake in the middle of the night with floods of adrenaline because of the realisation that we were on a knife’s edge,” he admits.

The pottery business employed between 30 and 50 people, depending on the time of the year. Voluntary redundancies made the business more efficient. Mulcahy, who still works part time as a ceramicist, no longer runs the business. His son, Lasse, has taken over that side of things.

Mulcahy’s afternoons are usually spent writing, following mornings in the family business.

“The way I work with poetry is that I like narrative. I get ideas and put them down very fast. I make a rough shape of a poem and then I refine it. I don’t carry a notebook. I sit down for a period. If you’re going to write, you have to write. I suppose I’m more enthusiastic about writing than disciplined. I love writing.”

Mulcahy gave up a secure job in RTÉ as a cameraman in 1975. He and Lisbeth (a tapestry artist) sold their Dublin house and moved to Dingle with their three children, investing their savings in the risky venture of making pottery for a living.

Looking back, Mulcahy says that people thought he was mad.

“We wanted to live in Dingle. We had been all around Ireland. At the time, Dingle was a very quiet place.

There was something different about it. It was the Irish language and everything that went with it, the customs and the culture. We all learned to speak Irish. My wife speaks it better than I do.

Mulcahy had worked with Gay Byrne on The Late Late Show.

“He was an amazing professional and did a lot of good. Whether he was aware of that at the beginning, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a bit mean spirited of me to say it but I think Gay’s interest was in the TAM rating and a little controversy.”

Just as Byrne was at the top of his game in broadcasting, Mulcahy’s Kerry venture worked out with the Craft Council of Ireland describing him in 2014 as “the godfather of Irish craft”.

In 2004, he became the first Irish craftsman to receive an honorary degree from the NUI in recognition of his artistry. Now, poetry is giving him whole new lease of life as heapproaches the age of 79.

Louis Mulcahy will read at the Winter Warmer Festival (November 22-24) in Cork, where 23 poets from sevencountries will take part, mostly in the Kino. obheal.ie/winterwarmer

More on this topic

Junior readers: Top children’s books to giftJunior readers: Top children’s books to gift

Double, Troubles, cheats, and survivors: Our sports books of the year for those Christmas listsDouble, Troubles, cheats, and survivors: Our sports books of the year for those Christmas lists

By the book: Our top home and interiors picks to curl up with over the festive season By the book: Our top home and interiors picks to curl up with over the festive season

Brushing up on stuff: Appreciating the Stuff That Changed the World Brushing up on stuff: Appreciating the Stuff That Changed the World

More in this Section

The definite list of everything you missed this yearThe definite list of everything you missed this year

Brush with art: Discovering your creative side in later lifeBrush with art: Discovering your creative side in later life

All set for home run: See what's on offer at the James Adam sale in DublinAll set for home run: See what's on offer at the James Adam sale in Dublin

A flurry of auctions in Munster sets the scene for ChristmasA flurry of auctions in Munster sets the scene for Christmas


Latest Showbiz

The former Emmerdale star was speechless and tearful as he was awarded the Glitterball Trophy.Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse win Strictly Come Dancing

The singer said the far right use platforms to spread ‘disinformation and lies’.Lily Allen quit Twitter because social media ‘gives voice to far right’

Piers Morgan was among the judges.Jamaican model crowned Miss World 2019

The Love Island presenter was charged with assault following an incident on Thursday.Caroline Flack’s boyfriend posts picture with TV star after assault charge

More From The Irish Examiner