Put yourself in the picture and bid for Minihan’s Ballydehob retreat

IF a picture tells a thousand words, then one of John Minihan’s photos of his west Cork home would do instead of a sales brochure, or editorial write up.

But, “I don’t do houses”, Minihan told his auctioneer when his Ballydehob house sale brochure was being compiled. Might as well ask his old friend Samuel Beckett to write up the brochure, in that case. Or any other of Minihan’s many living writer friends.

Photographer John Minihan has exalted contacts and contact sheets, many of them writers of the highest calibre, and he has catalogued and captured many of the most famous writers Ireland has produced, as well as other of similar calibre worldwide. A few to name check? Samuel Beckett (Minehan has produced a book of icon-status Beckett images), Seamus Heaney, John Montague, Annie Proulx, Patrick Galvin, WH Auden, John B Keane, Brian Keenan Van Morrison, and hundreds more. He is working on his latest exhibition Writing the Century. “Sam Beckett was very kind to me, he opened many gates,” Minihan acknowledges of his fellow Irishman and study.

Currently west Cork-based, literary portrait photographer John Minihan was born in Dublin, reared in Athy and move to England at age 11 and started his working life with the Daily Mail aged 16. He’s snapping still, with Nikon and Rolleiflex cameras round his neck: he still works in film, not digital, and in black and white instead of colour, noting that when you’ve only 12 shots on a roll, instead of thousands of digital chances, you are more aware of composing an image. And, he adds, “with digital, you are constantly deleting images, whereas it is only over time that the importance of a shot often emerges.”

That unwillingness to delete might explain the state of his house’s living room as seen on Schull auctioneer James Lyons O’Keeffe’s brochure and website. With Kodak boxes, images, files and more strewn about, it might rival painter Francis Bacon’s notorious studio... best seen as a dark room, perhaps.

So, here’s a snapshot: Century old village home, on the hilly streets atop one of west Cork’s special villages and communities, on Staball Hill in Ballydehob.

John Minihane has been based here for almost 14 years, and first fell for Kinsale 30 years ago “but it was too dear to buy there, sort of Ireland’s Monte Carlo,” he quips.

Estate agent Stephen O’Keeffe is selling the five-bed, two-storey village house of pleasant proportions, ample accommodation, and with a roll-call of writerly visitors down the years, a salon of all-sorts.

It has been a while on the market, and now has serious price drop, down to just €200,000 to get viewing interest up. At its earlier, high price level, it had stuck unseen and unviewed for some time.


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