Jim O’Malley is the author of Walking the Munster Blackwater, an account of his seven-day walk along the famed river. He’s from East Cork, between Killeagh and Youghal, and worked as a teacher in Cork, Dublin and Killorglin. He will read from his book at the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, Lismore, Co Waterford on June 16-19.
Best recent book: The Hurley Maker’s Son, Patrick Deeley — a sensitive account of growing up in rural east Galway from 1953.
Best recent film: I tend to play catch up with the cinema world such as Force Majeure, a Swedish film 2015, directed by Robert Östlund; a work free of Hollywood clichés.
Best recent show/exhibition/gig you’ve seen: I took some time out recently to visit the 1916 exhibition in Kerry County Museum: ‘Casement in Kerry: a Revolutionary Journey’, a moving story of a great humanitarian who fought injustice on three continents and ultimately paid with his life for defying the great Empire.
Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately: On a recent visit to Oxford, I picked up a CD of Inspector’s Morse’s ‘music favourites’ that contains arias from his preferred operas. The inestimable Morse (John Thaw) solved most crimes and escaped from sordid reality when listening to beloved pieces such as Soave sia il vento/May the winds blow gentle. It was a wonderful discovery for me that shortens the road from Cork to Killarney.
First ever piece of music or art or film that really moved you: Having arrived as a naive student in St Patrick’s Training College, Drumcondra, 1965, our first concert of classical music, featuring the New World Symphony, by Dvorák blew me away. But I’m also keen on folk and traditional singing, especially the beautiful sean-nós’ songs heard in Tigh an Cheoil, Ring Gaeltacht.
TV viewing: David Attenborough films followed closely by Richard Fortey’s Nature’s Wonderlands: Islands of Evolution. Will run from celebrity programmes and leave room when the endlessly negative political discussions are aired.
Radio listening: Lyric FM to escape from the endless trawl for problems in the chat shows, also Raidió na Gaeltachta to keep my Irish fresh and finely tuned.
Name three of your favourite travel or environment books: Forced to make a choice, I regret leaving out The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd and Robert McFarlane’s books, Landmarks and The Old Ways. I’d go for Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, Michael McCarthy; Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom, Tim Robinson; As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee.
If you could meet one famous person, who would it be? Perhaps, John Muir (1838-1914), the pioneer of national parks and the apostle of conservation. His boundless love of the natural world grew from the great walks he undertook through the threatened landscapes of the US.
Best ever animal encounter? In 2005 on Djouce Mountain while walking the Wicklow Way, two Red Grouse, a cock and hen, walked right past me as if I wasn’t there. I felt like St Francis of Assisi.
What was your favourite piece of kit for your Blackwater walk? My Meindl boots cannot walk on water but allow me to traverse most places in comfort and bring me home or to the nearest hostel on the trail.
Tech habits: Having abjured smart phones and iPads, in favour of listening to the wind, I get by with my old 2011 Nokia and my reliable Acer PC.
Unsung hero — individual, organisation or group you think don’t get the praise they deserve: An Taisce, an organisation frequently derided for opposing vested interests and seeking to preserve our beautiful landscape for the future.
You are king for a day — what’s your first decree? Ban sprays especially herbicides to allow weeds, birds and insects proliferate and the natural world to reclaim its rightful place.
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