Seafaring legends evoked by artists on Sherkin

An alligator was once presented to the people of Cape Clear in West Cork by the captain of a ship that ran into a local boat, killing four men.

The history of the area also shows the devious actions of Sherkin Islanders in the 16th century led to a raiding party from Waterford ransacking their villages, before doing likewise to Cape Clear and Baltimore.

These tales are recounted as part of an installation by artist Ginny Pavry for an exhibition titled Out There in Sherkin this weekend, featuring the work of 19 students set to graduate from the BA in Visual Art from Dublin Institute of Technology.

“The story was that in August 1830, the Kitty of Cape Clear, was run down by the Liverpool- bound brig, Bachelor, drowning four of her seven-man crew,” said Ms Pavry. “The three survivors were treated kindly by the captain and given a gift of flour, a barrel of meat and an alligator, according to an article in the Mizen Journal (1999) titled ‘Shipwrecks on the South West Coast of Cork to 1840’, by Tim Cadogan and Des Cowman.

“Also, in 1538, a Spanish ship, the Santa Maria de Soci, carrying wine bound for Waterford took shelter in Baltimore harbour. They were guided in by Fineen O’Driscoll and, in return, they presented him with three pipes of wine.

“After drinking it, the crew was invited to dinner in the fort Dun a Long, but O’Driscoll put them in irons and went and took the 18,000 gallons of wine still on board. Waterford sent a raiding party to recapture the ship and found only three of the 20-odd pipes remaining.

“They returned with 400 men on ships that included the Soci, and burned all the villages in Sherkin, including the abbey, and did the same in Cape Clear and Baltimore,” she said.

Her exhibit is titled Lumen and features audio of such tales accompanying a series of dramatic ground-based cyanotypes — an imprint of an object on paper treated with a light-sensitive emulsion — placed in a room in the abbey.

The BA course, run in partnership with Sherkin Island Development Society and West Cork Arts Centre, gives access to third-level education to mature students who would otherwise have to leave the local community. It has a further 20 students in their second year.

This weekend’s exhibition features paintings, drawings, sculptures, projections and installations throughout Sherkin Island.

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