We're here getting damp in the windswept west because I was lent a copy of The Kick, the autobiography of Richard "Battle of Augrim" Murphy [book reviewed as obituary]. He bought the island in 1969 (for a lot less than €1.2million!) because it was just down wind of Inishbofin where he was running a fishing, ferry and tourist business with a couple of Galway hookers. No, not those Galway Hookers, ye drunken galloot, the cargo boats after which the beer is named. Murphy was a romantic of the old style and lived quite self-consciously as A Poet, while friending a rattle-bag of other poets of whom the world has heard - Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Ted Roethke, Seamus Heaney, T.S. Eliot, Philip Larkin. He bought a succession of wild, remote and lonely properties, often with someone else's money and usually made a good fist of bringing them back to use and life. Buying ArdOileán was a venture in that vein - he wanted to restore its place in the spiritual firmament. It was a wholly unsuitable place for people to live because it was really hard of access. Only 3km off the mainland coast, it is called High Island because it is surrounded by vertical cliffs with no quay, harbour or beach. You can only get a foot-hold at the base of the cliffs on flat-calm days which are as rare as Fulmar's teeth in Connemara.
Murphy was the castellan of this deserted island for nearly 30 years before selling it on when he extricated himself from his West of Ireland phase and moved nearer to Dublin. Although Killiney is hardly the city centre. He died a couple of years ago in Sri Lanka where he was developing a solid connexion with that country as it tore itself apart in internecine pogroms.
His poetry, like all poetry should be recited aloud rather than read on a page. Tony Kirby reads Moonshine. Or try a 60 minute RTE documentary about himself put together shortly before he died.
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