Paladin on The Ramparts

I was looking at items belonging to The Iberian Warrior late 5th early 4th century BC from the Necropolis of Arroyo Judio Cártagena It was late last September and I was in a museum in Malaga. I drew some of the artefacts - one of these was a double spring fibula. The only bit of text I copied into my sketchbook was this:

A warrior’s gear was considered a highly personal possession. Consequently all offensive and defensive weapons were buried with their dead owner after being ritually decommissioned so they could never be used again.

I underlined the words never and used again.

Later I went snorkelling. I wrote in the sketchbook:

I snorkelled out to the end of the breakwater with meters below me, occasionally diving down to swim with the silvery, fluttery, darting wee shoals of harmless iridescence. Suddenly a tight shoal of half meter barracudas swam right under me from behind - fast, close, determined. I nearly fainted. I yelped out loud into my snorkel.

On the stony beach, emerging from the water I picked up a fragment of ceramic tile and kept it. I drew a figure on it every day for six days, erasing the graphite every evening with toothpaste as I cleaned my teeth, leaving it clear, with only some traces of greying, and ready for the next day’s drawing. The photo is of one of those tiny tile drawings.

The figure, a snorkel and a double spring fibula are all visible in the painting The 2 Spring Fibula one of the new works in the September exhibition Paladin on The Ramparts, on show in @Art Pistol my wonderful gallery.


Adding to the Sketchbook

How dark the heather is in County Donegal. As a county I don’t know it well at all - having been schooled in Co Derry and grown up in Co Down. I sang a song in praise of Donegal in the Féis Ceol in Newcastle Co Down when I was 10 and won third prize. I still have the small medal. I was singing that song again as I drove around to the Atlantic shore early this Spring, to the pub, to the Museum in Letterkenny where the exhibition was about the emigration of women from Donegal to the Americas.

Visually the place is littered with ugly white houses, newly built without a plan at all, on every conceivable hilltop and scattered over every vista. How come we cannot keep sight of any good things in Ireland, and treasure them? We are a nation deprived in the past of instant gratification and hungry, still hungry for it. It squeezes my heart to be here, and I cannot really tell why that is. Maybe I just want to have a chance to start again, and….. with the potential of all the same good ingredients…. play it all so much better.


Up and Running.


It seemed to take too long to build my new studio.  That is because I was anxious about the cost of it all and cramped in my living space.  I was living, cooking, sleeping and working in the same space.  It was a shock to my system.  My clothes were hanging on an oar.  Someone pointed out how artistic that was.  Yes, you ought to try it. See how artistic it feels.

After two years...this Spring of 2018...I moved into my new studio. A friend had said this would up my game.  It has upped my game.

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Leaving Which of Course Implies Arriving

3rd Mar


I can clearly remember leaving Kilcreggan, waiting for the ferry to take me across the Clyde and from there to the airport to fly to Montreal.  A leaving, it certainly was, but not a permanent one.  I was leaving on a research trip to Canada and the United States to retrace the steps of all those Celts who have crossed the Atlantic to emigrate.

I have emigrated – from Ireland to Scotland.  It may not seem like a big deal – and we speak the same language after all, but Scotland is not Ireland with all that that implies, and so….I don’t really belong.

Now more than any time in recent memory the issue of migration and national identity looms large in the political arena and in the daily lives of so many in our communities who are either accommodating people from another country who are trying to fit in here, or who are trying to fit in here, having come from a different country.

My new exhibition at Art Pistol in Glasgow opens tomorrow on this theme.  This is the work I have produced in the wake of that trip across the Atlantic.

I wrote about not belonging in Scotland a wee while ago now, but it seems appropriate to quote it here.


My heart is squeezed and hard pressed

Wrung out like an old bell

That never had a clapper;

Clapped out like the rungs

Of a rotten ladder

Cause I live in Glasgow

And I don’t belong.

Although you too have

Satsumas and holly,

Mangoes and cabbage

Kumquats and those pot scourers

That don’t do and much damage as Brillo

All clamouring just the same

In Drumchapel as in Saintfield

I can’t sing the song

I don’t belong, I don’t belong

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