The Heinrich Boll Cottage, Achill Island

During May last (2011) I stayed in the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island, thanks to the Heinrich Boll Committee which awarded me a two-week visit. It’s a wonderful place, with all needs catered for and is situated in a fairly remote part near Dugort (Dumha Goirt) village on the northern part of the island.

Wild, untamed landscapes, stiff winds and vertical rains… Well, for the second week. The first week was fairly good to very good. But, no complaints. The whole experience was wonderful. Really got down to some work on items I have been trying to get a handle on for  some time. I was delighted to give a reading in a local hall (The Cyril Grey Memorial Hall, which is a very tastefully converted schoolhouse)  just down the road from the cottage. Terrific acoustics. Not that it was all work and no play (you know me better than that): took the opportunity to explore into the past with the forlorn and haunting deserted village and megalithic tombs on the side of Sliabh Mor. One evening got to hear the ‘Gongmaster’ give a performance  on Tibetan bells (yes, Achill is full of wonders).

Heinrich’s desk, gifted by the Boll family

There’s a bookcase in the cottage with signed copies from people who stayed there over the years. So much great stuff to read. Kerry Hardie, Paul Durcan, Ciaran O’Driscoll, to mention a few of my favourites, but best of all (sorry, guys) someone I hadn’t read before: Michael Coady. His ‘All Souls‘ book (Gallery Press) is really good. It’s poetry and story and memoir in the one book and  is one of the most accomplished books I’ve ever read. His account of trying to trace back the roots of his family is fascinating. And although I’m always suspicious of book blurbs (especially blurbs written by poets about poets) I agree with what Ciaran Carson said about ‘All Souls’ in Poetry Ireland Review:

I have read it from cover to cover three times and dipped into it on many other occasions. I will read it again for its passion, its wit, its pathos, its reverence, its irreverence, and the integrity of its many connections.’

My thanks to John Smith, John McHugh, Sheila McHugh and all the other people who stayed in the background (out of their great respect for the Great Writer Wrestling With His Devils) but were always on hand if help were needed. All in all it was a splendid and unforgettable experience and much recommeded to anyone fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity. And thanks too to all the ‘islandmen’ (and women) who were so friendly. And of course a special thanks to Heinrich Boll’s family and Mayo Co. Council) who made possible this scheme for artists and which is a significant addition to our country’s cultural life. Further informationabout the Heinrich Boll Foundation and the cottage is available at

Megalithic Tomb, Sliabh Mor

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