Heinrich Boll was born in Germany in 1917 and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972. He carved out a career as a journalist and writer and in the late 1950’s he made his first visit to Achill. Throughout the 1960’s and into the 1970’s, Boll lived and worked in Achill, residing in a cottage in the village of Dugort. His book ‘Irische Tagebuch’, ‘Irish Journal’ is well known and recounts some of his experiences of Achill. The Boll Cottage in Dugort has been used since 1992 as an Artist’s Residence. A local committee, the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Germany, the Boll Family and Mayo County Council maintain the cottage and administers the Artists residency programme.
Belfast born artist, Paul Henry spent eight years on Achill Island, and became fully immersed in local life during that time. Henry painted scenes of people at work and views of the sea and mountains and his paintings have become part of private and gallery collections all over the world. The Luxemburgh Gallery in Paris has Henry’s painting of Dooagh village on permanent exhibition.
American painter Robert Henri spent several summers in Achill with his wife, between the years 1924 – 1928. Henri is most famous for his portraits of the local people of Dooagh, where he stayed while in Achill. Many of these paintings are on display in galleries across the United States.
Charles Lamb and Derek Hill
Other painters such as Charles Lamb and Derek Hill also spent time in Achill, attracted by its wild beauty and unique character.
Grace O’ Malley, or Granuaile, was born in Clare Island around 1530, the daughter of the chieftain of the barony of Murrisk. The O’ Malley’s were a powerful sea-faring family, who traded widely and refused to submit to English rule. Grace became a fearless leader and gained fame as a sea captain and pirate. In 1593, Grace met with Queen Elizabeth I and after discussions, Grace was allowed to continue her exploits in Connaught. Grace died around 1603, and was buried in the O’ Malley family tomb on Clare Island.
James Lynchehaun was born in Polranny, Achill Sound around 1858. Lynchehaun is the main character of James Carney’s book ‘The Playboy and the Yellow Lady’ and the inspiration for J. M. Synge’s play ‘The Playboy of the Western World’. Lynchehaun was a known trickster, but his fame arose from his association with local landowner Mrs. Agnes McDonnell. He was appointed land agent for Mrs. McDonnell, however after some disputes Lynchehaun was discharged. In 1894, Lynchehaun allegedly set fire to Mrs. McDonnell’s house in the Valley. The house was burned to the ground and the lady was seriously injured. In a subsequent trial, Lynchehaun was found guilty and sent to prison, but escaped to America. In 1903 he was arrested in America but efforts to extradite him failed and he later returned to England. Lynchehaun died in Scotland in 1937.
Captain Charles Boycott
Captain Charles Boycott first came to Achill around 1857. He leased land at Keem Bay and built a house there, however he moved to Corrymore House when his residence at Keem was burned down. Boycott is alleged to have been a cruel landlord and his departure to Ballinrobe in 1877 was not regretted by local people. It was in Ballinrobe that Boycott encountered Michael Davitt and the Land League. His name was added to the English language (boycott – to shun) when local tenants refused to work for him, in protest at his harsh and cruel tactics.
Born into a wealthy Galway family in the late 19th century, Eva O’Flaherty trained as a milliner and practised her craft in Paris and London before deciding to relocate to Achill Island. In 1910 she was a founder member of Scoil Acla, a summer school set up to promote Irish music, language and culture. A couple of years later she established the St. Colman’s knitting industry in the village of Dooagh, an enterprise which she maintained until her death in 1963 and which, at its height, employed about 30 women and produced knitted high fashion garments which were sold in upscale department stores in Dublin and exported worldwide.
Bibliography / Further Reading:
by Kenneth McNally (1973, David & Charles, Devon)
Achill Island – Archaeology, History, Folklore
by Theresa McDonald (1997, IAS Publications)
(Reprinted in 2006)
Achill’s Eva O’Flaherty: Forgotten Island Heroine
by Mary J. Murphy (2012, Knockma Publishing)
(Buy now at Achill Tourism’s online store)
The Veiled Woman of Achill – Island Outrage & a Playboy Drama
by Patricia Byrne (2012, The Collins Press)