Well known scholar and poet drowns in Beara
By Jackie Keogh
Castletownbere RNLI was involved in the search and recovery of a man off West Cork in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The man, a father of three, has been named as John O’Leary. Although born in Boston, John has lived for most of his life on a small farm on the Beara Peninsula, overlooking the North Atlantic, where he farmed sheep and bred Irish Draught Horses.
He was educated at Trinity College Cambridge, where he took a first, and at Trinity College Dublin, he has been Visiting Professor of Creative Writing and Irish Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University and Seattle University and has taught at numerous universities in America and Europe. He was also ran workshops at the Anam Cara Writers' and Artists' Retreat Centre in the neighbouring village of Eyeries.
His beloved Allihies Parish is located on the western tip of the Beara Peninsula and stretches between Cod's Head, where his body was found, to the North West and Dursey Island to the South West.
John was one of a number of locals who put Allihies – which is the furthest village in Ireland from the capital, some 394 kilometres away – on the map by organising a coastal community conference in 1990. In fact, Mary Robinson chose the event for the launch of her successful campaign for election as President of Ireland.
It is understood that early on Monday evening that John and his teenage son went sailing in a small dingy near their home and shortly after that the boat capsized. Both hung on to the upturned craft for approximately four hours but then John's son made his way ashore to raise the alarm, but sadly John did not survive the ordeal.
Paul Stevens of the Castletownbere RNLI lifeboat service extended his sympathy on behalf of the RNLI crew to the family of the deceased and said: 'the Beara Peninsula is waking up this morning with a huge sense of shock.' Everyone knew John. He was gregarious, loquacious and likeable.
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