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Baltimore fisherman’s famous tattoo became a musical icon

March 2nd, 2022 1:30 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Gerard Sheehy,a fisherman from Balitmore, is the the subject of two documentaries on his chance encounter with DJ Andrew Weatherall in Skibbereen in 2008 and inspired his famous tattoo. (Photo: Billy Cummins

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A BALTIMORE fisherman has found himself the subject of two documentaries released within the past week detailing his encounter with legendary DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall, who tragically died two years ago at the age of 56.

Weatherall rose to fame during the ‘acid house’ dance music era for his club remixes of classic hits by New Order, Primal Scream and Happy Mondays.

Gerard Sheehy – who just celebrated his 34th birthday – features not only in the radio documentary ‘Fail we may sail me must’, but also in the short film ‘Sail We Must’ which is now available online.

The busy fisherman even made time to attend the world premiere of the documentary and a Q&A session at a sold-out event in the Sugar Club in Dublin last week, before heading back up to Donegal for work.

Both documentaries detail the search that began last year  for the ‘West Cork fisherman’ who inspired the famous DJ to get a tattoo on his arms with the inspirational  phrase ‘Fail We May, Sail We Must’.

That tattoo became a philosophy that the DJ wholly embraced after this encounter and he recounted this tale in an interview several years ago. He even used it as title on one his tracks.

DJ Cian Ó Cíobháin, who presents ‘An Taobh Tuathail’ on Radió na Gaeltachta  put a call out                                                   online to see if this ‘West Cork fisherman’ could be located.

It wasn’t long before the word went down West Cork way and Gerard’s friend Billy Cummings of DogDay Media got in contact to say the very fisherman was his friend, Gerard Sheehy.

DJ Andrew Weatherall, (Dog Day Media)

Back in 2008, Gerard – who  was just 20-years-old at the time – was asked by festival organiser Declan McCarthy to pick up the celebrity DJ at Cork Airport to take part in the Cork X SouthWest music festival.

‘I was doing a favour for Declan and getting a ticket in exchange, so I picked Andrew up at the airport and dropped him back the next day,’ recalled Gerard.

‘I wanted to know all about his life as a DJ but he wanted to know all about my life as a fisherman – he seemed genuinely interested.’

Gerard has a tattoo ‘Sail she may but go she must’ on his chest, and Andrew took on board a variation of that motto for his own tattoo.

‘He was just a really nice, genuine guy and I had mentioned the saying so I couldn’t believe that he got something similar tattooed on his arm and that it’s the title of a track on his first  album.’

He recalled the gig and the fact that Weatherall kept bringing him up to the DJ box and he had no idea that his brief chats with him had resonated so much with the revered late DJ.

Gerard said the story has received even more traction in the past week and even people seem to be warming to the whole mantra of ‘Fail we may, sail we must.’

‘It’s a feelgood story and people are embracing it.

‘It’s a bit overwhelming that it’s still going on over a year later.

‘I met Paul McDermott last summer for his radio documentary and then met the team from The Tenth Man studio, who came to Baltimore last November to film their short film,’  Gerard told The Southern Star.

‘I’m blown away really that it’s become an even bigger story as I thought that was it last year.’

Gerard, who is skipper of the trawler Lovon, said it was a very simple conversation he had with Weatherall that day as he recalled his life as a fisherman.

‘It’s nice that people take an insight into our way of life and sometimes people need a good story too.’ And, as the whole world knows now, West Cork fishermen aren’t to be taken for granted.

‘Fail we may, sail we must’ radio documentary can be heard on UCC98.3FM, while the 11-minute short ‘Sail We Must’ can be viewed on YouTube and Mixmag.net.

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