Books recalls story of poet and Cape Clear islander

December 23rd, 2016 9:34 PM

By Southern Star Team

Eamon Lankford

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THE truly remarkable story and writings of Cape Clear Island-born fisherman, poet and patriot John K Cotter are featured in a new book.

O Charraig Aonair go Droichead Doinneach (From Fastnet Sound to Blackwater Bridge) has been compiled and edited by Eamon Lankford.

Not widely known, perhaps, is that the man at the helm of the fishing boat Gabriel, the first vessel to literally link up with the Asgard on its arrival into Howth in July 1914 with a shipment of arms – which were later to used in the Easter Rising and other incidents – was Cotter, who was accompanied by fellow islander Carey Con Cadogan.

Cotter’s crucial role in this historic event can best be appreciated in extracts of his written submission in 1961 to the Bureau of Military History in Dublin, which are featured in an appendix in the new book.

Born in 1878 at The Glen, Cotter spent half his life on the Gaeltacht isle as a fisherman.

When the fishing industry began to go into rapid decline, he and his wife Ellen (Nolan) and their seven children sailed in the Gabriel for a new life at Blackwater Bridge, Kenmare in 1920.

In Kerry, they had two more children and opened a post office and shop. 

Cotter died in 1968.

It was in Kerry that Cotter composed most of his poems, in Irish and English. 

Subjects included boats, fishing and sailing, island landscape, dancing and other pastimes, the Irish language, love, youth and old age. 

Many familiar names and landmarks from Cape Clear and other places that he loved and enjoyed are mentioned in the new book.

It also includes detailed research by Eamon Lankford, who got access to manuscripts and memoirs from family, friends and admirers, mostly from Cape Clear. Cotter’s late son Gabriel was also a major contributor and the book is dedicated to him. 

There are illustrations by Cork College of Art and Design students Michaela Collins (who also did the cover) and Alannah Matthews.

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