JOHN Eagle, an artist and photographer living on the Beara Peninsula, passed away at 4am on Tuesday, December 18th last, at the age of 64.
John was not a native of West Cork, but he was introduced to the area in the 1960s by his mother, Dorothy, a former editor of the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary, and he bought a house at Kilcatherine, near Eyeries, in 1991.
In his own way, John became a kind of unorthodox ambassador for the area, because while he professed to love the remoteness of it all he – through his art and photography website – did more than most to promote it, as well as through his press photographs for The Southern Star.
John had the distinction of being the first person to photograph all the lighthouses in Ireland and two of his books on this subject were published by Collins Press.
He gave photography workshops and took people on lighthouse tours – journeying from one rocky headland to other and sometimes even staying on site – and, to it all, he brought a sense of wonder and adventure.
At 6’5” you couldn’t miss John, but he had a sort of omnipresence too in that he was talkative and always at the heart of so many local artistic events, exhibitions and endeavours.
His friend, Marc O’Sullivan, the artistic director of the Beara Arts Festival, summed up John’s many contradictions saying he could be painfully shy, but he had a sense of adventure too.
According to Marc, ‘some people have nice normal ambitions. To make money. To acquire property, or whatever. John had far more imagination. He started off producing postcards and calendars of Beara.’
But it is when Marc said: ‘John did me all sorts of kindnesses’ that you get to the root of John’s likeability because ‘everywhere he went he made friends.’
One of John’s many friends, the artist Tim Goulding, said farewell in the following fashion: ‘My dear friend and fellow six-year old has retired to his heavenly nest. How he coloured my life! A good and steadfast friend through thick and thin.’
John was there for people when they needed help and, when he developed oesophageal cancer a few years ago, he handled it with bravery.
It was with good grace that John received all the help that was offered to him, but he also remembered to give back.
At the 2017 Beara Arts Festival, John auctioned one of his landscapes for Cancer Connect. The organisation that helped him, and countless others to get to and from hospital appointments, was also the beneficiary of one of John’s lasts acts of kindness. Just a few weeks ago, the sale of his 2019 calendars raised €2,000 for Cancer Connect and it made John happy.
John Eagle will be sadly missed by his brother, Martin, his many friends, neighbours, and his community.