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The last journey for ‘unassuming’ explorer Severin

December 26th, 2020 11:40 PM

By Emma Connolly

The late Tim Severin at his home in Timoleague in 2016. (Photo: David Creedon)

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WORLD-famous explorer Tim Severin has been remembered as an unassuming and quiet man who was hugely supportive of the Courtmacsherry community where he lived for many years.

Born in India, he returned to the UK as a young boy and moved to West Cork in the 70s, living both in Courtmacsherry and Timoleague, where he died at his home in Inchybridge earlier this week aged 80.

Tim made global headlines in 1976 for his 13-month, 7,200km epic journey from Dingle to Newfoundland, in a leather-bound, open boat.

Called ‘The Brendan Voyage’, he set out to prove that St Brendan could have made a similar journey 1,500 years earlier, before Columbus.

He wrote about the journey in a book of the same name, which was translated into 16 languages and became a worldwide best seller.

Other death-defying journeys he retraced included those of Sinbad the Sailor, Jason and the Argonauts, Ulysses, Genghis Khan and Robinson Crusoe.

His neighbour Diarmuid O’Mahony, former coxswain of Courtmacsherry lifeboat, recalled how Tim came to live in the area.

‘He was driving West from Kinsale and looked across the water and saw our painted village – a place he knew nothing about. He took a spin here to have a look and ended up buying a house five doors up from me.

‘John Hyde had a postcard of the village and Tim’s house was actually a pale shade of pink in it, and when Tim moved in, he painted it the same colour.’

Diarmuid recalled how Tim was a member of the RNLI crew back in the 70s, before his Brendan Voyage and how he was a regular sight on the water where he conducted trials, including a run to Broad Strand.

‘Apparently he used the lining of his curtains from the sitting room as a sail!’ he said.

He also recalled how he gifted his mother, who ran the local post office, a framed picture of The Brendan Voyage, on his return.

Local farmer Harold Kingston remembered how Tim opened the local summer festival during the early 2000s.

‘He couldn’t believe the level of admiration he was held in, and the amount of people who had turned out to see him,’ said Harold.

His other sailing adventures included investigating the legend of Sindbad the Sailor, when he sailed an Arab ship from Muscat to China. He steered a replica of a Bronze Age galley to seek the landfalls of Jason and the Argonauts and of Ulysses, rode the route of the first Crusader knights across Europe to Jerusalem and travelled on horse back with nomads of Mongolia in search of the heritage of Genghis Khan.

He also sailed across the Pacific on a bamboo raft to test the theory that ancient Chinese mariners could have reached to the Americas, retraced the journeys of Alfred Russell Wallace, Victorian pioneer naturalist, through the Spice Islands of Indonesia using a nineteenth century prahu, and traced the origins of Moby Dick, the great white whale among the aboriginal sea hunters of the Pacific.

In later years, Tim concentrated his efforts on historical novels, many not surprisingly inspired by his own adventure. The most recent was published in 2017.

His final journey was through the village of Timoleague on Monday where members of Courtmacsherry RNLI formed a socially distanced guard of honour.  He is survived by his wife Dee and daughter Ida.

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