Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Peregrine Falcon" - Oil Painting

Oils on canvas (10×12 inches) (commissioned – sold)

The Peregrine Falcon is often stated to be the fastest animal on the planet in its hunting dive, the stoop, which involves soaring to a great height and then diving steeply at speeds commonly said to be over 322 km/h (200 mph), and hitting one wing of its prey so as not to harm itself on impact.

The Peregrine Falcon hunts at dawn and dusk, when prey are most active, but in cities also nocturnally, particularly during migration periods when hunting at night may become prevalent.

It requires open space in order to hunt, and therefore often hunts over open water, marshes, valleys, fields and tundra. It searches for prey either from a high perch or from the air.

Once prey is spotted, it begins its stoop, folding back the tail and wings, with feet tucked.

The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species because of the use of pesticides, especially DDT during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Pesticide biomagnification interfered with reproduction, thinning eggshells and reducing the number of eggs that survived to hatching. The organochlorine build-up in the falcon’s fat tissues would result in less calcium in the eggshells, leading to flimsier, more fragile eggs.

In several parts of the world, such as the eastern USA and Belgium, this species became extinct as a result. Peregrine eggs and chicks are often targeted by black marketeers and unscrupulous egg collectors, so it is normal practice not to publicize unprotected nest locations.

The Peregrine Falcon was used in falconry for more than 3,000 years, beginning with nomads in central Asia.] Due to its ability to dive at high speeds, it was highly sought-after and generally used by experienced falconers. Peregrine Falcons are also occasionally used to scare away birds at airports to reduce the risk of bird-plane strikes, improving air-traffic safety.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Kilbaha Harbour, County Clare, Ireland - oil painting

Oils on canvas (20 x 24 inches)

Ghosts, ruins and the faith of a small Irish village....

Kilbaha is one of my very special places in county Clare, Ireland. It is also the place where my dear friend, Hannah, is buried. On the hill overlooking the harbour, you can see the ruins of a mansion (Dun Dalhin) which belonged to the notorious landlord agent, Marcus Keane. (circa 1850's).

One day, I had a fascinating chat with a (very, very old) fisherman who was sitting outside the local pub and asked him about the history of the town. He pointed to the ruins and with that inevitable Irish twinkle in his eyes, said not to go there, as it is haunted.

Now, according to his tale, the locals were not very fond of old Marcus, a cruel and merciless man, and one night while he was away doing the 'dirty', his mansion mysteriously burnt down. It was never rebuilt.

Now the ruins stand on the hill, gauntly overlooking the harbour, with only cows and sheep daring to graze around it. He never said who or what was haunting the ruins but maybe it is old Marcus... stomping in frustration and waving a an angry fist at the arsonists who dared to burn his house and the locals with their priest who thwarted his efforts to control them .... who knows??? Read about The Little Ark...

The Little Ark

In the 1850's the celebration of Mass was prohibited in the Loop Head Peninsula West Clare.

This situation had developed as the result of the attempts of the local land agent, Marcus Keane, to enforce the conversion of the local populace to Protestantism.

Three schools were built on the Loop Head Peninsula in West Clare where the Protestant faith was taught. Food was provided for those who attended these schools and, in these days following the famine, this encouraged children to attend.

At the same time a Protestant church was built at the entrance to Dun Dalhin (Marcus Keane's house) overlooking the bay at Kilbaha.
The Parish Priest at this time was Father Michael Meehan. Fr. Meehan had come to Loop Head as Parish Priest in 1849. He was very familiar with the area, having spent a good deal of time with his aunt who lived in Cross and later Moneen and therefore he recognised the need to build schools in the area, as at this time there were none. In 1850 he opened the first of the six schools which he established in the Loop Head Peninsula.

With the establishment of the landlord sponsored schools, increasing pressure was put on tenants to denounce their Catholic Faith and send their children to these schools,under threat of eviction.

Obviously, these circumstances led to conflict between Marcus Keane and Father Meehan.

During this time Fr.Meehan was also trying to obtain a site to build a church in Kilbaha.

His attempts were unsuccessful. At one stage he did manage to acquire two adjoining houses in Kilbaha. He knocked the two houses into one and used the building for Mass. He was evicted from the premises after one month.

Father Meehan then contructed a tarpaulin shelter on poles which he attempted to use for Mass and then he used the covered shafts of a cart as a shelter but both proved to be unsuitable.

It was against this backdrop of persecution that Father Meehan came up with the idea of The Little Ark. He believed that if a suitable structure could be built it could be brought to the shore in Kilbaha and placed between high and low tide, in no-man's land. He thought that this would be an end to the problems he and his parishioners faced. Owen Collins, a carpenter in Carrigaholt, was commissioned to build a portable box on wheels.

In 1852, when completed, the box was drawn in triumphal procession from Carrigaholt to Kilbaha. Father Meehan then used the box, or The Little Ark, as it became known, to say Mass in for the next four years. Father Meehan's congregation would gather on the fore-shore at Kilbaha every Sunday, kneeling in prayer around the Ark.

This practise continued for over four years and the sight of some three hundred people, praying in all weathers, attracted much publicity.
Eventually, a site was given for a church in 1857.

The foundation stone for the church, 'Our Lady, Star of the Sea',was laid on12th July 1857. The church was dedicated on 10th October 1858.

The Little Ark was placed inside the church and remains there to this day, housed in a specially built annexe.

Excerpt of "The Little Ark" from Loop Head History

I have a painting in my mind... showing the hill and ruins overlooking the harbour... indeed, I think I must paint it!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fieldfare - Oil Painting

Oils on canvas (14×18 inches)

The Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) is a member of the thrush family Turdidae. Its English name, dating back to at least the twelfth century, derives from the Anglo-Saxon feld-fere meaning “traveller through the fields”, probably from their constantly moving, foraging habits.

It breeds in woodland and scrub in northern Europe and Asia. It is strongly migratory, with many northern birds moving south during the winter. It is a very rare breeder in Great Britain and Ireland, but winters in large numbers in these countries.

It nests in trees, laying several eggs in a neat nest. Unusually for a thrush, they often nest in small colonies, possibly for protection from large crows. Migrating birds and wintering birds often form large flocks, often with Redwings.

It is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects and earthworms in summer, and berries in winter. (wikipedia)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Portrait of Patrick and Anne - Oil Painting

Oils on canvas (50×70cm)

Portrait of Patrick and Anne Foley – commissioned by their daughter, Bridget.

Painting this portrait was a very special privilege for me as it has such meaning for their family…

So, dear Bridget and Anne, with all my love and best wishes!! I grow so attached to portraits and this one, in particular, has so much meaning.