John O'Shea, Achill RIP

10th Nov 2018

I drove to Achill Island today to pick up a dead dolphin for post-mortem.  Achill was one of the very first places I visited when I came to Ireland to do a PhD at UCC. Achill is a truely inspiring island, I went away after a few days with an new "favourite" place and a dog called "Paddy" (after the whiskey).

 the late John O'Shea, Achill

On subsequent visits to Achill Island I soon met with John O'Shea, who with an interest in wildlife, archeology, stories, poetry ... didnt meet John. John lived at The Beach House, Dooagh, an unmistakeable house, John's castle and with his unique, unmistakeable charm and hospitality. I havent been on Achill for years and I thought as I drove up from west Clare, "I wonder if John is still at The Beach House". After meeting Patrick Mulloy and Sorsha Kennedy and recovered the dolphin, Sorsha told me that John had died just a month earlier. I was devastated as I didnt know, and although I hadn't seen John for years, felt I had lost a friend.

I had to drive by John's house to re-kindle happy memories of John and his stories. When we established the IWDG in 1991 we asked John if he would be our local contact on Achill. John was the perfect person, interested in eveything on Achill, a great communicator and obsessed with the sea. Although he was never the best at recording strandings or sightings, he would frequently phone up with reports of bottlenose dolphins in Keel or Keem Bays or stories from fishermen seeing whales and dolphins off Achill. "The Bills" just a few miles off Achill is reputedly a good place to see fin whales in the autumn. 

Most years we would get a Christmas card from "Costa del Achill" from "John O'Shea", never John, always "John O'Shea". 

Although I lost touch with John in recent years, distracted by work, family and other "important" things, you could never not think of John when Achill Island was ever mentioned or on the news. I cant believe I have missed him by a month, never again to call in and have a pot of tea, or something stronger, to be regailed by his stories and poetry.

I'm sorry I havent been in touch John, Rest in Peace

A lovely film by Ian Cudmore on John O'Shea captures the simplicity and beauty of John

by Simon Berrow

 The Beach House, Achill, without John O'Shea. It will never be the same.


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