Celebrated poet Michael Longley to give a poetry reading at Eilean Ban

Michael Longley. Photograph: Bobbie Hanvey.

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The Eilean Ban Trust will welcome the award-winning Irish poet, Michael Longley, CBE, to Eilean Ban on July 12 to give a poetry reading.

Eilean Ban, the island under the Skye Bridge, has been and is, an inspiration for artists.  One of its most famous inhabitants was the wildlife and travel writer Gavin Maxwell, who spent the last two years of his life there before he died aged 55 in 1969. Gavin wrote the world-famous Ring of Bright Water, which was later turned into a film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.

Michael Longley is one of Ireland’s foremost poets. The critic Langdon Hammer has described Longley’s poems as masterpieces of, ‘lucidity, economy, sincerity … by means of meticulous, unpretentious technique’.

Longley’s poetry is also marked by sharp observation of the natural world. As in his most recent work Angel Hill, many of the poems were inspired by Lochalsh and will form a large part of the poetry reading next Thursday evening.

John Banville, in the Guardian’s Books of the Year, described Angel Hill as, ‘at once elegiac and celebratory, and achingly beautiful. Longley has honed his poetry to the bone, but how the bone does shine’.

Angel Hill is illustrated by Michael’s daughter: the artist Sarah Longley, who lives in Lochalsh. Sarah is a well-known and well-respected artist in her own right, and the strong link that has been created artistically between the homes of Michael in Ireland and Sarah in Lochalsh can be felt through the poems and cover illustration of Angel Hill.

The poetry evening will take place in the Long Room: Gavin Maxwell’s sitting room, which is open to tours and is furnished with Gavin’s belongings and furniture.

The house and island is kept as a museum to Gavin’s life, but for one night only it will be an exclusive venue for the poetry evening. The audience will be invited to sit within Gavin’s home and be entertained, as if he were still the host.

Space is limited, so bookings must be made in advance for this extrodanary evening of poetry. Michael, a great admirer of Maxwell, has written a new poem, as yet unpublished, about Eilean Ban.

The event begins at 7pm and tickets can be booked in advance at the Bright Water Visitor Centre (open Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm), by calling 01599 530040 or email: enquiries@eileanban.org.

Only those with their names on the bookings list will be able to come into the Long Room. There will be a £2 entrance fee on the door  to cover the cost of moving chairs onto and off the island.

Janet Ullman, centre manager for Eilean Ban Trust, said; ‘It’s a great way to build up some muscles moving chairs across an island, but for Michael it is no hardship, we are so touched and honoured he is sharing his beautiful poetry with us and in such a wonderful location.’

The Eilean Ban Trust says cars can be parked on the layby beside the old Toll Booth or at the Plock of Kyle and the audience take the short walk up to the gate in the wall on the bridge, where they will be met by Eilean Ban Trust volunteers. If walking is difficult or a vehicle has a disabled sticker requests to park on the hard standing by the gate should be made at booking.


Photo:Michael Longley by Bobbie Hanvey

Born in Belfast to English parents, Longley was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, and subsequently read Classics at Trinity College, Dublin, where he edited Icarus.

He was the Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2007 to 2010, this being a cross-border academic post set up in 1998.

North American editions of Longley’s work are published by Wake Forest University Press.

His wife, Edna Longley, is a critic on modern Irish and British poetry.

Michael has won numerous literary prizes, amongst his most recent are; Gorse Fires, won the Whitbread Poetry Prize. Subsequently, The Weather in Japan (2000) won the Irish Times Literature Prize for Poetry, the Hawthornden Prize, and the T.S. Eliot Prize. Longley’s other recent publications include Snow Water (2004) and Collected Poems (2006). In 2001 Longley was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Sarah Longley

Sarah Longley was born in Belfast in 1975, going on to study art at Manchester University and then at Edinburgh College of Art. She graduated with a first class honours BA and a master’s degree in painting and drawing.
Longley’s subject matters include self-portraits, portraits, still life’s which often feature flowers, and paintings of where she lives in the Western Highlands.

Sarah has exhibited in many locations including the Peppercanister Gallery (Dublin), Mullan Gallery (Belfast) and the Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh) to name but a few.


Eilean Ban Trust

The island of Eilean Ban had been compulsorily purchased by the government to allow the  Skye Bridge to be built, and once it was completed in 1995 they decided to sell those bits of Eilean Bàn not covered by bridge or connecting road to the highest bidder. The residents of Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh together with the Born Free Foundation, responded with a campaign to bring the island into community management with ownership still under Scottish Governement. The campaign was a success, and in 1998 ownership of the island was transferred to the Eilean Bàn Trust.

The Eilean Bàn Trust has its headquarters at the Bright Water Visitor Centre, on the quayside in Kyleakin. It works to preserve and promote the heritage and wildlife of the island. As well as operating the Visitor Centre and renting out part of the lighthouse cottage as a holiday let, it runs guided tours of the island during the summer half of the year. Tours of the island can be booked through the Visitor Centre.