Irish poet awakens Eilean Ban ghosts

Michael Longley had the Eilean Ban audience enthralled by his poetry NO F30 Michael Longley

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Internationally-respected Irish poet Michael Longley gave a poetry reading that was described as deeply moving by the audience recently on Eilean Ban, the island under Skye Bridge.

The audience was invited to hear Longley within the evocative Long Room setting, part of the home of the late writer and naturalist Gavin Maxwell and now a museum to the memory of the creator of Ring of Bright Water, as well as other classics.

The Long Room provided a venue conducive to literary greatness as Longley read poems that caused tears and laughter in equal amounts.

Now 77 years old, he talked movingly about his grandchildren and said: ‘This is the best time of my life but I miss old friends who have died.’

Longley was the Ireland Professor of Poetry from 2007 to 2010 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours List.

A contemporary of Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Paul Muldoon, he is regarded as one of the ‘greats’ of Irish poetry.

During the evening reference was made to the life of Gavin Maxwell, who had said that in the evenings he heard the voices of the island ghosts.

Janet Ullman, centre manager for the Eilean Ban Trust, said: ‘This evening the voices were stilled as they too were enraptured by the grace and lyrical magic of Michael Longley.’

The evening began with an introduction by Dr John Adamson, well known locally and a former trustee of Eilean Ban Trust.

He gave a warm welcome to Longley and the audience and the poet began by standing and reading his latest poem which is about the island and from there covered poems from his early to later years.

Volunteer Tyler Sutton said: ‘Michael’s style is informal and very engaging and the audience felt like they had been invited into a family home not a performance.’

The evening finished with a question and answer session with Longley and a quick overview of the tragic life of Maxwell from Dr Adamson.

The warm evening meant that the audience could enjoy refreshments outside taking in the stunning view over the Kyle towards Kyleakin and the Kylerhea straights.

Longley was supported by his wife Edna (a critic on modern Irish and British poetry ) and his daughter Sarah Longley and son in-law Stewart Rendall.

Sarah and Stewart live in Lochalsh and Longley is a frequent visitor to the area and highlighted how the countryside of Lochalsh and Ireland have influenced his recent work, especially one of his latest books, the critically acclaimed ‘Angel Hill’.


CAPTION: Michael Longley had the Eilean Ban audience enthralled by his poetry
NO F30 Michael Longley