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Skelligs Calling

By: Michael Kirby

Publication Date: May 2003

(3 customer reviews)


Skelligs Calling by Michael Kirby


With the ‘sea in his blood’, Michael Kirby has spent nearly a century in a deep bond with the people, animals and landscapes of the south Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry. And throughout his remarkable life, he has lovingly recorded all that he has seen, on land and on the ocean wave.

Here are stories of spectral ships, enchanted seals and seabirds ‘speaking in perfect Irish’; shipwrecks, smugglers and sword-wielding coastguards; and characters like Seamus Fada (‘an expert on astronomy and cures for smelly feet’) and beachcomber Jamesie Stock (‘like a cormorant on a rock, not even a bottle floated ashore but Jamesie’s watchful eye floated beside it’). Spanning nine decades of local lore, Kirby tells the history of Ballinskelligs Cable Station; explains the deadly workings of second world war mines; recalls his hard times on the railroads of Depression-era America; and recounts his and his father’s dramatic struggle with a man-eating shark.

Completing the cycle begun with Skelligside, Skelligs Calling is the second volume of memoir fusing traditional storytelling with the keen observations of a first-class naturalist to create a lyrical vision of a world and a way of life now almost lost.

‘Michael Kirby is a man who understands the true value of life. He shows us in this marvellous book that everything that lives is connected … his is the view of the wise man: we have much to learn from him.’Jane Urquhart

‘Kirby revels, like few authors do today, in the sheer wonder of Creation. Poet, painter, storyteller, folklorist and fisherman emerge and merge in this glowing book.’Gabriel Rosenstock

‘Michael Kirby is a special man whose perception of life has been well honed in a special place – Ballinskelligs. The man itself evokes mystery, and Michael has spent more than ninety years looking at and learning about this magical spot on the tip of the Iveragh Peninsula… His ability to draw a perfect picture with a few words transports the reader to the headlands; you can almost find yourself leaning into the wind as the monks did centuries ago.’Bill Cullen, Ireland on Sunday

‘Kirby claims he was born with the sea in his blood. That may well be, but he was also born with words already formed in his head. He writes charmingly with colour, fun, and a flair few others have ever bettered… That a man of such an age could summon up the energy and motivation to write with such committed endeavour, care and beauty is a magnificent triumph of giving us everything he has to offer… Michael Kirby claims he once heard a razorbill singing in Irish, and who am I to argue? For, make no mistake, this is a book set apart, a classic of its kind by a man set apart in a charmingly set apart way.’Tom Widger, Sunday Tribume

‘A timeless storyteller, full of charm, talking of a bygone age, and setting down in history, for perpetuity, important and integral info of the local area, it’s people, flora and fauna.’ Customer review


MICHAEL KIRBY, born in 1906, is a native of Ballinskelligs, County Kerry. He is author of eight books in Irish under the name Micheal Ua Ciarmhaic. Skelligs Calling is his second book in English.

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3 reviews for Skelligs Calling

  1. Lilliput Press

    “Amazing read. Mr. Kirby is a true artist in every sense.” KERRY REARDON

  2. Lilliput Press

    “If you want to know about the real recent past in rural/farming/fishing Ireland this book is for you! Stories abound about this difficult time to survive – they had to use their wits! Enjoy a real trip into the West Coast area of Ireland!”

  3. Lilliput Press

    “I met Uncle Mick one time in my life. He was my grandfather, Timothy Kirby’s brother. To me, this lovely and evocative book is also a family history and a wonderful legacy to pass along to my son who has been working on a family tree. I would have loved it anyway. The funny and loving tribute to a people impoverished and beset by history who “danced with fairies” and possessed wealth beyond measure.” MARY SNEAD

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 135 × 215 mm
Publication Date

May 2003


Paperback, 176pp