2 minutes with… Jo Kerrigan

Next up in our ‘2 minutes with’ series is Jo Kerrigan, author of Stories from the Sea, a captivating collection of tales from over the centuries, exploring Ireland’s special relationship with the sea. We were intrigued, and wanted to find out a little more about her own fascination with the sea.

Kerrigan will be discussing her book with Brendan MacEvilly at a live audience event at The Pumphouse in Dublin Port Heritage Centre as part of Dublin Book Festival 2021. Full details can be found here.

1) What is your favourite story from the sea?

Oh I think discovering the wonderfully practical geographical truth behind an ancient legend.  Research last century suggested that Balor of the Evil Eye and the Fomorians lived, not on Tory Island off Donegal, as had always been thought, but on Derinish Island off Sligo.  The old legend recorded that he was attacked by land and sea, and many of the combatants were drowned when the tide came in across the sands and trapped them.  When Richard and I went up to Sligo to see the island, the tide was just ebbing, and we were fortunate enough to witness a long slow procession of cattle crossing the uncovered sands to the island – just as the force attacking Balor millennia ago had done.  That couldn’t have happened with Tory, which is ten miles out to sea.  It was a wonderful way of showing that there is always some truth in legends. They should never be discredited as ‘just stories’.  Somewhere buried in there is folk memory of genuine events.

2) Ireland most definitely has a long and rich maritime history. Do you think we have kept our seafaring traditions going or done enough to protect them & how do you see things going in the future? 

Yes, I think we have kept them going, and built on them.  It’s in our DNA – it couldn’t be otherwise when you’re a small island surrounded by the sea.  We may not build ocean-going liners any more, but the traditional craft of boatbuilding is stronger than ever, as are sailing courses all along the coastline.  We may choose flights rather than  boats to travel abroad these days, but huge amounts of goods come in and go out by sea; and the leisure industry of boating grows by the day.  Our ancestors had to know the sea in all its moods; today, we want to know it, and take delight in finding out more.

3) Do you think there’s really something magical out there beyond the ninth wave? 

This is a very old and very strongly-held tradition and it is a fascinating one to think about.  When you leave the familiar land, there is a certain place beyond which you have passed the point of no return, and you are in another world, that of the ocean. The sea makes the decisions now, and you go where it takes you.  Who knows the mind of the sea? Yes, it’s where you understand things you never knew before. Dangers, yes, but discovery too.

4) What other Dublin Book Festival event are you most excited about?  

Gosh, I think it’s the whole thing, the entire programme!  Such variety, so many topics and authors to choose from, from women’s rights to wildlife and walking tours, local history to storytelling.  I noticed that the children’s books’ events tended to sell out very quickly, which shows just what a good job the Festival is doing.  The next generation is as avid for good writing as ours!

As this is a live audience event, tickets are limited, so be sure to book your spot early!