Contributors

Jeremy Irons
Actor and Activist
Ireland
2020 MakingIn: Public
jeremy_irons
Jeremy Irons is an English actor and activist best known for his roles in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, The Mission, Reversal of Fortune and the ITV series Brideshead Revisited. ‘When I first arrived in West Cork over 30 years ago, I had a strong feeling that I’d come home. A year later, I found myself a bothy on the banks of the Ilen River opposite Hegarty’s Boatyard, the last surviving traditional wooden boatyard in Ireland, nestling within the walls of an old castle, which has been the home of boat-builders for generations.

There I bought a 23ft gaff rigged ketch built by Liam Hegarty, whose father had started the boatyard. Today, Liam with his brother John, is still building boats exactly as his father built them. My boat, the Willing Lass is based on a Falmouth Quay Punt and was built to deal with the unforgiving West Cork water, weather and rocks. In buying her, I became an accepted presence in the yard watching as they rebuild and refurbish iconic boats in traditional ways. Getting to know them has given me huge respect for their craft: they’ve become friends and, for me, they are part of the texture of the West Cork I love.

People and place are what gives an object its heart. Great craft – be it a boat, sculpture or chair – emanates from the soul of the maker, and that soul is nurtured by the place and the people that surround it ; by the songs and the weather and the history. The fact that my boat was built by a family who’ve been building boats for generations on the opposite bank of the river where I live, and that she was built for these very waters in a way that’s tried and tested – that’s what makes the Willing Lass the boat she is.

I love beautifully made, cleverly thought-out things. Today we are encouraged more and more to buy things that are designed not to last, which I think is a detriment both to the environment, and to the way we regard and respect life. West Cork is blessed with many such craftsmen, hidden in its hills and valleys. And when you find a place like Hegarty’s Yard – where boats are being made in the old way, with care and time, using the best components that can be sourced along with the experience of generations to create something that will, if I manage not to put her on the rocks, outlast me, that has a value to me that makes my soul sing.’

Extract from Jeremy Irons, in conversation with Glenn Adamson from: MAKING IN / PLACE, 12 September 2020