Celebrating Micheál Ó Ríordán

By Valerie O’Sullivan ,

All photos by Valerie O’Sullivan — valerieosullivan.com

Valentia Island lies off the southwest corner of Ireland, off the famed Ring of Kerry and forming the southern arm of Dingle Bay. Fogher cliffs lie at the northern side of Valentia near where the first trans-Atlantic cable brought Morse messages to Newfoundland, 150 years ago. It is a wild place where the North Atlantic sweeps into Dingle Bay past the sacred islands of Skellig Michael and the Great Blasket.

Early Christian hermits were drawn to "this place of mountains and ocean with a little bit of land in between" - seeking to dwell closest to the Edge of the World. Michael Reardon's was known to his Irish friends by his gaelic name: Mícheál Ó Ríordán. Here, the Ó Ríordán were once Gaelic chieftains, and since his first visit to Ireland only in 2005, Michael felt a powerful connection to this ancient land.

Con Moriarty with Damon Corso, during the search.All photos by Valerie O’Sullivan — valerieosullivan.com

On this trip, he and his friend and photographer Damon Corso spent a month exploring and climbing throughout the island, from Fair Head on the north coast of Antrim to Kerry. As they struggled with one of the wettest summers on record across northern Europe, Corso powerfully captured Reardon at ease with his art and his Place. The images are incredible and are destined to inspire for generations. On the afternoon of Friday July 13, just a day before he was to head home to Marci and Nicki, Michael wanted to show Corso a wild crag below Valentia Coast Guard and Radio staion. There was still a chance of him getting to the Skelligs early next morning to climb a unclimbed crack-line between gannets and monastic ruins, and all eyes were on the sea conditions.

All photos by Valerie O’Sullivan — valerieosullivan.com

Things were looking good for the next day, and as he wrapped up for the afternoon, what happened on that most innocent-looking of ledges below his last climb has had seismic effects on those who knew Reardon. A "rogue" wave rose out of the sea and surged towards the cliff, and Michael was swept from his feet and slid along the low-angle seaweed-covered ledge into the surf. In an instant, he was 200 metres off shore amid the mighty swell and seen for the last time. Corso raised the alarm for aid at the Coast Guard station, and within minutes Valentia Lifeboat were on the scene. At the time of writing, the statuatory and voluntary sea, land, and air rescue service of the Irish state have searched in vain; Irish Coast Guard boats and helicopters, Irish naval and police vessels and divers, local fishing and dive boats and hundreds of volunteers.

For the coastal community who dwell close to the Great Ocean that Reardon's ancestors knew as Mannamán Mac Lir (celtic sea-god), there is a knowing that Micheál Ó Ríordán is by now in the Other World.

Source: Con Moriarty

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All photos by Valerie O’Sullivan — valerieosullivan.com

All photos by Valerie O’Sullivan — valerieosullivan.com

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