A man of many parts
I can see him from up here. He’s on his way again, said the lark. These lines from Seán Lysaght’s poem “The New Rucksack” could act as a description of Éamon de Buitléar out on a trek to record a piece of the landscape for one of his documentaries.A man of many parts is an overused, and probably much abused term, but in the case of de Buitléar it has real meaning. He earned the title. He was that kind of rarity: multitalented as a film-maker, environmentalist, musician, author and at one time member of the Oireachtas, as a senator.
His early work on television when he was one of the few independent producers was pioneering. For those of a certain generation his name is synonymous with Amuigh Faoin Spéir, that programme in which he introduced viewers to what lay beyond their own backyards; bringing the richness of the waters and the wild into Irish livingrooms. The wildlife of the byways, as well as the flora and fauna of mountain and valley received his attentive gaze. He valued aspects of the land that were taken for granted and knew the importance of conservation before it became fashionable. It didn’t matter that in the early days the images were in black and white, de Buitléar’s gift of language, in both Irish and English, buoyed by his own enthusiasm and the sheer pleasure he displayed in his discoveries and encounters, added something extra to the viewer’s experience.
He was alive to the landscape and all its secrets: the spirit of inquiry with which he took his camera into the wild was accompanied by respect for its creatures and for their natural habitats. His accomplishments as a film-maker were matched by his skills as a communicator who passionately believed in his message. His archive, which he donated to the National University of Ireland in Galway, will stand as a monument to his achievements. His real legacy lies among those who grew up watching him on television and went on to follow in his steps in their love of the land and its creatures.