Poet Domhnall Mac Síthigh dies after boat capsizes off Spain

Accident that caused death of Danny Sheehy occurred near mouth of river Minho

Tributes have been paid to Kerry poet Danny Sheehy, who died after a naomhóg in which he was one of four crew capsized off the Iberian coast.

Sailor and adventurer Paddy Barry, who was due to join the crew later this week, said that “none was more able or experienced” than Mr Sheehy.

Mr Sheehy (66), better-known as Domhnall Mac Síthigh, was taken ill after he and the three crew of their naomhóg were caught by a wave close to the Minho river estuary on the Spanish-Portuguese border.

With him were musician Liam Ó Maonlaí of the Hothouse Flowers, west Kerry musician and oarsman Breanndán Ó Beaglaoich and Co Cork boatbuilder Padraig Ua Duinnín.


The four were approaching the river mouth in the Naomh Gobnait when the incident occurred on Friday evening. All four stayed with the upturned boat, which then swept them up on a beach. The naomhóg sustained severe damage to its stern.

Mr Sheehy took ill close to shore. Emergency services were quickly on the scene and tried to revive him, but he failed to recover. His three companions, who suffered shock, were treated in a local hospital and discharged.

The four were participants on Iomramh an Chamino 2017, which had left the Spanish port of La Coruña in late May bound for the Portuguese city of Porto in late June.

Experienced seaman

Mr Sheehy, a father of three grown-up children, was an award-winning writer, broadcaster and farmer with much experience at sea. He circumnavigated Ireland in a traditional naomhóg, or Kerry currach, with Ger Ó Ciobháin in 1975, and also rowed to Iona in Scotland.

Mr Sheehy had built the Naomh Gobnait with fellow crew for the Camino na Sáile or "camino by sea" – a three-summer voyage from Ireland to northern Spain completed in late June 2016, and documented by film-maker Dónal Ó Céilleachair.

The hand-made, wooden-framed, canvas-covered craft set off in May 2014 from the river Liffey to test the original sea route taken by coastal dwellers centuries ago on the northeast Atlantic rim. After last summer’s completion in Santiago de Compostella, the crew decided to continue to navigate the Galician and Portuguese coasts.

Friends and colleagues expressed shock at Mr Sheehy’s death.

“Fishing the big seas and tidal currents around the Blaskets, he was master,” sailor Paddy Barry said.

“His wife, Máire, spoke to me on the phone, numbed. With shock I could barely take it in.

"Together last summer we shouldered the boat up to the cathedral in Santiago. I was to join him next Friday for a week of rowing down the coast of Portugal, camping on the shore by night."

He added: "Danny and I sailed across the Atlantic in the Galway hooker St Patrick, and to Iceland in the yacht Ar Seachrán and many places and times in between. In the roughest of seas and the quietest of starry nights he was my companion and friend," Mr Barry said.

Mr Sheehy has won Oireachtas awards for his poetry and storytelling, and was a broadcaster on Raidió na Gaeltachta and RTÉ Radio 1. He was author of Fan Inti: Naomhóga ó Chorca Dhuibhne go Cábán tSíle, a collection of poetry. Súil Seilge and Allagar na gCloch/Stonechat were among other works.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times