Michael Joe O’Malley

The former owner of what is now Macalla Farm, Michael Joe was a truly unique individual. He lived his entire life on Clare Island, save for a year when he worked on building sites in England. Though he had no further formal education past national school, he possessed a huge intellect and a keenly analytical mind.

He was an autodidact and his impressive library reflected the vast scope of his interests and knowledge.  In addition to his extensive collection of classic literature and first editions of many Irish novels and books of poetry, one could find on his dusty, makeshift shelves an early translation of the yoga sutras of Patanjali as well as a copy of Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching sitting alongside the works of  Marx, Wittgenstein, Kavanagh and Beckett.

In the introduction to his (unpublished) Psychological Treatise, written in the late 1960’s, he described himself as a “self-styled poet, philosopher, anthropologist, sociologist, ecologist, ethnologist, psychologist, codologist” who after leaving school at the age of 12 “has been fisherman, shepherd, veterinary surgeon, farmer, lighthouse keeper (at present does light housekeeping work in his hovel) rate-collector and wellington-fixer.” Read more here.

Among his close friends were his cousin, the painter Tony O’Malley and the independent film maker and writer Bob Quinn. His island cottage was truly an open house: accommodating writers, artists, travellers, hippies, lost souls and seekers of truth. Long before the notion of wwoofing was invented, people from all manner of backgrounds and international origins found themselves helping at the farm, participating in an approach to life which emphasized hard physical work alongside equally valued intellectual effort. Ciara was the last to arrive on the scene in the early 1980’s and stayed with Michael for eight years until his death in 1989.

He had an unusually open mind and chose to see the opportunity and accessibility that an island symbolically affords (being approachable from all sides) rather than its isolation. What he would have made of the internet had he lived to use it! But more than anything else, Michael’s strong sense of self was solidly connected to the earth beneath his feet, allowing him to access what he described as the ‘inviolable core of solitude’ at the centre of his being.

As per his wishes, he was not buried in the graveyard on the island but on Macalla, the hill above his house. He remains a potent inspiration for us, an echo and ever present sounding board for those of us who walk in his footsteps.

We feel that he would approve of how Macalla Farm has developed.

Michael Joe O Malley
December 1914 – August 1989

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