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A tribute to filmmaker and conservationist Éamon de Buitléar


06-02-2013 12:30

A tribute to filmmaker and conservationist Éamon de Buitléar

 

It was a chance meeting with Éamon de Buitléar’s daughter, Róisín, that brought about the publication in 2004 of his autobiography, A Life in the Wild. His family and close friends had been trying to persuade him to write a memoir, but without much success. Perhaps an approach from a publisher might provide the decisive encouragement?

 

I had first met Éamon in the 1970s when he wrote for us the text of Out and About, a textbook on nature studies for primary schools. So when I approached him again about the year 2001 and suggested an autobiography, it was a question of rekindling an old acquaintanceship. At first he was reticent, then enthusiasm grew and finally he set to work with great energy and diligence. Chapter after chapter arrived in chronological order, and meticulously presented. He constantly sought comment and criticism so that the text could be improved. He accepted suggestions readily and delighted in discussing the entire publishing process.

 

Choosing the illustrations was a particular joy. He had a wonderful collection assembled in his delightful house in Delgany and we had several meetings there, fuelled by tea and scones provided by his charming wife Laillí.

 

On publication there was a launch in the National Museum, an occasion enlivened by Éamon playing the harmonica after a very brief author’s speech. Later as he signed copies of his book, I had to intervene at one stage and suggest that he not write essays taking five minutes over every copy. Time was running out, we were about to be expelled from the museum and there were perhaps 30 more people still in the queue.

 

Michael Viney wrote that Éamon de Buitléar had ‘enriched our vision and brought a vivid wholeness to what it means to be Irish’. This wholeness was made vividly evident during Éamon’s deeply moving funeral in Co. Wicklow at the end of January. It was a privilege to have known him, and an honour to be his publisher.

 

Michael Gill

Chairman of M.H. Gill & Co. Unlimited Company



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