Michael Quirke

Michael Quirke is an incredible folklorist, woodcarver and general character whose workshop (a converted butcher shop--his former trade) is in Wine Street, Sligo town. While a steady stream of customers watches him work, he gives a continuous and fascinating narrative on Irish mythology, specializing in Sligo myths. His gorgeous and affordable figures illustrate stories from Ireland's history and myths.

In 1995 Mr. Quirke made me a large sheela-na-gig "carved in Sligo sycamore". The enclosed description stated, "Tara, a chara: Sile 'na Gig (Sile ina Caoch?) "Bitter one on her haunches? A Scots poet suggested to me that she appeared on monastarys (sic) and convents to put the inmates off sex!?--It's a theory. I feel she's a depiction of the third person of the old feminine Trinity: Virgin-Mother-Crone. As Crone she is inviting the hero back into her womb--another theory, slan beo agus beir bua, Michael Quirke". See My collectionfor a shot of this carving.

Mr. Quirke made another sheela-na-gig for a treasure hunt in 1993 in Donegal sponsored by Cumann Gaelach Chnoc Na Ros in Derry. Clues to the treasure hunt were written in verse in the book Sheila na Gig: A Celtic Treasure Hunt. The book opens:

Whom do you seek?
Mother of Celts,
tutor of warriors,
bearer of sons.

Where does she lie?
Look for her under,
numbers shall render
the place where she slumbers.

How shall these measure?
By feet and degrees,
some waxing some waning
to guide you the ways.

Alone in the darkness,
interred by a triad,
bringer of power,
secret of druids.

Let the quest begin.

The winner was rewarded with Mr. Quirke's buried sheela-na-gig.

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copyright 2000 Tara McLoughlin