The Sculptor And The IRA Leader 1973
From RTE Archives
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Sculptor Helen Hooker O’Malley Roelofs talks about her first husband Ernie O’Malley.
At her home on the shores of Clew Bay, the American sculptor tells Cathal O’Shannon about her art and meeting her first husband Ernie O’Malley.
Opposites attract, as is evident in the case of Helen Hooker and Ernie O’Malley. On one side, an artist from an old established New England family in Connecticut. On the other, a former soldier, revolutionary and writer, born in Castlebar.
Ernie O’Malley had been travelling in the United States of America for some years before Helen Hooker met him in 1933. She was impressed by his knowledge of American history and his at that time unconventional connection to Native American people,
He looked on them as almost holy men, with a tremendous tradition, and a minority that had been abused by the white race, as the Irish had been abused by the English.
She asked him to sit for her, and that sealed their fate,
I’d never met an Irishman. And his absolutely dedicated face that I’d never seen, like a cliff, or the prow of a ship. Hungry, lean I caught it in the portrait. I think I caught it in the portrait. But it was simply fascinating to me.
Parental disapproval meant that the couple eventually married in London, and then moved to Ireland. Helen sculpted many well-known and famous Irish people. She was delighted to meet the writer Frank O’Connor, as his short story ‘Guests of the Nation’ was the first work that Ernie O’Malley had read aloud to her.
Other works by the sculptor include actress Siobhán McKenna, Agnes O’Flaherty and Maud Gonne.
The one person who stands above all others in the memory of Helen Hooker O’Malley Roelofs is an old seanchaí,
He met me at the stile of the house I interviewed him, as graciously as though he’d been royalty. He came in he couldn’t see he had been blind for fifty years.
This episode of ‘Tangents’ was broadcast on 24 October 1973. The reporter is Cathal O’Shannon.