“IT’S worth throwing a net out and seeing what we’ll catch. You can find the most unlikely person doing the most amazing things – you just have to give them a chance,” explained artist Philippa Bayliss from her studio at her home in Myshall.
She and local publican Gretta Roberts are heading up an art and crafts competition, Cuisle Mhiseal, inviting people from Myshall and Drumphea to capture the area in whatever medium they like. Pottery, batik work, photography, painting and drawing – the actual medium doesn’t matter as long as the essence of the area is captured.
“This is open to people from this area. Gretta and I are keen on fostering talent; we’ve no idea what we’ll end up with!” she smiles.
The 79-year-old Philippa is a well-known artist who has worked as a professional painter all of her life. She’s no stranger to fostering talent either, because it was from her home in Straffan, Co Kildare that a young singer/songwriter called Glen Hansard first found the security and encouragement to really focus on his life as a musician. It was Philippa who took him in when he was 15 years’ old and nurtured his talent after he first arrived home one day with her son Temple Garner. She’s written to Glen, asking him to donate a prize to her art and crafts competition.
“I’m friendly with Glen Hansard, did you know?” she said as she sparked up a cigarette at her kitchen table, before revealing that she encouraged him to go to music college. “He was so absolutely brilliantly talented. He just needed a chance, that’s all, and I thought that he might need the discipline of music college. Boy, oh boy, did that pay off! It gave him that grounding that he needed. He’s written about all this himself, so I don’t need to be modest about it!”
Philippa is not only a member of the gentry (her mother’s family came from Loftus Hall near Hook Head in Wexford), she’s Catholic gentry. “I’m an even smaller minority within a very small minority!” she laughed.
Through her connections, she met a lot of rich and famous people down the years, some of whom commissioned her to paint for them, including Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, who asked her to paint their children’s portraits. She wasn’t at all fazed by the company of wild, infamous rock stars, though.
“I quite liked Mick. He was like six people all at the same time – he was frighteningly intelligent and intellectual. Not at all like his public persona,”she says.
These days, Philippa spends her time working in her garden in Myshall on the foothills of Mount Leinster. It’s on the Carlow Garden Trail, so over the next few months she’ll have visitors – gardening enthusiasts to whom she’ll explain the seed, breed and generations of the flowers and plants. If ever anyone asks, she might even explain her own seed, breed and generation to them, as particular as it is.
Until the age of 18, she lived “just across the road” in Corries, Bagenalstown, but now that she’s back in Co Carlow she’s “just a blow-in”.
“People think that I’m a blow-in here. I’m from Carlow! It’s not fair! My childhood was spent in Corries, for goodness sake! I’m not a blow-in, I’m an oddity! I’m the wrong age, wrong sex, wrong class! I just don’t fit!” she concluded with a glint in her eye.
A minority within a minority, living in the heart of rural Carlow.
For more information on how to enter the arts and crafts competition, email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a note into a box in Myshall Post Office any time. The closing date is Friday 17 May and you can contact Gretta on 059 9157612. An exhibition of the entries will take place two days later, on Sunday 19 May, in Myshall Community Hall. Guest of honour is artist Elizabeth Cope and all are welcome to attend.