Sailing on tall ships were the happiest years...

Triona O’Neill talks pastel art, sailing on tall ships and her interest in lunar and biodynamic gardening
Sailing on tall ships were the happiest years...

Artist Triona O’Neill. Picture: Judy O'Brien Hanley

Tell us about yourself:

I was born in Glenvera Nursing Home in Cork and grew up on 45 acres just outside of Kinsale in Co. Cork. I spent many happy years walking through the fields, the woodland and headlands, taking in the colours that nature had to offer through the different seasons and enjoyed my youth.

My parents had a caravan at Lower Cove, quite near the homestead, where we spent all our summers swimming, sailing and fishing as both parents loved the sea, mum being a competitive swimmer with Dolphin S.C. in her youth, and dad being heavily involved with the fishing community — he was honoured with the Chevalier d’Ordre du Merite by the French Government in 1991 for 50 years’ service to French fishermen, a task my brother continues to this day!

I now live in Carrigaline, just outside Cork city, a growing suburban village! I am a retired EEG Technician, which was my ‘proper’ job, before retiring and going to sea for a while... among other activities....


I am the eldest of four and my brother lives in Kinsale and has three sons, all grown up and working.

Best friend?

I have many friends from different aspects of my life and it would really be unfair to any of them to single one out. I can call on any of them for help/pint at any time of the day or night!

Who do you most admire?

Joanne O’Riordan is a person I admire, for many reasons, but mainly for her courage and tenacity in all she has achieved in her young age. She really has guts!

Earliest childhood memory?

I was never one to take ‘proper’ holidays as most of my spare time was spent sailing down west to the various regattas or to events overseas so they were not real holidays in that sense... but one outstanding trip was on the STS Lord Nelson, a tall ship specially built to enable people with disabilities to participate alongside able bodied people.

I was asked by the Scottish Disabled Sailing Group to ‘buddy’ one of their sailors on the tall ships race into Dublin in 1998... I was honoured to do so and it started a whole new career for me, in that I went on to work on several tall ships as relief cook, the Jeanie Johnston being the best as it was the first time I crossed the Atlantic by sea... followed by another trip later on the Tenacious, a sister ship to the Lord Nelson.

I also served time on the Asgard II and Dunbrody, spending a combined 10 years between them all ... I can safely say they were the happiest years, meeting new people on a weekly basis and seeing new places and sights.

Triona O'Neill and artist John Jermyn who launched Triona's exhibition at the Mad Fish Restaurant, Cronin's Crosshaven. Picture: Joleen Cronin.
Triona O'Neill and artist John Jermyn who launched Triona's exhibition at the Mad Fish Restaurant, Cronin's Crosshaven. Picture: Joleen Cronin.

Favourite TV programme?

As I worked at sea for ten years, I saw little or no television nor read many newspapers, and since buying my own home more than ten years ago, I did NOT purchase a TV... if I really want to see something interesting I will pop down to the Yacht Club and enjoy it over a few drinks with friends, but that is a rare occasion as there is little on the TV which is that interesting!

Favourite radio show?

I listen to Lyric FM mainly, avoiding the everyday mundane news and, if not listening to that, I listen to my own music collection which varies from Irish traditional to classical to sea shanties, etc... none of your noisy ‘modern’ stuff, I’m afraid.

Your signature dish if cooking?

Needless to say, as I worked as a relief cook, I love cooking.... not sure if the permanent crew would agree!!. but I do confess to making a mean chocolate cake... none of my friends/crew have been poisoned yet anyway.

Favourite restaurant?

As I love food, my choice to be spoilt would be either Max’s Wine Bar or Man Friday in Kinsale.

Last book you read?

Reading of course keeps me occupied when not doodling with pastels, knitting, tapestry or doing my garden. It’s easy to read with nice classical music in the background and I have recently finished Lorna Byrne’s newest book Angels At My Fingertips, which I found difficult to put down. I do also enjoy a good detective/thriller novel.

The last CD you bought?

The Gloaming was the last CD I bought following a lovely concert at the Tracton Arts Centre with Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill... he really makes that fiddle talk... such magic...what a talent.

Morning person/ night owl?

I am neither a morning person nor a night owl as I have no difficulty being up at the crack of dawn nor finishing a project into the wee hours of the morning.

Your proudest moment?

I suppose I could say one of my proudest moments was when the Irish Disabled Sailing Group, which I took to the European Championships in Murcia, Spain, qualified for the Worlds... it was worth all the hard work and cold water just to see that achievement. Some of them went further and got to the Paralympics and did us proud.

And selling my first painting... well, that was just luck!

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

What would I like for my area... for them to stop the use of weed-killers and pesticides and for the council to stop hacking the ditches, particularly in the ‘out of season’ cutting times. Sharpen the blades and, better still, get the professionals in to do the job. We need to protect our wildlife and our flora and fauna... without them there will be nothing for the future generations.

What makes you happy?

I am happiest when outdoors, no matter what the weather, with my two best buddies, my dogs... be it at the beach or in the garden, either working or painting.

Artist Triona O'Neill. Picture Joleen Cronin.
Artist Triona O'Neill. Picture Joleen Cronin.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a kind person who wasn’t afraid of hard work, a challenge and a pint or two!

What else are you up at at the moment?

Presently, I am looking deeply into Lunar and Biodynamic gardening, hence the reason the use of pesticides by others is doing my head in... and also my garden, as the spray comes over the walls and threatens to kill my vegetables and flowers... and of course, doing more pastel art!

An exhibition of Triona’s wildlife pastels is on show at Cronin’s Pub Crosshaven, in the Mad Fish restaurant, until June 18.

The influence of the Wild Atlantic Way is very much evident in her work, with scenes depicting iconic birds and native flowers.

Coming up later this year will be work from Killian O’Sullivan, Sabina Lucas, Karen Hickey, Helle Helsner and Niki Purcell. The popular seaside pub is also home to Crosshaven’s Knit & Natter group, Crosshaven Film Club and weekly Sunday music sessions.

Check out Triona’s website at or email

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