Walter Macken and Gort na Ganiv
A writer in Oughterard
According to his son Ultan, Walter Macken’s attitude to writing was based on the premise that a writer should not leave his own country, and that the life of a writer should be like that of a monk: through isolation, peace, and serenity he could be most creative. To further this, on the advice of his publisher, Macmillan, he left Dublin to find a place where he could discover this serenity.
The house he chose was called Gort na Ganiv in Oughterard, 20 miles from Galway City, and about half a mile from Loch Corrib. In a secluded wild area of Connemara the property had a boathouse on the lake, which provided Walter with seclusion, as he partook of his main form of recreation, fishing. He lived there from 1951 to 1966. During the years he spent there, he wrote seven other novels The Bogman (1952), Sunset on the Windowpanes (1954), Sullivan (1957), Seek the Fair Land (1959), The Silent People (1962), The Scorching Wind (1966) and The Brown Lord of the Mountain (1967). In between times he took on a couple of film roles.
Each morning Walter would go into the living room or study in Oughterard at around ten o’clock. He would often smoke nearly a packet of cigarettes, walking round the table before he sat down to write. This was because whatever he was thinking about, whether it was a short story, a play or a novel he would have worked out in his head the night before. He would have worked out exactly what part of the plot he was going to write. He would write for maybe half an hour to three quarters of an hour and then when he was finished typing he’d call Peggy into the living room and he would read the material straight off the typewriter.
In early 1966, Walter and Peggy decided to move from Gort na Ganiv to the small Gaeltacht village of Menlo. They had only been there eight months when on 22 nd of April 1967 Walter died suddenly from heart failure. He was only 51 years of age