Up in Smoke

Local sources in Achill Sound have told us a story about a galvanised lean-to shed that was once located on the site of the library. The shed, which was attached to Coynes sweet shop, was apparently rented by an artist and used as a workshop/studio. Martin Coyne, a retired guard, reputedly cleared out the shed after the artist’s departure and found a lot of sketches books, drawings, unfinished paintings, an easel and paint brushes. Unfortunately he took this material down to the across the road and set fire to it.

There is some confusion as to the identity of the artist. We were told the story because it was believed to be associated with Paul Henry, but there is a strong possibility that the shed was actually used by Alexander Williams RHA (1846-1930), who is known to have lived nearby at Bleanaskill Bay.  The source for the story referred to the artist as ‘the sketcher’, a nickname that was possibly used for both Williams and Henry, hence the confusion.

The former location of a lean-to shed in Achill Sound used by Paul Henry.
The former location of a lean-to shed in Achill Sound used by Alexander Williams RHA.

It is unlikely that Henry would choose to spend money on a second rented premises on the island given his well known financial situation. He frequently paid Sweeney’s shop (Achill Sound) in kind with paintings, but all of these also went up in smoke in a fire at the premises in 1926.

John Sweeney at the site where Martin Coyne reputedly burned sketchbooks, drawings and unfinished paintings left behind by Alexander Williams RHA.

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