Melanie Ward meets Bobby Coote


I’ve been a fan of Bobby Coote since I watched The Man Who Wanted to Fly. This award-winning documentary film followed Bobby as he realised his dream of taking to the skies in a micro-light aircraft. He was 81 at the time. Seven years later he’s making the news again, after holding his first art exhibition and I met him at Bailieborough Library to talk about his life, work and art.

Bobby was born and reared in a townland outside Maudabawn, in Co. Cavan, and apart from a time spent working in England in the sixties has lived all his life there. As well as painting, he makes violins and fixes clocks.

I met Bobby and his neighbour, Catherine, at the Library. Catherine explained that Bobby had been talking about holding an exhibition for a number of years but lock-down derailed the plan.

Earlier this year they approached Padraig MacIntyre of Ramor Theatre (Virginia) for help; he suggested asking the County Council, who were keen to assist and Cavan Library Service offered the use of an exhibition space.

Bobby’s paintings are mainly of landscapes, usually featuring lakes or the sea, and his ability to capture the way light moves on water is impressive. I was particularly taken with a painting of two horses so life-like I thought they were about to break out of the canvas (unfortunately it had already been sold).
“Its all in the shading,” Bobby said, going on to explain that sometimes it’s a good idea to smudge the paint with your finger or thumb to get the right effect.

Each painting takes him about six to eight hours to complete, though it might be longer as Bobby gets so engrossed in the work, he sometimes loses track of time.
He often takes a break when painting then looks at it again as, “Your eyes could be fooling you if you’re looking at it too much.”

He completed his first painting in his thirties – a landscape that he gifted to his sister in England.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own