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I met Tim Kelly (80) at his mobile home in Fenit, where he informed me that 15 years earlier he had sailed from Australia to Ireland, a story that I was fascinated to hear. It was interesting to listen to him relating the circumstances that led to his emigration from Templenoe in South Kerry, at the age of 18. Arriving in Sydney, he went north to work in the sugar cane farms. He married a local woman there and had 3 children. Finding that he was unable to settle there he left everything behind him to travel to Melbourne where he began a new job as a mechanical engineer. This lasted for 20 years, until he felt that he wanted to return to Ireland. He built himself a boat which he knew would be capable of making the mammoth trip from Australia to Ireland. This brought to the end of part 1 in this two-part recording.

Tim Kelly was 62 when he finally set sail on his boat, on the adventure of a lifetime heading back home from Australia, a dream which finally came true. He told me, in much detail, how he built the boat single-handedly, and I was interested to find out if there were any sea-faring people in his family. He informed me that two of his uncles had died while fishing near Sneem. He himself had had very little experience of sailing, but had no fear of the sea. His voyage began at the port of Brisbane and he sailed up the Great Barrier Reef and across the Gulf of Carpentaria and into Darwin. Tim continued with his fascinating story about his voyage across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, to reach Ireland 2 years after he left Brisbane.

Returning again to Tim Kelly’s mobile home for part three of the recording, I wanted to hear more details about his adventures, sailing across three oceans to reach Ireland two years after he set sail. This interview took place on Fenit Island as we walked across the beach, quite close to the point where he finally completed his voyage. He spoke again about building the boat and setting off from Brisbane, sailing first to Darwin and then across the Indian Ocean. He rounded the Cape, swung north and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil, after which he sailed north to Newfoundland. From there he travelled across the Atlantic to landfall in Ireland at Banna Beach. Tim talked in great detail about all of his experiences at each port of call, the difficulties he faced during the long days and nights on his own, until finally sighting the south coast of Ireland. He describes his pure elation knowing that he had finally completed his amazing journey.

Keywords: emigration, Templenoe, South Kerry, Sydney, labourer, Australia, sugar cane, Melbourne, Indian Ocean, navigation, sailing, Fenit, Fenit Island, seafaring,


Additional information



Audio series:

Kerry county, fourth series


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

39.34 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



A solo sea voyage

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe