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Gifted, graceful and generous

De Facto

HUGE LOSS The late Veronica Bolay, pictured in 2016 at the Custom House Studios and Gallery, Westport. Pic: Conor McKeown

Veronica Bolay, an appreciation

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

During a visit to the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg I noticed a colleague ‘in another world’ as he focused on Rembrandt’s ‘The Descent From the Cross’. He was stuck to the floor with tears streaming down his face as he gazed at the painting.
My thoughts went back to seminary days and the kind and wonderful Dr Eileen Kane, UCD History of Art lecturer. She opened our eyes and hearts to the beauty and majesty of art.
In the mid-1990s I visited an art exhibition in The Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar. Almost immediately I was the one stuck to the floor with the tears running down my face. A painting evoking unmade music moved me deeply. It was as if it was gently but firmly wired through to my heart.
The artist was Veronica Bolay. We became friends that day. It all came crowding in during her funeral Mass in Dublin last Tuesday as her son, Aengus, gave a heartfelt tribute. Poet and friend Brian Lynch eulogised about the beautiful woman from Hamburg, who, along with her late husband, Peter Jankowsky, moved to Dublin in the early 1970s. Liverpool-based Castlebar composer Donal Sarsfield musically enriched the liturgy.
Veronica lived in Letterbrock, Westport. Despite a few hiccups at the outset, she settled in well. When we’d meet she would talk and talk – because she spent so much time on her own! She laughed at the notion!
She was a beautiful woman, not just in appearance but deep down in her heart and soul. She was funny and had a sense of humour not usually associated with Germans. That may sound strange, but she would understand exactly. She was also logical and exacting, with a deep sense of compassion.
She had great time for people and saw the wonderful in the ordinary. Her true heroes were people like the late Bernie Winters of Clare Island, where she once lived. She could see things differently and still smile. One of my prized possessions is a straw bowl made by Bernie, a gift from Veronica.
Veronica Bolay was magnanimous and selfless. She shared her talents willingly, supported other artists, especially emerging artists and encouraged all, particularly art-loving school students.
Her artwork was tender, inspiring, meditative and stimulating. She had a gentle stroke with innate purpose and great depth. Her work was an invitation to participate and be a part of.
On a midge-strewn Croagh Patrick in September 1999, awaiting the descent of artist Chris Doris after 40 days and nights on the summit, I complimented Paul Durcan on a poem he wrote about Veronica before I introduced him to her.
Poet Durcan has written several poems inspired by Veronica: ‘The Hay Carrier’ (from the collection ‘A Snail in My Prime’); ‘Island Musician Going Home’ (from ‘Greetings To Our Friends In Brazil’); ‘Youth and Sea-Haze (Portnakilly Pier, Clare Island)’ (from The Days of Surprise); ‘Charles Brady, Painter and Passing Through’ (from ‘Praise in Which I Live and Move and Have My Being’); ‘Badgers’ (from ‘The Laughter of Mothers’).
Once at Bertrá Strand, Veronica met my late father, Joe, who was walking the beach with a younger female family friend. Veronica approached them to ask, “Are you two lovers?” My father and friend got such a laugh! He often asked about my ‘Are you two lovers?’ friend.
Veronica and I exchanged clippings on Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley (her favourite) and Nick Drake. Putting away the Christmas decorations last week, I stumbled on a 2014 card from Veronica. Serendipity?
Her name, from ‘Vera Icon’, means ‘true image’ (sixth Station of the Cross – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus). She was that and more. She hankered after truth, yearning for all it envisaged. Truth was her arrow.
Veronica Bolay was an exceptional human being – gifted, graceful and generous. She will be deeply missed, personally and in the community. I cannot but smile when I think of her – thankful our lives crossed. Condolences to her beloved son, Aengus; his wife, Irina; their daughter, Mila; family and friends.
Möge sie in Frieden ruhen agus go luífidh sí in leaba na Naomh.