Jim Manley is an artist, born on 17 January 1934, in St Helens, Lancashire, England. He has lived in Killough, County Down, Northern Ireland since 1971. He uses mixed media (mainly water colours and acrylic).
His choice of the Sweeney theme, which he has quarried at intervals for nearly two decades, is not as strange as it may seem. Sweeney, as created in the Irish epic Buile Suibhne - one of the major achievements of medieval literature - inhabits the topography of County Antrim and the adjacent County Down. It is natural that Manley, the hill walker and mountain-climber, should respond to the medieval poet's descriptions of what Seamus Heaney (who translated the epic into English) termed the 'beauties and seventies of the natural world'.
The story focuses upon the fate of Sweeney, the King of Dal Araidhe, who was cursed by Saint Ronan, turned into a bird, and driven mad, left foraging for himself until the curse was fulfilled by his death. The title of Heaney's version, Sweeney Astray, prompted the artist in a certain direction. There is a scrake of volcanic rock which juts out of the sea called Ailsa Craig. If you take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland you'll notice off the coast of Ayrshire. How, wondered the artist, would Sweeney survive on such an inhospitable, place, albeit one that was a veritable city of nesting birds?