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Duais Dìleab Chaluim Chille / COLMCILLE LEGACY AWARD

Thomas Keyes

Thomas Keyes is based in Cromarty and about his approach to the award, he says:

My work sits in the space created by two letter writing traditions that washed up on the shores of Ireland 1500 years apart, yet share much in form, content and cultural application; the graffiti culture that spread from the New York Transit System and took root in Belfast in 1983, and the book culture that arrived sometime in the 5th century with Romano British missionaries and went on to facilitate the greatest feat of calligraphy ever achieved with the Book of Kells in the 9th century. 

I learned letter arts through the craft of graffiti in the 1990’s and this later sparked interest in the incredible graphic quality of the books of early medieval Ireland. Now I produce all the parchment and pigments I need from my surroundings in order to engage with the ancient tradition of the Insular Monastic scribe.

Recently the stories and the culture have drawn me in as much as the graphic art and material processes. I am now a learner of Gaelic language and history and that, along with continuing material research is the main focus of my future artwork.

Michael Newton and myself took inspiration from the story of Colmcille growing up in Derry and leaving Ireland to settle on Iona. Michael created a version of the story in Gaelic, while I produced a manuscript representing the story using the tools, materials and techniques that Colmcille would have been familiar with and that got him into trouble when he copied out a new version of the book he borrowed from Fintan."

A feature on how Thomas created the manuscript is available on the Celtic Nations Magazine website.

Details of the processes involved can be seen at