This Wonderful Little Place … Lake Turkana, Kenya

The well-travelled actor and musician PATRICK BERGIN discovered this lake while filming in Africa

Something I do periodically is disappear into what I call the “Bergin Triangle”. I crisscross the sea frequently and have homes all over the world – in Los Angeles, UK and in Ireland – where I live in a castle in Cloughjordan, Tipperary. Home is where I write songs, which I’ve been doing all my life. When I was younger I had a folk club in London and I would take off frequently to busk around Europe with my guitar. It was one way to see the world – I was particularly drawn to Greece and the island of Rhodes. I think this has something to do with my genetic roots. The name Bergin has its origins in the Milesian tribes of ancient Greece, and legend has it a poet called Amergin came to Ireland and gave Éire its name. I find the poetic connection fascinating. I’ve been back to Greece many times.

When I got my break in acting, I was able to travel even further – one of the most memorable locations was Baffin Island in the Arctic circle, where I stayed with an Inuit tribe and lived in an igloo during the filming of Map of the Human Heart [1993].

Of course everyone asks me about Sleeping with the Enemy which I starred in with Julia Roberts [1991]. The location was in North Carolina, more precisely Figure Eight Island, and the beach featured was Wrightsville. People are always surprised when I tell them the house used was actually a prop as there was an issue filming in the original property scouted. There’s even more surprise, or perhaps relief, when I tell people I am very messy, unlike the character I played!

My favourite place is without doubt Lake Turkana in Kenya. It’s one of the largest of the many lakes in the country, on the border of Ethiopia. I discovered this part of Africa when I was starring in Mountains of the Moon [1990]. I played Richard Francis Burton, an explorer of Irish descent, who set off to discover the source of the Nile.

I loved seeing the diversity of wildlife converging on the lake at sunset. While I was there, I stayed with a tribe called the El Molo, who live in straw huts and who were pescatarians – they ate Nile perch on the banks of the lake.

I also met the Rindili Tribe, who are nomadic and eat only camel’s milk and camel’s blood. I will never forget an encounter I had when I met one of their warriors out in the wilderness. He asked me where I was from. When I said Ireland, he drew me close and asked me in a whisper if we were still having problems between Catholics and Protestants … Unbelievable!

This year started with a performance at the National Concert Hall and on the horizon is a new film – The Last American Criminal – in which I play the title role. Filming for that took place in South Africa just before Christmas. I do like the clinical nature of filming, its precision and the ability to retake scenes. As for learning lines – it’s a good exercise for memory and conentration. I hate to see younger actors or singers using their mobiles during performances as aides-memoire. Bob Dylan always said know your song well before you perform, and I believe that way you can also better communicate the sentiments.

I’m involved in other creative projects this year, one of which is bringing a major musical to Cork at Easter. I hope to repeat the success of last year’s Murder at Shady Hall, which we performed at Cork Opera House. Regardless of whether I am acting or singing, my joy comes from a story well told.

Penny McCormick

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