Posts tagged with: 'Inishkea'

When I Met Pat Rua Reilly of Belmullet

The Late Pat Rua Reilly of Belmullet

It’s ten years now since I interviewed Pat Rua Reilly. Although he passed away in 2008, just days short of his 101st birthday, I still think of him.

Pat Rua Reilly of Belmullet

Image copyright The Mayo News, reproduced with kind permission.

Pat was born in 1907, to William and Bridget (née O’Donnell) Reilly. He was, at the time of my interview, the last living survivor of the terrible fishing tragedy of the night of October 28, 1927, which took the lives of 10 Iniskea fishermen, including two of his own brothers.

Of course, Pat was interviewed many times in his later life, becoming a living recorder of what life was like on the long since abandoned islands off the western side of the southern Mullet peninsula. Much of the interview I carried out with him at his home in Glenlara is perhaps of little value, other than sentimental to me, but I’ve transcribed here one of the more interesting passages from that day back in the year 2000.

There was something magical about Pat Rua. He had a wonderful way with words and his voice sang with lovely lilting and musical tones, even though, of course, Gaeilge was his native tongue. Despite the years passing since I interviewed him, I still regularly listen back to the tapes as I drive, impersonating the wonderful way he would utter little nuggets, like “not a bit” (in response to what difference it made to move to the mainland from the islands), “you wouldn’t know how they were” (when asked to explain an island custom) or “do you know?”, at the end of almost every sentence.

Then there was that classic island-ism of referring to the island as ‘within’ and the mainland as ‘abroad’.

I started by asking him why it was that the islanders left the Iniskeas.

BM : Why did ye decide to come out ? What was the story ?

PRR (Pat Rua Reilly) : The story was that they wanted them to go out. The priest went at it, do you know ? And he wanted them to come out. They didn’t like to leave them on the island. And another thing then, the land was going against them, do you know ? It wasn’t growing anything for them. It was burned up. What happened the land was, they never put fertiliser on the land. It was the seaweed, come to land, they used put on it, do you know ? And it burned the land. It started bad about after the drowning, after the big drowning. It started burning up. It wasn’t growing right.

BM : And what had it been growing ? Spuds ?

PRR : Oh, there were spuds and grain. Oats and barley. It was growing everything.

BM : So ye did not come out against your will ?

PRR : No, we did not. There was land vacancy out on The Mullet and it was divided between them and each family got about 4 or 5 acres, or 6.

BM : And was there any disagreement ?

PRR : No, no disagreement in the world. Everyone wanted to go. They weren’t bothered. They were all agreed to go.

BM : And they left bit by bit, one by one ?

PRR : Some of them left in 1932, as the houses were completed abroad. That’s why we had to wait on the island until 1934.

BM : And what difference did it make to ye to be on the mainland after ?

PRR : Not a bit. Not a bit.

Pat Rua Reilly was born and reared on the Iniskea Islands

Lying 4 km west of the southern Mullet peninsula, the Iniskeas North and South were re-inhabited from the late 18th to the early 20th Centuries. An earlier Bronze Age to early Christian settlement had long since disappeared.

The islands’ population grew steadily through the 19th and early 20th Centuries, even during the period of the Great Famine in the 1840s.

The second half of the 19th Century saw major land management and other changes on the islands, with the result that emigration took place and, perhaps, the hitherto tight social structure began to unravel. Outside influences multiplied and the islands were to change forever.

The night of October 28, 1927 wreaked havoc on the western seaboard, with over 40 men drowned in a fierce storm, of whom 10 were Iniskea fishermen. Within a few short years, the Iniskeas would be abandoned.

Discover more about the islands here.

I bring groups on guided visits to each of the Iniskea Islands several times each summer. Pat Rua Reilly and his family were from the South Island. Check for any upcoming trips here.

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Western Ocean Weekends in 2010

I’m delighted to announce dates for our three-day walking tours of North West Mayo in 2010.

Western Ocean Weekends will take place on these dates –

May 14 thru 16,

June 18 thru 20,

July 16 thru 18,

August 13 thru 15,

September 10 thru 12,

October 1 thru 3.

Come along and join our small groups on easy to moderate level walks in forests, bogs, low lying hills, cliff-tops and off-shore islands of Co. Mayo.

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Great Weekend in Mayo

What a weekend’s weather we’ve just had in Mayo. We had a really nice group for our walks this weekend, with everybody in the kind of good mood you’ll get with beautiful weather and surroundings.

Take a look at some pictures below. Highlights of the weekend, from a fauna point of view, were around 6 Bottle Nosed Dolphins off the west side of Iniskea South, 9 Grey Seals in ‘Seal Cove’, a Kestrel at Sheskin and, without doubt the highlight for me, 2 Otters at Sheskin also.

I was crouching down on the forest track in Sheskin, looking at the Kestrel that had landed on a nearby conifer, when I heard a “glub, glub” sound coming from the very small, shallow and narrow ditch behind me. I waited for the sound to get just past me, then stood up and saw a beautiful adult otter moving along the ditch. I was able to witness him for a good 10 metres as he pottered along minding his own business, seeing what he could catch for an early dinner. Ten minutes later, another came along in the same direction.


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Western Ocean Weekends

I’m delighted to announce our next three-day walking events in Mayo’s magnificent North West corner.

Saturday to Monday, July 18 to 20.

Friday to Sunday, August 14 to 16.

Iniskea South Island

Iniskea South Island

Day One combines 5 hours in the huge Sheskin Forest and bog complex, with a further 2 1/2 hours on a spectacular cliff-top walk along the Atlantic Coast.

Day Two brings us out to the uninhabited Iniskea Islands, 2 km out in the Atlantic.

Day Three brings us to the gentle hilltops, beaches and sand dunes of the remote Mullet Peninsula. Beautiful views in all directions.

Accommodation is in local guesthouses on The Mullet. The weekend includes 2 x B&B, 2 x dinner, 3 x packed lunches, full guiding throughout and the boat out to the island on Day Two.

As always, do come with good hiking boots (preferably waterproof) and wet gear. This is Mayo. Most of all, come with a love of the outdoors and its inhabitants that we will observe, but not disturb.

If you would like to join our small group for this Western Ocean Walking Weekend, call us on 094 – 9027797, or e-mail info [at] tourismpurewalking [dot] com.

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Next Walking Dates for Mayo

Iniskea South island, Mayo, Ireland

Iniskea South island, Mayo, Ireland

Our three day walking event in North Mayo will next be run from Fri June 19 thru Sun June 21.

We had a really nice small group for the event last weekend and are looking forward to running another, perhaps a little drier, three days next time.

For further information, call me on 094 – 9027797, or email me on info [at] tourismpure [dot] com.

Alternatively, have a look at the entries below, “A Great Weekend in Mayo” and “Wild Mayo in May”.

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A Great Weekend in Mayo

Mayo in May 2009 - Oystercatcher Eggs, Iniskea

Mayo in May 2009 - Oystercatcher Eggs, Iniskea

We’ve just had a wonderful weekend’s walking here in Mayo.

Mayo in May 2009 - Sheskin

Mayo in May 2009 - Sheskin

On Friday, we started off with a large Irish Hare running around the bog at Sheskin and having the decency to go zig zag, rather than in a straight line, so we could have a good long look. The rain was pretty continuous, but our little group was so wet so soon that people gave us worrying about it and got stuck in. Great day.



Mayo in May 2009 - Iniskea

Mayo in May 2009 - Iniskea

Saturday saw us off to the wonderful Iniskea South island. We observed Grey Seal, Shag, Cormorant, Great Black Backed Gull, Common Gull, Arctic Tern, Oystercatcher, Fulmar, Raven, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and others. Most walkers enjoyed the seals the most, although succeeding in not stepping on these Oystercatcher eggs was the highlight for me.



Mayo in May 2009 - The Mullet

Mayo in May 2009 - The Mullet

On Sunday, we took a leisurely stroll around the southern tip of The Mullet itself, changing from quiet roads, to hillside tracks, to sand and rocks. We saw Skylark, Wheatear, Gannet, Sand Martin and others. We dropped into Ionad Deirbhile for the cup of tea and scone. Heck, we didn’t even manage to get too wet yesterday. Some of us fitted through the east window of Teampaill Deirbhile. Those who didn’t, won’t be telling.


Our next Three Days in Mayo walks take place Friday, June 19th to Sunday, June 21st. Come along, relax and you will enjoy.

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