Voices of the Past in Ireland's Abandoned Islands
It's often a romantic notion we have of living on islands. Back then, when they had to produce all their own food and shelter for survival, there wasn't much romance in the air. Today, however, things are different.
|School house on Achillbeg.|
On the Skelligs, the Blaskets, Scattery, Inishark, the Inishkeas, Achilbeg, Inishmurray, Gola and others there are many abandoned dwellings left behind when life became just too difficult and the people or the government could no longer support the remote lifestyles in an ever changing world. Some go back to abandonment in prehistoric and Viking times, other more recent. Instead of continuing to struggle and requiring ever more expensive life support services, people moved, often en masse, to the mainland where they could live their lives with access to healthcare and food stores and many other people with whom to share the burdens. But they left so much of themselves behind -- the sorrows, the sweat, and the joys. And after those were forgotten, new people followed in their wakes, once again searching for the serenity and freedom that disconnected island life affords.
|Abandoned village in the Inishkeas|
|Sand dunes taking back their property|
But life goes on. The children come home from school. The animals must be fed. The crops must be tended. Whether or not the men come home. And whether or not they come home with fish on which to feed. Then one day it all gets to be too much and someone sends for a boat to rescue those that remain.
|Treasures left behind within the ruins|
Then, as the stress of modern life takes it toll, the children's children return to the peace of the island paradise with clear aqua waters, and bright white sands butting up against striated rocks sprinkled with shiny fool's gold, containing the impossibly green fields where sheep still roam. They go there to recharge their souls and breathe deeply of the fresh air, watch the birds dive and fish for mackerel fresh from the sea. It is not survival conditions now, yet in a way it is. It is not a matter of eking out a living there but rather of saving the heart and soul. Survival nevertheless. But about thriving not about dying. What a reversal of fortunes.
They restore the old homesteads that they now own and banish the spirits of those that never rest while conversing with the spirits of those who remember better days. They return to the land to which their spirits belong. It calls to them clearly in its lamenting tone, "Come home." And home they go.
|Restoration and coming back on Gola.|
|Abandoned homes on Gola|
|Mix of restored and abandoned homes on Achillbeg.|
|Clues to days past on Achillbeg|