Monday, September 21, 2015

On Inisheer (Inis Óirr)

I have so many photos to share from this pretty island--but I didn't see the water drop on my camera lens so please forgive the occasional blurry spot.

Here is a place with about 300 current residents, a place that can be reached only by boat or by small plane, where electricity was totally dependable until 1997, and where the hardy residents endure the fickleness of the sea and the weather daily. It's quaint, rugged, and yet while we were there my cell phone got pretty good signal, better than I get at home.

Hurling is not just another word for being sick--it's a sport! Here a group of hurlers practice on a field on Inisheer. We had to laugh at the coach, who swore continuously with f word and no one seemed the least bit bothered. That was one thing we learned in Ireland--the f word is simple another adjective there and is pronounced with either a short e or an ooo sound rather than the usual short u. Education, such a blessing!

Looking toward the airport. Yes, that little while building is the airport and there is a runway of sorts out there.

We took a horse and wagon ride around the island so we could see as much as possible while we were there. Here we are passing the cemetery. More on that later. I have to say our driver was less than informative, almost surly. I wish we'd taken the cart of another driver who was singing Whiskey in the Jar while waiting for his passengers at one stop along the tour! I talked with him for a bit and completely enjoyed his happy manner.

See, I told you there was an airport! See the sign, and the runway beyond?

This intrigued me--the thatch was coming off and there was a metal roof under it.

There was no natural soil on Inisheer--soil was created over the years by building these wall enclosures and then filling them with a mix of seaweed and sand. Amazing.Now these small walled fields are pasture for the island's sheep, cattle and horses, and also produce hay.

The island's only freshwater lake, Loch Mor,  was created in the Ice Age.

Imagine how long it must have taken to build all of these walls, and then haul the sand and seaweed to fill them. It boggles the mind. These must have been hardy folk!

This shipwreck (the Plassy) washed up in the 1960's. There were no casualties as the people of the island were able to rescue all crew members. The ship remains, a curious landmark on the small island.

Walls and walls and walls and walls...

Oncoming traffic! In peak season, about 1000 tourists  a day visit the island but on this day there were not nearly that number, at least while we were there. There was a small (very small) hotel with a small pub, a small new teashop where we had tea and scones, and a place right at the dock to rent bikes and buy a few things, but that was pretty much the extent of the commercialism. There are probably some cottages for rent too, I suppose, but I didn't notice any signs to that effect.

Looking toward the Cliffs of Moher, where we were soon bound.

This was quite a sight. This small church was nearly buried by drifting sands but has been excavated and is now kept as clear as possible. It is believed to be the church of Saint Caomhan of Inisheer, and on the islans legend has it that he was a disciple of Saint Kevin, the hermit saint of Wicklow whose tower we visited in 2013.

Apparently a documentary is being made about the church. We were a little startled at first to hear voices coming up out of there, but the mystery was soon explained. I hope I will be able to see this film whenever it comes out.

Celtic crosses are everywhere in Ireland's cemeteries. I was curious about the origin of this cross and the story I was told is echoed in this piece from the Lama Foundation: "One theory of the origin of the Celtic Cross is as a combination of this earlier pagan symbol with the Christian cross. In Irish folklore, it is thought that St. Patrick brought the Celtic cross to Irish pagans to link the earth-centered tradition’s beliefs in the divinity of the sun with the divinity of Christ.  Celtic Christian cross stone monuments began to appear throughout Europe between the 4th and 9th centuries, on the steeples of churches and as grave markers, most notably, the Irish high crosses, (at left) which became characteristic of the Irish catholic church.  On these stone monuments, the circle also serves to stabilize the cross, as stone crosses without this structure are prone to breakage. " This seems to encompass most of the theories I have read about the cross. 

We walked up to the cemetery after leaving our wagon tour.

This small slate-roofed building covers the grave of Saint Caomhan to protect it from further damage or erosion.

 Modern graves are side by side with older ones in the cemetery; this one for William Conneely caught my attention since my father's name was William Connelly. Just a slight difference in spelling!

A closer look at the Saint's grave.

And here a view of O'Brien's Castle which sits on the highest point on the island. We wanted to go up there, but time was running out and our legs were running tired so we walked back down to the village,

past the hurling field and the cussin' coach,

to see the pagan burial ground. This mound, discovered accidentally, has been dated to the Bronze Age, about 1500 BC.

This picture captures much of the island's history and life: the ancient burial site, the cottages, a glimpse of the sea, the hurling field, and over it all the castle ruins.

One other aspect of island life--hay! Coming toward us on a tractor with an invisible driver!

Look at this beach, and the color of the water.

And then, finally, we were back on the ferry and leaving this enchanted little island. I so want to go back and spend a few days here. Next trip! Theresa and I found ourselves saying that again and again during our time in Ireland.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


hart said...

What a lovely place. I'd be tempted by that hotel, must be so quiet at night.--Jane

JJM said...

Re: the f- word pronounced with a short -e- -- feel free not to accept this as a comment, of course, but I thought you might enjoy my favourite song of Fascinating Aida's, wherein this pronunciation is much used.

Mario R.

Mac n' Janet said...

The Irish islands are a part we've never visited, they remind me of the movie Roan Inish.

Granny Sue said...

I hope to go back, Jane, and stay a few days so I can really get into this place. We didn't have nearly enough time.

Granny Sue said...

Janet, that's one of my favorite movies! Now you've reminded me to get it out and watch it again :)

Granny Sue said...

I'll check that out, Mario!

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