When we popped into the kitchen to let our hosts know we were off for the day Brendan dashed into the pantry, returning with packages of biscuits. “Here now, you might take these just in case.” Just in case what? Unspoken, the question hung in the air. “Well, you never know when you might be getting hungry.” We thanked him, tucked the biscuits in our daypacks and drove up Ireland’s west coast to the Mullaghmore pier.
It was a small boat but comfortable enough for the six passengers. The only shelter from wind and sea spray was the one person pilot cabin where our captain happily settled himself for the duration of our voyage. As we made our way out of the harbor and into the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean it was clear he wouldn’t be volunteering any information about our Inishmurray destination.
Yet there was much to know about this island with its monastic ruins, row of abandoned houses, crumbling church, cursing stones, graveyards and even a sweat lodge. So much history in a landscape two miles long and less than a mile wide. Although close enough to be visible from the mainland, rough seas and weather can render Inishmurray inaccessible for weeks and sometimes months at a time. With no beach or pier, landing a boat requires sidling up to the rock formations that are the island’s geological foundation, finding one about level with the boat, and jumping as the boat bumps against the massive stones. An adventure just to get there, yet this inaccessibility has served to preserve the island’s historic artifacts.
As we approached the island I studied the shoreline as the abandoned houses came into view. Scanning to the north I identified the schoolhouse but was surprised to see that instead of an open air ruin the building had a brand new metal roof and front door. Curious. I imposed myself on our captain’s sanctuary to ask him about this. “Well you see they had to do that for folks that get stuck on the island. Just a month ago I took some people out. It was a fine day. Just like this. But then the weather turned on us and I couldn’t get back to pick them up. They were out there for three days and finally a helicopter had to go out to bring ’em back.” I mentally counted the biscuit packages in our packs and wondered if someone in that stranded group had turned one of the cursing stones. Continue reading