Local History by Seán Beattie

Inishtrahull, Uncategorised

Inishtrahull Revisited 2020

This summer there has been a revival of interest in the island, thanks to the service provided by the yacht AMAZING GRACE and INISHOWEN BOATING.  The arrival of a pod of dolphins along the sea route has been an added attraction. In the records relating to the island, there are no reports of the presence of dolphins although seals have been around for many years in the vicinity of the island. Nicholas Worthington of the Inishowen Initiative is preparing an archive of historical material relating to the island.

A recent Facebook post by genealogist Jennifer Doherty has drawn attention back to the island. The post included photos of wooden cupboards or wardrobes being removed from the old lighthouse keeper dwelling. This post led to conversations about the island on both Highland Radio and the Mark Patterson Show on BBC Radio Foyle discussing the topic.

About three years ago Irish Lights, who are the legal owners of the island, removed artefacts to safety from the Keepers’ dwelling. Two names appear on the pieces of furniture, but on checking records on Keepers in my BOOK OF INISHTRAHULL, the names do not appear to feature. It is probable that the presses were built onsite by Irish Lights carpenters or were delivered to the island by the company. There was accommodation for 3 Keepers so wardrobes were required. Teams of workers such as carpenters, plumbers, builders, technicians and painters etc. have worked on the island over the years. They usually stayed with the Keepers and were a welcome addition at their fireside in the evenings. The words CIL appear with the date 1904, indicating that the presses were the property of Irish Lights and were probably installed in 1904. Where should such artefacts be displayed? Museums have problems with space but creating a photographic record is good procedure. Thanks to the photographer who took the pictures.

Women of Inishtrahull

The island had its storytellers, singers like John Donovan who performed on Radio Éireann (RTE), poets such as Danny Sullivan who also was a nature writer, skilled boatmen who outperformed the Malin men at regattas, female craft workers, knitters and spinners such as Nellie Rua and memorists like Edward McCarron, a teacher turned Keeper. Women also acted as sail makers and carried out repairs on sails. Several women taught in the island school after it was built. Biddy McGonigle was equal to if not better than her male counterparts in negotiating the Sound between the island and Malin Head. The Congested Districts Board taught women how to cure fish and prepare them for market, ferrying crates of fish on a boat travelling between Milford and Glasgow weekly. Women were skilled bakers using flour supplied from passing sailing ships by way of barter for fresh fish. Inishtrahull oat cakes were savoured by many island visitors.

– Dr. Seán Beattie, August 18th 2020 (please cite historyofdonegal.com and author if using any of this material)

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