Inishbofin & Inishark (Co Galway)
Inishark / Inishshark / Shark Island / Inis Airc (“Sea Monster Island”) is separated from Inishbofin by Ship Sound.
Inishark (Photo by murtphillips)
Inishark, occupied for thousands of years but now uninhabited, has a remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age landscape, with ancient house sites, field systems, cooking sites, burial grounds and monuments. It is believed that prehistoric inhabitants traded with the mainland using the abundant local supply of soapstone, much prized across Ireland.
After centuries of withstanding the full blast of Atlantic gales, the locals could take no more. Flood disasters and drownings occurred more and more often, and services from the mainland came virtually to an end because of the woeful condition of the harbour. For those who stayed, the last straw came in 1958 when a man died of appendicitis only because no word of his plight could be got out. They turned to the government for rescue.
As reported in the press, the 23 last islanders ranged from the “father” of the island, 73-year-old Thomas Lacey the elder, to his 11-months-old baby granddaughter Anne. Laden with string-tied suitcases, kitchen implements, at least one Victorian wardrobe, iron bedsteads and baths, 9 cats in baskets, hens and geese in sacks and a stack of hay, chivvying 10 donkeys, 12 dogs, 13 cows, and 100 sheep, they were carried to the safety of the mainland on 20th October 1960.In 2009, Boston College’s Irish Studies program (in cooperation with the Irish Film Institute) screened Inis Airc, Bás Oileáin (Inishark, Death of an Island) (filmed in 2006 by Ciaran Concannon) as part of the Irish Studies Film Series telling the evacuation story from the surviving islanders viewpoint.
An Irish Times slideshow commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the evacuation can be viewed here.
Close to the tiny harbour there is a small burial ground and a number of features associated with a monastic site founded by Saint Leo, notably a well preserved beehive hut called Clochan Leo, traces of a medieval church, Foigh Leo, and a small Holy Well.
The small derelict C19th chapel, also called St Leo’s, used to have a bell. The bell broke and fragmented, and it was believed that to bring any part of it on a journey would bring good luck. Emigration being what it was, it is likely that North America is littered with carefully kept and much honoured little bits of the bell.
There is an abandoned school, but no modern church. The islanders in living memory went to Inishbofin for Mass on Sundays.
The island has large cliffs and sea stacks on the western side, and is home to 70 or 80 Barnacle Geese each winter. Bonxie also breed here. Choughs, falcons and skuas are common.
An Buachal (“The Boy / Lad”) is a huge vertical stack, lying about halfway along the western side of Inishark. It is said to have been a target for the young turks of Inishshark, who would come of age climbing it. Certainly, there is a cairn on top. It is nationally renowned as a scuba-diving spot because its walls drop 45m straight to the bottom. Climbers may enjoy the vertical 65m above the high water mark.
The Carrickgaddy Rocks (Carraig Gadai – “Thieves Rocks”) were supposedly named when Gráinne Mhaol chained some thieves to the rocks and spread mackerel on their stomachs for the gannets to dive onto.