Ireland Day 2
On our second day in Ireland, we took a ferry to the tiny island of Inisheer (Inis Oírr) and visited the Cliffs of Moher by sea on our way back!
It is the easternmost of the Aran islands, and the smallest. It has around 260 inhabitants! I accidentally bargained my way into getting us a tractor-driven tour of the island! The man offered, I asked how much it was, and sharing a look with Grandma and my sister, told him no thank you - and I meant it! I wasn't trying to get him to bring the price down, but he did considerably and so we decided it would be worth it to get the info!
We first arrived at this below-ground church in a cemetery. Christianity is supposed to have come to the islands before the end of the first millennium.
The church is called Teampall Caomhán, possibly from the 10th century. Caomhán, or St. Kevin, was a disciple of St. Enda, the Patron Saint of the Aran Islands.
Our guide told us that they get together June 14th to celebrate mass on St. Kevin's feast day. He was one of the people who originally helped excavate the church from drifting sands, and apparently they remove sand yearly.
Our tractor driver. He speaks what in Ireland they call Irish, which is Irish Gaelic (as opposed to what they might call Gaelic, which is Scottish Gaelic). The whole town speaks Irish, making it a gaeltacht, meaning a region where Irish is spoken primarily as opposed to English.
This cargo vessel, Plassey, was shipwrecked in the 1960s. "Originally a steam trawler launched in 1940s, The Plassey was sailing through Galway Bay carrying whiskey, yarn and stained glass when it got into trouble in a severe storm and crashed onto rocks in 1960" (from this article).
A 2010 interview from Mike Tobin, at the time the only surviving crew member, cites_ “'About 1954 was my first time on her...I was very found of the ‘oul Plassey, because at that stage of my young career at sea, she went to very exotic places. She was in Italy; she was in the Canary Islands, Greece, Iceland, Angora and South Africa. She went from Helsinki over to Leningrad – at that time, its St Petersburg now. We never thought she’d end up in Inis Oirr of all places… but she’s there now…'
'I remember the 8th of March, 1960 like it was yesterday. We were too far to the north of our course, and closer to the island than we should have been, but we didn’t realise it in the bad night and the wind. We hit the Finnish Rock initially at 10 past 5 in the morning.' The Plassey’s flare lit up the sky and the islanders were alerted to the danger and immediately ran to the scene with the rescue equipment. 'The first we saw of people on the island was around a quarter to 8 – daybreak, we were very happy to see them!'
...Thanks to the islanders’ courage and bravery, the entire crew was brought to shore safely using Breeches Buoy to hoist them in, one man at a time. Later, at the tail end of some hurricane, the Plassey was lifted bodily from the position she was in, and shoved up there beyond the hide tide in one fell swoop”, Mike continues.
'To think that she was lifted from over there, and she full of water, and pushed up there, it would tell you the force of the seas that was around here at the time.'"
The rock walls were created as the original inhabitants cleared the land. One website explains_ "The most striking visual aspect of Aran islands and Inisheer is number of stone walls that separate land into small fields.
Over 1,000 miles of ancient walls interlace across three islands giving them a unique landscape, and are believed to have been built in such a way out of necessity.
For earliest settlers who wanted to use land for agriculture, stones which covered arable soil had to be moved by hand; building walls was simplest way to move and store rocks.
The sheer volume of stone led to these high and numerous walls dividing small patches of green.
Much of livestock kept on islands were sheep, wool of which was turned into yarn to make now famous traditional Aran knitwear."
I was struck by the small size of these patches of green!
We spent a few hours walking to the other side of the island and back, seeing a castle dating back to the 14th century, with power held by the O'Brien clan, and a tower (later used as a school house) along the way.
Rocks on rocks on rocks.
The Cliffs by Sea
Grandma bravely facing the waves.
This is where the horcrux-hunting cave scene from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was filmed!
The Cliffs of Moher are also where Princess Bride filmed the "Cliffs of Insanity." :D