Dursey Island

Published in Issue 3 (Autumn 1999), Letters, Letters, Volume 7

Sir,—I was interested to read Stephen Royle’s article in the last issue on Irish island emigration and its legacy. I have just spent six months on Dursey Island, West Cork from September 1998 to February 1999. Dursey has a total population of five native islanders with several houses renovated as holiday homes. I would like to draw readers attention to Penelope Durrell’s Discover Dursey (1996). Ms Durrell lives just beside Dursey on the mainland and it has taken her three years to research the book.
The house I stayed in had no running water or bathroom and in fact only now are water mains being installed on the island. I can completely empathise with Peig Sayers sentiments about ‘this lonely rock’. The island was heaven when the sun shone but the winter was a bleak affair. Still the handful of islanders left will never leave and enjoy the visits of day trippers during the summer months. There are no shops, pubs or churches on Dursey and the mainland is reached by cable car, the only one in Ireland. Despite the ruins of former dwellings there is still life on Dursey and in the past few years several houses have been bought and renovated. It is a paradise for bird watchers and the sea teems with all kinds of marine life but making a living requires innovation. I wouldn’t be without the experience even if the island was cut off on several occasions due to severe gales. Do take a trip to Dursey but bring all-weather clothing with you.—Yours etc.,
CATHERINE O’REILLY
Rathgar

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