Achillbeg – The Life of an Island, by Jonathan Beaumont

19.95

The island of Achillbeg lies just off the south-western tip of Achill Island. This 200 page book details the history of this now-deserted island, with numerous black and white photographs – including rare 19th century images and ancient maps.

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Description

The island of Achillbeg lies just to the south west of Achill Island. This 200 page book details the history of the now-deserted island, with numerous black and white photographs – including rare 19th century images – and ancient maps. The book is the first study into Achillbeg and is the result of painstaking research using the memories of former residents as the primary source. It was first published in 2005 by The Oakwood Press and is available in paperback format.

Index of Contents:

  • The Island and Surrounds
  • Early History and Settlement
  • The Twentieth Century
  • After the People Left
  • Island Life and Culture
  • The People of Achillbeg
  • Education and the School
  • Francis Hugh Power, The Paorach
  • Famous Visitors
  • Doing ‘The Stations’
  • Folklore
  • Place Names
  • Appendix 1: Description of Antiquities at Dun Kilmore
  • Appendix 2: Census Statistics 1901 and 1911
  • Appendix 3: Teachers and pupil numbers in Achillbeg National School 1913 to 1965

From the Introduction:
One of Ireland’s most scenic roads skirts the southern side of the Corraun Peninsula in County Mayo, giving breathtaking views of Clew Bay and Clare Island. Travelling towards Darby’s Point from the Mulrany direction, a view of the southern end of Achill Island will launch into view as you near the point. Just to the left of this, two low hills may be seen with a small secluded beach in between – at first glance it is another part of Achill Island to the uninitiated, but a closer look reveals that these two hills are separated from the rest of Achill by a narrow channel, the Blind Sound.

These two hills, with the narrow valley between them, make up Achillbeg Island, a small piece of Ireland some 60 hectares in area, and an individual little world in itself. The name Achillbeg comes from Acaill Beag, or ‘Little Achill’.

Achill itself is Ireland’s largest island. Successive years of famine, hard weather and economic underdevelopment have failed to bow the spirit of its inhabitants, who still number several thousand at the start of the 21st century. Since 1887 it has been connected to the mainland by a causeway and swing bridge across the Sound, doubtless contributing to its well being and helping prevent depopulation.

Alas, Achillbeg was not so fortunate. Before the ravages of the Great Famine, in the mid to late 1800s, the island boasted a population of almost 200, but by the early 1960s barely a sixth of that number remained and the school enrolment was down to single figures. Despite the recent introduction of electricity and a phone line, the end was in sight. With the Government of the day having little interest in helping remote communities sustain their traditional life, and better job opportunities available elsewhere, the remaining inhabitants decided to move out in 1965.

Much of the land is still owned by the families of those who left, and many surviving islanders live on Achill within sight of their old island home, but Achillbeg is now host to grazing sheep and birds, and is a haven of peaceful solitude. In recent years, several of the old cottages have been renovated as holiday homes, and the electricity link remains to service both these and the automated lighthouse. But the rest stand silently, abandoned under the wide western Mayo sky.

Back Cover Text:
Achillbeg Island lies off the coast of Co. Mayo, just south of Achill Island. The island covers 326 acres, and consists of two low hills with a sheltered valley and beach in between. The island’s wild and beautiful scenery has been shaped by the wind and strong currents, as the Atlantic pounds the exposed rocky coastline.

Before the ravages of the Great Famine the island’s population was almost 200, but by the early 1960s barely a sixth of that number remained and the school enrolment was down to single figures. Despite the recent introduction of electricity and a phone line, the end was in sight, and the remaining inhabitants moved out in 1965.

Much of the land is still owned by the families of those who left, and many surviving islanders live on Achill within sight of their old home, but Achillbeg is now a haven of peaceful solitude. Several old cottages have been renovated as holiday homes, and the electricity link remains to service both these and the automated lighthouse. But the rest stand silently, abandoned under the wide western Mayo sky.

This book is the first study of this beautiful island, and has been painstakingly researched using the memories of former residents as the primary source.