Thursday, September 14, 2023

The lightkeeper's dwelling on Scattery Island

A few years ago, I came across a video on Youtube of someone who had entered the lightkeeper's cottage on Scattery Island and recorded the dereliction thereof. I was therefore not expecting very much improvement last month when I visited Inis Cathaigh courtesy of Scattery Island Tours. It was actually the day after Storm Betty and my morning trip was cancelled, but they managed to go in the afternoon and a very enjoyable experience it was too.

A short 15 minute walk down a green road lined with blackberry bushes (I should have brought a bucket) and I was at the cottage and the lighthouse beyond. The lady in the tour boat office in Kilrush had asked me not to enter the cottage as it was unsafe, but it seemed all locked up anyway. It seemed in pretty good condition. I shrugged and went on to the lighthouse, which I will cover in another post.

Returning past the cottage, there was a couple sitting in the front garden and the front door was open. We got chatting and I explained my interest in lighthouses and could I have a look around the house? Not a problem, they said. Can I take a few photographs? Not a problem. So I delightedly clicked away like I was photographing Claudia Schiffer for a photo shoot.

A very nice couple, I found out they were called Hamilton and they were doing up the cottage. I immediately assumed they were from one of the two Hamilton lightkeeping dynasties but no, Irene Hamilton's father, Brendan Griffen was a Scattery Islander and her mother had lived in that very house. Irene also was the owner of the Scattery Boat Tours initiative which had brought me over. Her husband - whose name, I am ashamed to say, I cannot for the life of me remember - was a lovely chap and he very kindly showed me around and pointed out all the work already done and the work yet to be completed. The latter far outweighed the former but at least they had made the cottage watertight, so it wouldn't deteriorate any further.

The cottage basically consists of a corridor from the front door, leading down to a kitchen down the book. Off the corridor are two rooms on each side, probably used as bedrooms, though one at the front could have been a front room. Out the back were some outhouses, sheds and the remains of an outside loo. 

As you can see from the photographs, the renovation has only just started and it is certainly a project that will take a long time completing what with the problems of ferrying builders and materials to the island but at least the cottage will be preserved for posterity, unlike many of the current cottages which are slowly being left to nature.

Scattery Island was always a one-keeper station with the wife acting as assistant keeper. The lighthouse and cottage were built in 1872 and Clare County Library has thoughtfully traced some of the families who lived there.

Incidentally, behind the lighthouse is an old battery, now being overrun by brambles. There is also that very rare building, a round tower with a ground-level entrance, a plethora of ancient ruined churches and views to die for. The OPW give free tours of the tower and churches but the rest of the island is small enough to see all of it in the two hours plus you get on the island.

Goodbye, Blackberry Way

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