Islanders mourn keeper of sacred 'anti-rat' clay
Published 22/08/2010 | 05:00
Superstitious residents on one of Ireland's most famous islands have rushed to replace the man they trusted with keeping rats from their homes.
There has never been a single rat in living memory on Tory Island off the coast of Co Donegal, and locals believe it is because of its sacred clay.
The clay is taken from Moirsheisear, the grave of seven people found dead in a curragh which was washed on to the island more than a century ago.
The clay is handed out in little pieces and distributed to people across Ireland to keep the rodents away from their homes.
But the clay can only be handed out by the oldest member of the Duggan clan on the island.
Philip Duggan, 86, the oldest Duggan on the island, died last week after being the holder of the clay for more than 20 years. He will be replaced by the next oldest Duggan on the island, Willie Duggan from East Town, who is in his seventies.
Breege Nic Gairbheith, manager of the local community and information centre, says the clay banishes rats. The sacred clay is also believed to keep seafarers safe.
"I have given the clay to many people and it always works," she said.
"But people must say a little prayer and have the belief that it will work.
"There has never been a rat on the island and it must be the only place in Ireland that they don't inhabit.
She added: "Philip was a lovely man and took the job as holder of the clay very seriously. He will be sadly missed. But Willie will also do a great job. If anybody wants clay, Willie will go to the grave and get the clay to them."
The island, which has a population of 140 people, is nine miles off the mainland.