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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Historic island post office's last delivery

Aine Ryan

FOR 150 years, four generations of the Scott family provided a lifeline to remote Clare Island through its tiny sub-post office.

But this weekend, Scotts at Roonagh Pier, near Louisburgh, Co Mayo, closed its doors for the last time.

In storms and swells, hail and sleet, sunshine and fog, love letters and epistles, notes cards and parcels were brought to and from the windswept post office.

Opened in 1879, the post office was once also a telephone exchange and used to dispatch geese and turkeys by post.

"Today is a strange day at Roonagh. I feel sad the post office is closing. You know, the Scotts were like an extension of our family," said septuagenarian Chris O'Grady, as he disembarked from his sons' ferry, The Clew Bay Queen.

For over 60 years retired island hotelier and ferry company owner, Mr O'Grady, has collected and delivered the post at the remote post office.

"Honest to God, when I look back now, I don't know how I survived landing in this spot," said Mr O'Grady, flinging the postbag over his shoulder.

Just like his grandfather, Austin, and father, Michael, before him, Chris has often risked life and limb landing at the volatile little harbour, renowned for its raging swells.

"I started off with dad when I was 12, just after the second world war. It was all sailing then in Achill yawls," Mr O'Grady said.

"Back then there was no breakwater or shelter."

The proposed computerisation of the country's network of post offices expedited 85-year-old Margaret Scott's retirement last weekend.

The mother of eight took over as postmistress after her husband Dick retired in 1969.

The late Dick Scott's grandfather, James, was the first postmaster in Roonagh.

Irish Independent

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