Monday 19 February 2018

Going, going... the islands that are losing their voices

Graham Clifford

Over the last century and- a half the islands off our coast have seen their populations dwindle – in some cases, as with the Blasket Islands, total evacuation occurred.

In the mid-1800s, the population of the Blaskets numbered 175, but steady emigration saw that reduced to just 30 by 1953.

In pre-famine times, 1,052 inhabited the hilly island of Cape Clear off Baltimore in west Cork, but today that figure stands at around 100. Nearby Sherkin Island was also home to an estimated 1,000 islanders in the middle of the 19th Century. Now, just 106 souls call it home.

In 1965, Achill Beg, off the southern tip of Achill Island, was evacuated of its last few settlers. And the population of Achill Island itself has declined from 6,000 in the mid-1800s to 2,701 in current times.

Whiddy Island in Bantry Bay has seen its population shrink from 729 in 1841 to just 20 today; Valentia Island, off south Kerry, fell from 2,290 to 665 over the same period, and Arranmore, off Donegal, from 1,415 to 514.

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