Clare Island

The approach to the quayside on Clare Island was sheltered, so we had a clear view of the O'Malleys' castle keep and other buildings clustered around the harbour bay. It seems that every nook and cranny of this part of Ireland has some association with Grace O’Malley (“Gráinne Ni Mháille”), who was born in the mid-1500’s on Clare Island where her father was clan chief. When he died she inherited his ship, using it for legal trade before turning to piracy and eventually leading a crew of 200 in robberies of ships all around the west coast of Ireland. She was known as the Queen of the Pirates and was twice captured and imprisoned by the British. Then in 1593 she had a personal interview with Queen Elizabeth,  securing the release of her son and her brother from prison, and receiving a pardon in exchange for a promise to help guard against Spanish armada ships off the coast of Ireland.
We were staying at the Sea Breeze B&B, and Mary Moran's husband arrived to take our bags. Martin and I walked along to the community centre where we were due to do the fashion show, and meet Mary's sister-in-law, Beth Moran, who runs Ballytoughy Loom, spinning, dyeing and weaving. Beth and Martin had arranged the show.

The centre consists of a large hall divided by some fence panels, with a takeaway and eating-area in one part, and a table-tennis table in the main part. A mezzanine floor accommodated the island's development office. At the opposite end, next to the takeaway, was the licensed bar. By the time we arrived both the bar and the takeaway were busy. I thought we would be able to create a space for the show by moving some of the panels and bringing-in some seating. However, on Beth's recommendation, the show took place in the bar, eventually. There was little opportunity to "dress the set", and it meant pitching in competition with a few drinkers who were moving into the endgame of their session, but Martin and Gille were quite capable of holding their own, and most people enjoyed and appreciated it. I played some background guitar.

This is a photo of Ciara Cullen (who we were to visit the following day) modelling items made by Gille from wool from the island of Sarremarr off the coast of Estonia. Later, I played some songs on the borrowed guitar before giving it up to its owner and retiring for a night's sound sleep at the end of a stimulating day.


A seam of gold was discovered in the mountain in the 1980s, which could produce 700,000 tonnes of ore. Mayo County Council elected not to allow mining, deciding that the gold was "fine where it was".