Scattery Island: Former Scattery Island Resident Reminisces
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For most people it was a wonderful experience travelling out to Scattery Island to attend the Mass recently celebrated by the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. Willie Walsh, as part of the Kilrush 1500 celebrations.
But for Patty McMahon it was a very special occasion, one full of nostalgia. For as well as going to Mass, she was in fact returning to her roots and the place she grew up in as a child.
Now living on the mainland at Cappa Drive, she recalls that she and her brother Austin, better known as Bobbie, were the last two people to leave the island in 1978. The 6th century monastic settlement founded by St Senan, with its unique 10th century tower and the ruins of seven churches and a village, has been uninhabited since then.
When Patty was growing up on Scattery there were about 100 people living on it. Their main livelihoods were farming, fishing and working as pilots on the Shannon Estuary. Among the families living on the island were the Donnellans, Melicans, Griffins and Brennans.
Patty recalls that they used to travel to Kilrush at least once a week but that visit depended very much on weather conditions. Their mode of transport was a currach and on a fine day that journey used to take 30 minutes. In their final years on the island the currachs were replaced with boats which had outboard engines.
During the summer they were also sure of being able to make the Sunday trip to Mass in Kilrush. However, that was not always possible during the winter.
Very often they were stranded on the island for weeks because of bad weather. However, there was never a crisis about food as they were self supporting with their own potatoes and vegetables.
The island had one school and when Patty was going there there were 53 pupils on the roll. Numbers dwindled, however, and the school was eventually closed.
The school had several teachers over the years but the last teacher Patty and her school companions had was Laura Culligan who was from Tonavoher near Knock-Killimer.
Scattery was a lovely place to live on. "There's no place like home" she said. She remembers the big well, named after St. Senan, on the island. They enjoyed really good spring water all the time.
She also refers to the fact that many people from the mainland are buried in Scattery. Before their deaths they expressed a wish to be there on a holy island.
It was a big chance for Patty coming to live on the mainland. However, she still makes the odd trip back to Scattery to reminisce and retrace her childhood days.


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