Memories of an Islander:
A Life on Scattery and Beyond
by Don Scanlan
A Lightkeeper’s Life
CLASP Press, ISBN: 1 900545 17 9;
Paperback, 86 pages, 46 monochrome photos, €10.00.
Don Scanlan was born on Scattery Island,
Co Clare, in the Shannon Estuary. After some years at sea he applied to
the Commissioners of Irish Lights and became a Lighthouse Keeper in our
Service. He served as a full-time Lightkeeper for 38 years and then was
appointed Attendant of Youghal Lighthouse in 1985. On final retirement
he returned to Co Clare with his wife Mai, and now lives in Ennis.
In partnership with Clare Local Studies
Project (CLASP) in cooperating with FÁS, Don has written this beautiful
memoir of life on Scattery Island, and his subsequent life as a Lightkeeper.
The Scattery men earned their living
mainly as seafarers, Shannon Estuary pilots, as lightshipmen and lightkeepers,
from fishing, and from the land as small farmers. The women worked on
the land, made butter, kept hens, and sold their produce on the mainland
in Kilrush. Don describes the life and customs of the island which mostly
revolved around the seasons and church festivals and holy days. The monastery,
founded by St Senan in the sixth century, has the highest round tower
in Ireland, and St Senan continued to have an important place in the customs
of the island.
Chapters are contributed by Bríd
O’Mahony on the National School and by Fidelma Mullane on the traditional
dwelling houses of the island. The island children were taught Greek in
the National School in the 1890s!
Scattery was the base for pilotage on
the Shannon for 100 years from the 1840s. Don’s father was a pilot,
and pilotage and seafaring was important to the life of the island, providing
a steady income, as did employment in Irish Lights. When Don was born
there were 14 families on the island. Their names will be well known to
older hands in Irish Lights: Brennans, Griffins, McMahons, Melicans, Morans,
and Scanlans - families that made a valuable contribution to our Service
and to the safety of life at sea. He lists the names of those who were
pilots, lightshipmen, lightkeepers, seafarers, and those who lost their
lives at sea.
The book also lists the population of
the island in 1901 and the children at the school in the 1930s. After
World War II the pilot station was moved to the mainland and the population
declined until the two last inhabitants left for the mainland in 1978.
Don completes his book with an account
of his life as a Lightkeeper and of the lighthouses at which he served.
This lovely book, attractively designed,
with beautiful black and white photographs that bring the text to life,
is a great credit to Don Scanlan, CLASP, and FÁS.
I hope Don continues to enjoy his retirement
with Mai for many years to come.
to Memories of an Islander: A Life on Scattery and Beyond