Around this time, a few years ago, Fionnuala and I went out to Ireland’s Eye, a small island, just north of Howth Head in Co. Dublin.
I hadn’t been there since my youth and, to tell the truth, I was a bit afraid that I’d be disappointed – that the cliffs wouldn’t be high, that the strand wouldn’t be long, that the seabirds would all be gone – but no, it was just as I remembered, it really was our ‘island of adventure’.
My Dad had a recitation about it and we all knew the lines off by heart. It was about a young couple who rowed out to the island for the day… Happy memories.
So we had our tomato sandwiches watching the gannets wheeling around the sea stack. Actually, this was something new. There wasn’t a gannet colony there back in the seventies but JNCC census results indicate that gannet populations in the Republic of Ireland have increased by 33% since then.
In 2004, there were five colonies (Little Skellig, Ireland’s Eye, Bull Rock, Great Saltee and Clare Island) but a new (sixth) colony has been established on Lambay since then and significant increases have been recorded all around.
Yes, it was wonderful just to sit there watching the sea. I remember I did some sketching with my trusty travelling watercolour set… And then evening came. I rinsed out the paint brush and put my bits back into the rucksack. “I suppose we’d better be heading back to Howth”, says I. “Howth be jiggers”, said Fionnuala, “let’s go on to Lambay!”
Lambay? Did you know that there’s a colony of red-necked wallabies living on Lambay Island? It’s true – but that’s a story for another day…