Frank McLynn

Ruled by the Waves

On the Edge: Ireland’s Offshore Islands – A Modern History

By

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Along Ireland’s five-thousand-mile coastline there are more than two hundred offshore islands. In 1841, just before the Great Famine, nearly 35,000 people lived on them, but by 2016 only 8,756 souls remained, and only fifty-eight islands were inhabited. Diarmaid Ferriter’s engaging study strikes a persistently elegiac note as it chronicles this decline. Fundamentally, nature is against these islands. Most of them are exposed to the fury of the Atlantic (the coast of southwest Ireland has some of the worst seas in the world – many will remember how sixty-foot waves devastated the ill-starred Fastnet yacht race in 1979). There are few doctors on the islands; storms and gales mean that it can be weeks before medical help arrives from the mainland.

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