Book Picture Garnish Island, Ireland

The Beara peninsula is a stronghold of the O'Sullivans. We rented a house in Adrigole from the O'Sullivans and paid the fee to the next door neighbors another O'Sullivan family and on the other side of the house was another O'Sullivan family not related to the other two. It seems that the whole area is primarily occupied by O'Sullivans. I bought a book in Kenmare that explained all about the O’Sullivans. The short version is that the English took over the area and reduced the O'Sullivans to a few families of very meager existence. They persevered and have regained the land. Recently I read that the O’Sullivan name is one of the most frequent found in Ireland. We were interested in Garnish Island with its famous Italian Garden in the bay a few miles from the village of Glengariff by boat. It is the home to many fine plants, shrubs and trees, many sub-tropical as the island is warmed by the Gulf Stream; it has a warm, wet and humid climate. It was left to the Irish people in 1953 and is now maintained by the Heritage Service. There is another 'Garnish Island' nearby in Kerry. To avoid confusion, the island is often referred to by its original name Ilnacullin.

The walled garden is about 100m in length. The nursery is located here.

Book Picture We had previously read about how an Italian bought the small island and turned it into a garden. On our way there we were slowed by offal and a couple of donkeys but as we were finally approaching the center of Glengariff, a man was standing in the middle of the road in a long black coat. He flagged me down and said park right here. I told him I wanted to go to the island. He said “I know”. I asked him how he knew and he said - that's my job. So I parked and took his directions to the small boat that would take us to the island. The boat man started up a conversation as soon as we left the dock "Where are you from?" After narrowing it down to Larkspur he said he had spent some time there and his wife was currently in San Rafael visiting her sister. Small world!

We landed on the island and the boatman promised to return in 1 and 1/2 hours. For the next 30 minutes we wandered around the island. A small robin bounced about or near my left shoulder the entire time. There was a Martello tower on the island reportedly one of the first built. These towers were built by the British War Office in eighteenth century as a defense against a Napoleonic invasion. We walked into the tower and climbed up to the lookout on the roof to see the views that the defenders would have from there. I wonder if it is as open today as it was then. Book Picture

There was a reflecting pool that was very peaceful. We were absorbing the wonderful peaceful atmosphere when a young man with his shirt hanging out came running up. It did look like a park ranger shirt with patches of authority. He blurted out that we needed to pay 5 Euros each to view the island. I said in that case we are leaving. That caught him off guard. I said we are nearly finished, so why should we pay him now and how did I know he wasn't just trying to rip off an innocent tourist. Then I asked him what is your name in case I need to report you to the authorities. “Dennis O'Sullivan” was his reply – “you can ask anyone in the village. They will vouch for me”. I could see he was a little overwhelmed with the Blarney. I continued with how come I have to pay for a boat ride over here and no one mentioned a fee to get off the boat. Why weren't you selling tickets when I got off the boat? Then I could have asked the boat man if you were legitimate. He muttered something about being on lunch break. Sensing that he was about to become undone, I whipped out 10 Euro and gave it to him. Do we get a map or brochure or any guide to the island. How about a ticket? Nothing? Once he had the money he drifted back the way he'd come through the bushes. Finally it was time to leave the island and we never saw the young man again although we did see the ticket booth.

We had seen all the attractions on Garnish Island and even though it was late fall you could see the beauty of the place.Book Picture

Two days later we were shopping in a craft shop in Skibbereen. The saleswoman asked me what I'd seen in Ireland and of course the Island was fresh on my mind. When I mentioned it she immediately asked me if I had seen Dennis O'Sullivan. When I said I had she became a bit upset that her daughter had been let go for the winter and Dennis was kept on. She was saying that she ws sure the tourists would still be going there and they should have kept her daughter on. Funny about the coincidental events in Ireland. This was a normal occurance where connections are made between people and places far away from the source of an incident, as small as it was. At least I knew the young man was Dennis O'Sullivan because the woman described him in detail.

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