New caretakers selected from thousands of applicants to live on remote Irish island

It is hoped the Great Blasket Island, which has no permanent residents, will reopen to visitors on April 1st
New caretakers selected from thousands of applicants to live on remote Irish island

Sarah Slater

The much coveted caretaker jobs on a remote island which has no running water and electricity have been filled from thousands of applications again this year.

The most recent caretakers on the Great Blasket Island were Limerick woman Niamh Kelleher and her boyfriend Jack Cakehead who lives in France, who finished on the island in late September.

Billy O’Connor, who owns the accommodation on the island, said they had not advertised the positions this year as they had attracted close to 100,000 applicants over the past three years.

“We just wanted to update everyone who has emailed and enquired regarding the caretaker position. This year, due to the phenomenal volume of previous applications (of which we want to thank everyone), we have our duo picked," he said.

“We hope to reopen on April 1st proving all things Covid-19 keep at bay.

“Again, (we want) to thank everyone for their continued support and we look forward to welcoming people back this year.”

No permanent residents

There are no permanent residents on the island, which was deserted in the 1950s because emergency services were unable to reach it in storms.

Mr O’Connor and his partner Alice Hayes own three cottages which are rented out to holidaymakers and a coffee shop on the island.

The couple have been inundated with enquiries by phone, email, social media and paper applications from around the world and from countries including Mexico, Finland and Argentina since first advertising the two positions three years ago.

In the first year of advertising the positions, more than 40,000 applications were received by Mr O’Connor and Ms Hayes.

Located about three miles off the coast of Dingle, Co Kerry, the Great Blasket Island was home to the late author and storyteller Peig Sayers, whose writings formed part of the Leaving Cert Irish curriculum.

Over the past several months the couple have been carrying out some essential tasks, including adding another bedroom to one of the cottages and upgrading other amenities.

Previous caretakers of the island were Annie Birney and Eoin Boyle, from Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, who moved to the isolated island on June 24th and opened it up to visitors for a shorter three-month period due to Covid-19 restrictions last year.

In 2019, Kildare couple Leslie Kehoe and Gordon Bond served as caretakers.

Mr O’Connor’s links to the island date back to when his grandfather and granduncle bought the island, which eventually ended up in lengthy and costly legal battles in the High and Supreme Courts against the State and Charles Haughey over ownership and use rights.

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