Meet the man who has cared for Skellig Michael for over 30 years

It is a magical place that has fascinated individuals for greater than a thousand years. Monks have lived there. Puffins make their house there. And for some time, the Millennium Falcon was parked there.

There’s one thing about Skellig Michael that has at all times been particular. However what’s that one thing? Ryan Tubridy spoke to man who may know: Robert L Harris, Skellig Michael’s warden for the previous 34 years.

Robert has written a e book about his time taking care of one of many nation’s most well-known landmarks, Returning Gentle: 30 Years of Life on Skellig Michael. Ryan wished to begin in the beginning, and so he requested what Skellig Michael is and why it’s so necessary.

It was a giant query however Robert’s reply was as much as the problem: “It’s a rock out at sea. And, for a thousand, perhaps two thousand years, individuals have stood on the shores of the Iveragh peninsula or the Dingle peninsula or the Beara peninsula and appeared out at this mysterious place. And, clearly, it will need to have fascinated individuals even in pre-history.”

Within the sixth or seventh century, monks determined to exit to the island and arrange a monastery there, however we’re not likely positive why. Michael tells Ryan that there’s been a number of analysis achieved, however a lot of the conclusions are hypotheses.

And he has a speculation of his personal: “Clearly, it’s a human factor to need to exit to an excessive place. And there you’ve got that excessive place in view of the mainland, however on the similar time it’s totally aside.”

Skellig Michael, Robert says, is a spot the place you’ll be able to go to confront the previous and that is far simpler on the island than anyplace else as a result of there’s nothing else there. It’s additionally the final little bit of land – if you stand on the highest of the rock and look out to sea, there’s solely horizon.

The island’s presence in pre-Christian occasions could have had a particular significance: “Locations like which may have been seen with entrances into the opposite world. There are all kinds of legends related to far islands, islands the place – the entire legend of Tír na nÓg, for example, the concept of a spot the place you went to, the place you handed by boundaries and all the constraints of being human had been lifted.”

Robert has a implausible description of a potential motive for Irish monks making what would have been an extremely arduous journey someplace between fourteen and fifteen hundred years in the past and the way St Patrick and St Columba had been seen as combating a religious battle in opposition to the forces of evil:

“And Skelligs is on – together with all the opposite islands and different locations the place monks lived – it is type of on the frontline of a religious battlefield. So these persons are engaged in religious warfare for everybody, for the souls of all mankind, so to talk. So, that is the ethos behind going to a spot like that.”

Having spent greater than 30 summers on Skellig Michael, Robert is aware of what he’s speaking about when he tells Ryan that residing on the island isn’t simple, particularly through the winter, which makes the monks’ achievement all of the extra spectacular.

“It’s a really troublesome place to think about individuals residing within the wintertime as a result of, effectively, ultimately they constructed little gardens there, however you may be reduce off – we’re reduce off for days at a time. In actual fact, this yr no boats landed for 2 weeks on the finish of the yr as a result of the ocean simply acquired too tough.”

However how did it come about that Robert has been caring for the Skelligs for therefore lengthy? He answered an advert within the paper in 1987 and took it from there. And even if he was born in Peru to American dad and mom – Ryan quipped that he appeared like actor James Stewart – Robert was conscious of the Skelligs and when he acquired there, he too felt the pull of the magical island:

“We had sat on the highest of the rock and each stated, ‘There’s gotta be some approach to come and spend a bit of longer right here’.”

Within the e book, Robert says the island beckoned to him. And he’s definitely not alone. You possibly can hear Ryan’s full dialog with Robert L Harris by going right here.

Returning Gentle: 30 Years of Life on Skellig Michael by Robert L Harris is revealed by HarperCollins.


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