Agricultural Life On Scattery Island

Caoimhín Ó' Danachair National Folklore Collection UCD

By 1881 there were about 141 inhabitants on Scattery Island, including military who were stationed on the southern end of the Island at the battery. There was a steady decline in this number over the years that followed, for various reasons, until the last two residents of Scattery Island (The McMahons of the Post Office) left to live in the mainland in 1978.

While the Island was well inhabited by families, it was a common sight to see the women of Scattery rowing canoes from the Island into Kilrush, and they displayed a great knowledge of the tides and currents in the area.

Daily life on Scattery Island consisted of tending the fertile land, which provided vegetables and crops of oats and wheat. The straw was used to repair the Island houses thatch and the grain brought to Glynns mills in Kilrush creek and brought back to the Island, in canoes, as flour. The Island women made oven and griddle bread.

Hay was saved every year also by families in Scattery, each family assisting the next with the hay.

The land was fertilised using natural manure and seaweed, which was in rich supply after a south east gale.

The wells on the Island provided clean drinking water for the families and indeed for the cattle on Scattery. There were 8 wells in total.

Three families on the Island were registered with The Dept.of Agriculture at the time to take responsibility for the Island bull, which was supplied by the Dept. free of charge. These three families kept the Island bull in rotation. Most farms kept three milking cows, from which Scattery butter was made and brought to market of a Wednesday in Kilrush. Scattery butter was popular in Kilrush and brought in by the Island women to sell.

At the southern end of the Island, in the area known as the Corcas, five families has their own bogs. This turf was harvested by the families as a supplement to the turf that was rowed out from Kilrush to the Island in canoes every year. Bringing turf to Scattery from Kilrush by the canoe load was a laborious operation and had to be timed well so that the tide was conducive to a safe passage.

Fishing for salmon, picking periwinkles, carrageen, and spearing fluke in the Gullaheen (an inlet of water, brimful with water in spring tides) at the northern end of the Island were among the other seasonal activities on Scattery Island which kept families busy and helped them to remain self sufficient.

 

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