18th December

The Island Imagined by the Sea A History of Bull Island

Lily O'Toole

At the time of reviewing this book by Kieran McNally, Ireland was blessed with glorious weather, so I headed down to Dollymount Strand for a nostalgic stroll. As I crossed the Wooden Bridge, which gets a mention in James Joyces' Ulysses, on my way to the beach, I was met with a scene reminiscent, I imagine, of a Brazilian beach...people playing with frisbees, volleyball and football and loud music blaring in the background.

Review the island

I was born in Clontarf, spent all my school life there and my maternal grandmother hailed from the same area, so this book was of great interest to me.

The book is a collection of events and information; for instance Captain Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty fame who in the lore of the City, built the North Bull Wall. In 1800 he noted in a survey of Dublin Bay that the Liffey mouth was blocked with sand and that few ships could find a place to lie afloat in low water. As a result, the Ballast Board surveyed the site; however the design appears to have originated in proposals in 1786 and interestingly Bligh's own proposal for a wall was rejected.

 Vertigo Angustior

The author has undertaken major research to unearth a comprehensive history of the area and his knowledge of local natural history is evident throughout. Interestingly, in light of the furore about the tiny protected snail Vertigo Angustior on Donald Trump's golf course in Doonbeg, there have been similar issues at St Anne's Golf Club, on Bull Island, which was founded in 1921.

In 1926, a groundsman at St Anne's fixed a stake near a nest which he found 20 yards in front of the putting ground [green]. The golfers observed the positioning of this stake, kept the nest under consideration when playing and, as a result, a ringed plover successfully hatched her brood. Members of St Anne's then developed an interest in ornithology and so when Bull Island was made a bird sanctuary in 1931, there were no objections from the club or its members (even though it was possible that this protected bird life could disrupt their golf games).

Protection status

There are three different aspects to this book: ecological, social and personal. The ecological covers the fact that Bull Island is an internationally famous nature reserve and bird sanctuary. The author covers the botany and bird life in great detail and the various threats to the ecology down the years and the work of conservationists and activists. The social covers the history of the Island itself: the shipwrecks, the gruesome findings on the beach (including bodies and body parts), the suicides and the murders.

The personal describes the author's accident while walking on the island which led to a broken ankle resulting in a life-threatening clot. Because of these three aspects, it is difficult to know for which audience this book is written. While it is packed with information, I found the layout a bit difficult to navigate as each chapter finishes with copious notes, thus giving it the feel of a valuable reference book.

In my opinion however, as someone who has a personal interest in the place and just wanted to read historical information and anecdotes, these references might have been better placed together at the end of the book ― or at least annotated to connect with the text. Having said that, this is a book well-worth reading

In conclusion, the author hopes he might help his children see and understand in the island's short history, the greater part of life's ceaseless wonder, challenges and fragility. With this book, he will help many others to see and understand the same. 

Launch of 'Your dog, your poop' initiative

Dublin's four local authorities have launched a summer campaign to combat dog fouling across Dublin City and county.

"With the tourist season upon us and schools getting their holidays, Dublin’s parks, beaches and open spaces are sure to be very busy. This means it’s an ideal time to remind dog owners that they have an obligation to clean up after their dog," remarked Dl/R Cathaoirleach, Cllr Marie Baker.We want everybody to enjoy the wonderful parks and open spaces Dublin has to offer so we’re reminding all dog owners to ‘Bin the Poo’. Your dog is your responsibility and not cleaning up after your dog is against the law”, she added.


Pictured on Dún Laoghaire Pier are An Cathaoirleach, Marie Baker, DL/R County Council with Lord Mayor, Christy Burke – Dublin City Council; Rua; Mayor, Fintan Warfield, South Dublin County Council and Mayor Mags Murray – Fingal County Council

Cllr Baker was joined on Dún Laoghaire Pier by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke, Mayor of Fingal, Cllr. Mags Murray and the Mayor of South Dublin, Cllr. Fintan Warfield.

Read more: Launch of 'Your dog, your poop' initiative

Major growth potential for €2bn coastal tourism sector

Tourism in coastal counties could be worth up to €2bn to the economy with associated employment sustained locally in hospitality and tourism in the region of 80,000 jobs, according to Fáilte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn who was speaking at Our Ocean Wealth conference in Dublin Castle on Wednesday.

The conference was the first annual review of progress in implementing the Government’s 2012 publication: Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth: An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland.


Inisbofin (Island of the White Cow) Co Galway. Photo Gillian Mills

The marine sector is identified as an important pillar to national recovery and a key driver for developing the sector and driving economic growth.

Read more: Major growth potential for €2bn coastal tourism sector

New guiding light for mariners at Inisheer Lighthouse

The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) have unveiled a new light emitting diode (LED) light for the Inisheer lighthouse that marks the south-eastern end of the Aran Islands and the western side of the southern approach to Galway Bay.

Inisheer-2 Colin-Day-CIL

Inisheer Lighthouse. Photo Colin Day, CIL

This lighthouse is a highly important Aid to Navigation (AtoN) safeguarding considerable traffic between Inisheer and Co Clare. The tower at 34m in height ensures visibility of the light due to the low lying nature of the island. A red sector delineates the potential danger of Finnis Rock lying to the east.

Read more: New guiding light for mariners at Inisheer Lighthouse

Discover Ireland's sea activities via 'The Blueway'

Snorkeling and kayaking at five locations in counties Mayo and Galway feature in a pilot programme created by Failte Ireland to encourage visitors to enage with the sea.

Launching the Blueway, Minister of State for Tourism & Sport, Michael Ring said the project offered "an entirely new perspective" of Ireland's wild Atlantic coastline.

"The Blueway, initiative provides visitors with a safe haven to immerse themselves in some of the most glorious coastal waters anywhere in the world," he said.


Pictured at the Old Head beach near Louisburgh:  Michael Ring Minister of State for Tourism and Sport; Rory McCarthy, Fáilte Ireland and members of the Bluewave working group: Charlie Lambert, Martin Dillane, Laura Taylor, Rosaleen Ni Shuilleabhain, Humphery Murphy, Richard Thorn, Maura Lyons and Sabrina Trench

Research indicates that more than 84,000 overseas visitors to Ireland engage in watersports annuallly with the majority of those participating in kayaking and snorkeling. 

Read more: Discover Ireland's sea activities via 'The Blueway'

Fire prevention on Ireland's islands

Residents on Mayo's islands are to receive comprehensive training in fire prevention and fighting under a Community Safety Programme, in the absence of a fire service and following tragic events in recent years.  Fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and fire blankets are also being distributed. 

Inis Toirc

Organised by Michelle O'Mahoney, development officer on Clare Island and Tony Shevlin, Senior Assistant Fire Officer, Mayo Fire & Rescue Service, islanders particiated in training sessions on Clare islands and Inis Turk and in the Wesport Fire Station.

Read more: Fire prevention on Ireland's islands

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