Ireland’s Eye

Dublin, Ireland | C.1947

Photo Credit: Mairéad Bolger

While it may watch the coast of Ireland from a distance, there are no human eyes to be found on this island. Instead, monastic and military ruins sit quietly amongst the caws of the many seabirds that now inhabit the tiny isle. To journey to the island requires the help of a tour boat that has a unique history of its own.         

The Vikings called it “Erin’s Ey” or the “Isle of Ireland”, and while human activity occurred for small periods of time over the centuries, settlements on the island never lasted. Due to the efforts needed to actually live on the island, Ireland’s Eye became an undesignated nature reserve by the 19th Century. And being a few measly miles off the port town of Howth, near Dublin, it mainly served as the backdrop for fishermen or visitors looking for a daytrip amongst nature. 

In 1947, Ken Doyle’s father and grandfather were out fishing when a large wave damaged their small boat. With the boat sinking fast and not having any flares or life jackets, the Doyle men spotted a large ship in the distance. Without hesitation, the older Doyle poured gasoline onto a piece of the boat and lit it aflame to signal their distressing situation. Picked up right as their boat sank, Ken’s grandfather reportedly uttered, “That’s it. I’m never fishing again. I’m doing tours to the island.” 

Now run by Ken, three generations of Doyles have chartered people to the quiet island for rock climbing, birdwatching, or a peaceful lunch with a toastie in hand. Now reeling in tourists and locals alike to the nature-filled isle, it appears that “never fishing again” worked out just fine.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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