Sheep and lambs trapped on island cliff for six weeks

‘They would have died long ago if it wasn’t for the rain which kept the grass growing,’ farmer says

A file image of a sheep and her lambs. Image: iStock.

Regular summer rain may be saving a trapped sheep and her young family from starving to death on a west coast island, a farmer has said.

Concerns are mounting for the ewe and her two lambs who have been stuck on a small ledge on the western side of Inishark for six weeks.

North Connemara resident Peter Anthony Lacey spotted the animals more than a month ago on the ledge close to the stack known as the "Buachaill" off Inishark.

The pier on Inishark Island. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Mr Lacey, whose grandfather Thomas was the last man to leave Inishark in 1960, is one of several farmers who keep sheep on the deserted island.


“I couldn’t get close enough to see if they were my animals, but they obviously went down the cliff after some sweet grass, and the ground was too slippy for them to get back up,” Mr Lacey said.

“They would have died long ago if it wasn’t for the rain which kept the grass growing, but they won’t be able to last when the winter weather comes in.”

‘Calling out’

Mr Lacey said he saw the animals from the sea on Sunday night that but the weather has been so bad that it has been “impossible” to approach the island.

“They were calling out to me in the boat, but there was nothing I could do,” he said. “We used to go down on ropes to get sheep years ago, but that was when we had less sense than we have now.”

The Irish Coast Guard has been made aware of the animals' plight, and a Cleggan Coast Guard spokesman said he would make inquiries.

Weather is currently against a rescue, he said, but assistance may be offered in a situation where there were concerns that a farmer might take risks.

Inishark, close to Inishbofin and more than 14 km west of Cleggan, was evacuated in October, 1960 for the want of a safe harbour.

Mr Lacey’s uncles Martin and Michael ,and cousin Peter, were drowned in the channel between Inishark and Inishbofin in 1949, and his grandfather Thomas – father of two of the men – refused to leave with the final six familes when they were transferred to the mainland.

He had hoped to find some sign from his sons, whose bodies were never found. Thomas Lacey spent a night all alone, walked the island several times, set three places at the table, and then left the following day.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times