Sole resident of Inishfree Island leaves for good

70-year-old old man returns to his wife and family in Essex

Garda Jim Brennan; David Alcorn, presiding officer; and Donal Ó Dufaigh, a radio reporter, return from Inishfree Island to Burtonport, Co Donegal, with the General Election ballot box, containing two votes, in November 1992. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Garda Jim Brennan; David Alcorn, presiding officer; and Donal Ó Dufaigh, a radio reporter, return from Inishfree Island to Burtonport, Co Donegal, with the General Election ballot box, containing two votes, in November 1992. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The remote island of Inishfree off Donegal has been left to itself once again after its sole resident returned to England after 20 years.

Barry Pilcher (70) left the island on which he was the sole resident today, along with wife Eve who spent the last few days with him sharing his wind-swept home.

Both took Oscar Duffy’s ferry to Burtonport yesterday morning and then they caught Doherty’s coach to Letterkenny for a bus to Dublin.

Tonight they were due to board a ferry to Holyhead for a train to London tomorrow to the home he left in Dagenham, Essex, for his island hideaway in 1993.

Barry had his saxophone with him on his England-bound journey.

He said: “I am bringing them all back with me. I have a tenor sax, a soprano sax and a sopranino sax. I am also taking my flute and clarinet with me. I am so looking forward to playing music with my wife once more. She is a wonderful cello player.”

When Barry, Eve and their daughter Alice Rainbow transferred to Inishfree the women – both nurses – only stuck it for a couple of years before moving back to England.

They maintained contact by mobile phone and on the Internet and occasionally Eve would visit Barry in his ramshackle home on the island.

He admitted when his Skype service failed that he couldn’t even share a smile with his wife over the New Year. He said: “Skype is no alternative to giving her a hug.”

On Inishfree Barry wrote poetry, played his saxophone and maintained internet contact with other musicians in Europe – when his broadband worked.

He moved from London in 1993 because he was struck with the beauty of the island and its isolation which permitted him to work on his music and poetry without being disturbed.

A handful of people have holiday homes on the island – six even go to the polling booth at election time in Barry’s house to vote – but their main homes are on the mainland.