1948 Evacuation of Inishmurray Island Remembered

1948 Evacuation of Inishmurray Island Remembered Back Row: Jerry O’Sullivan, Cllr. Donal Gilroy, Mayor of Sligo Cllr. Declan Bree, Joe McGowan, Marie Heraughty. Front Row: Christy Herrity, Mary Wright (Harte) and Patrick Brady.

It was Friday,12th November 1948 when the last families left Inishmurray Island to start a new life on the mainland in Co. Sligo.

Seventy-five years on from the evacuation of the island, the island families gathered at City Hall, Sligo for ‘An Inishmurray Miscellany’.  The special event took place on Friday 10th November 2023 with a large attendance and promised to be a gathering of community, heritage and music to respectfully mark the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the Island. 

Welcoming all to the event, Mayor of Sligo, Cllr. Declan Bree said:

‘It must have been a very difficult decision for the families to leave the island at that time.    But what’s clear from this gathering is that the family connections to the island remain strong.  This evening we look forward to remembering those who have gone before us and celebrating the rich heritage and culture of the island. I am also conscious that there are many people who have a strong connection and love of the island but who unfortunately could not be with us.  You are in our thoughts this evening.’

Chair of Sligo Heritage Forum Cllr. Donal Gilroy relaunched the Archaeology Ireland Heritage Guide titled ‘Inishmurray – An Island off County Sligo’. The guide was printed in 2002 but has been out of print for some time and had been reprinted for the 75th Anniversary of the island evacuation.  Cllr. Gilroy added:

‘I very much welcome this event.  It creates a space for us to join with the island families to remember, to commemorate, and to celebrate the rich heritage of the Island.  As we approached the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the island, Sligo Heritage Forum reached out to see if there was interest in having an event to mark it in some way.  Given the attendance this evening, I am delighted that we did.’

The event included presentations from Marie Heraughty, daughter of Dr, Patrick Heraughty, who provided a personal reflection on Inishmurray Island and highlighted the resilience and strength of community of the island families.  Local historian, Joe McGowan who has a deep interest and love of Inishmurray Island over many years gave a wonderful talk on the rich local history and folklore of the Island.  The final speaker on the night was Jerry O’Sullivan, an archaeologist who led a series of excavations on the island from 1997-2001. Jerry spoke about the archaeology and conservation of the island and highlighted its International importance.  A wrapped audience hung on their every word. 

The presentations were bookended by contributions from musicians Rick Epping (concertina and mouth organ), John Burrows (guitar) and Shane Reynolds (fiddle) and Catherine Rhatigan (harp).   The music was played by musicians with a family connection to the island, which added to the special atmosphere of the evening and was greatly appreciated by all.  The evening closed with a reception at City Hall, where the island families and fellow Inishmurray enthusiasts mingled, remembered and made lasting memories.

The commemorative event was an initiative of Sligo Heritage Forum and was hosted by the Heritage Office, Sligo County Council.  Copies of the Archaeology Ireland Heritage Guide titled ‘Inishmurray – An Island off County Sligo’ are now available (free) from the Heritage Office, Sligo County Council by emailing heritage@sligococo.ie .  

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