Leaving and returning
Life was hard for the 400 families living here in the mid 19th century. The population halved in ten years around the time of the Great Famine.
A Tuke family
Encouraging families to emigrate was Quaker James Hack Tuke’s solution. At least one family from Omey Island took up his offer of an assisted passage to North America, sailing from Galway in 1883.
Soupers and jumpers
Poverty, hunger and evictions continued to haunt the island. Evangelical missions battled for the souls of the poor by offering soup and schooling if they switched religion. A riot broke out in 1879 when a local Catholic priest accused Omey Island’s Protestant schoolmaster of stealing his flock. The schoolmaster, father of poet Louis MacNeice, had to leave Conamara.
The last resident of Omey Island-born Pascal Whelan emigrated to Australia in 1962. He returned to island solitude after a career as a Hollywood stuntsman