Celebrating the Women of Scattery Island on International Women’s Day
And they would look out to sea and wait……
Wait for their men to come home from work, piloting ships along the dangerous waters of the Shannon then returning home to the island in their Currachs (known as canoes ), or seafaring for months or years at a time with the Royal or Merchant Navy. Indeed it was not only the men of Scattery who were recognised as skilled sea farers, the women too were renowned for their rowing skills.
The women of Scattery Island may have been waiting for the safe return of their men, but they were certainly not idle. It was the women who became the Island farmers, tending the land, gathering produce and making the hour long journey by canoe to attend the market in Kilrush town, where they would trade their produce for turf. To safely make this journey, they would have needed to understand the tides and the currents, as well as having the physical strength to safely negotiate the crossing.
The women of Scattery had to be strong and hardworking while their men were away, tending to the land, the stock and looking after their families.
Imagine how dependent they must have been on each other to get through the challenges of life, birth, and death in their small Island community.
The memorial inscriptions on the gravestones on Scattery Island offer a glimpse into the harsh reality of life for Islanders, telling their story of how many died so very young, how many died at sea and how many parents buried their children. Sadly there is more than one gravestone telling the story of parents burying four of their children…
“Erected by John and Mary Grogan in memory of their beloved children Patrick who died June 1877, John 1879, Maggie April 30 1881, Stephen April 11th 1896.”
Overcoming tough conditions, the women of Scattery were resilient, resourceful and during the famine years, were successful in ensuring that the island was one of the only places in Ireland to increase both in population and the number of houses.
Despite the hardship, we know from the stories handed down, that music and dancing was a regular feature within the island homes.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, we reflect on the women of Scattery, coping with self-sufficiency, the elements, isolation and yet finding strength within this small island community, supporting of each other and coping bravely while the men were away for extended periods.
And we wonder, what would St. Senan have thought of these resilient island women…
Afterall, it is a well recorded fact that when St. Senan and his monks occupied Scattery Island, no females were allowed on the island.
We cannot help but smile at the irony that St. Senan’s feast day of March 8th now falls on the same day as International Women’s Day!