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Sea Highways - Island Crossroads

3rd Annual Clare Island Symposium - 14, 15 & 16 June 1991

Symposium 1991Though an island is limited terrestrially, the sea that surrounds it, the Atlantic which simultaneously divides and unites, endows it with another dimension.

Nowadays, islands are located at the faithest remove from the centre. They are relegated to the fringe, places of exile located off the well beaten track.

Clare Island, like all of Ireland's off shore islands, is three times removed, an island off an island off an island off an island, a fact which, in 1992,  becomes all the more significant for the island of Ireland, placed as it is on the edge of an increasingly centralised Europe.

But the sea has not always been regarded merely as an obstacle, a peritlous moat which surrounds a castle. The sea is also man's most important highway, a vast and expansive medium of exploration and commerce. Islands are its crossroads and junctions. Theoretically accessible from all directions, they are lodestones for navigating, bulwarks against the ocean forming inshore passages and the places one heads firts.

For the Island of Ireland and her off-shore islands the sea dimension must not be ignored. To quote Dr. John de Courcy, Ireland "... The blood that flows in every one of us here, every one of us in the country is blood that came across the sea."

This Symposium aimed to explore Clare Island's natural and human heritage from a maritime perspective, always with the larger island of Ireland in view. The format for the weekend was multidisciplinary, combining lectures with illustrative fieldtrips to various sites on and around the island.

  • John de Courcy Ireland, honorary research officer of the Maritime Institute of Ireland was the Symposium's guest speaker.

  • Anne Chambers, author of Granuaile, a biography of Grace O'Malley, spoke on this powerful woman's maritime connections to the island and Clew Bay.

  • Timothy Collins, author of Floreat Hibernian, a biography of Robert Lloyd Praeger, spoke about the Clare Island Survey and its maritime work.

  • Laurence Flanangan,  author of Ireland's Armada Legacy covered Clare Island's connection with the Armada.

  • Michael McCaughan of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, spoke on Irish boat building traditions in the west of Ireland.

  • Arthur Reynolds, editor of the Irish Skipper, examined the past, present and future of the local fishing industry.Workfields

  • Paul Gosling, archeologist, UGC, explored the island's maritime archeology.

  • The late Tony Whilde, environmentalist with the Corrib Conservation Centre, traced seabird migration patterns.

Fieldtrips were led by Gordan D'Arcy ornithologist and Dave Mac Grath, marine biologist, along with the other speakers.

There were optional fieldtrips to the off-shore salmon fishfarm as well as early morning and late evening boat trips around the spectacular cliffs of the island to view the seabird colonies.

Sponsored by: BP Nutrition,Clare Island Sea Farms, Sean O'Connor's, Vincent Bourke,the Mayo News,McKeon Stones, Berry's Printings & Ulster Bank.


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