Wednesday, 28 April 2010


This is my father and my sister Claire, probably in the summer of 1970. Also aboard is our labrador Joe, the first dog we took to the island and perhaps the most intelligent - certainly the most single-minded - dog we ever owned.

If my father has about him the look of a child with a new toy, then the pristine condition of the Fisherboat in which he is crossing the sound might offer an explanation. It had a single-cylinder inboard diesel with a starting handle which took considerable strength to crank, and its maximum speed was a sedate six knots. It made a low, rhythmic, thump thump thump sound which I can call up even today; and of course, it was my father's pride and joy.

When it came to the family, Joe possessed an endearing streak of blind loyalty, and one afternoon we almost lost him to it . We had just crossed to the island from the stone quay which you can see over my father's shoulder, to the right of the little red-roofed cottage, and were putting things in order for a few days of precious family time at the cabin. My mother pointed seawards and said, 'Seal!' and we all looked - and looked again. In the excitement, Joe had been forgotten and there he was, three-quarters of a mile from the quay, swimming hard for the island and making only modest progress across an ebb tide which we could all see was carrying him inexorably southwards, past the cabin and towards the open lough.

The Fisherboat was cranked into action and we sped at six knots in pursuit. Joe half-turned and came towards us, having redoubled his efforts and perhaps got his bearings, and we pulled him aboard by the scruff of his neck. He must have been exhausted, but of course he greeted us with extravagant, and thoroughly undeserved thanks, and if a dark cloud of collective guilt might otherwise have hung for some time over Islandmore, none better than Joe to dispel it.

I have indicated the first part of Joe's heroic journey on this oil painting of my mother's from about the same time.
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