A small Irish island, with a population of just 144 people, has turned to the internet in the hopes of bringing a bright Christmas to its shores this year.
Toraigh, nine miles off the northwest coast of Donegal, is one of Ireland's most northerly and remote islands. Comharchumann Thoraí, the island’s cooperative, has started a Go Fund Me page with the hopes of raising €2,000 ($2,180) to buy Christmas lights and other decorations for the island. Over €810 ($902) has already been raised for the purchase of the outdoor lights, holly wreaths, decorations and a crib.
Marjorie Uí Cheannabháin from Comharchumann Thoraí said that the islanders want to “bring Christmas to the island” again this year after years without much public decoration for the season.
“We have around 25 children living on the island now, a lot more than used to be living here a few years ago and we want the island to look nice for Christmas.
“For a few years now, not many decorations have gone up [in public spaces], I’m not sure why. There have always been a few street lights put up, but this year we want to do something big. We have been promised a Christmas tree already from the mainland and we’re working on the Go Fund Me page now as well as a few other events on the island to raise the money. We intend to buy a big, illuminated sign saying ‘Nollaig Shona ó Thoraigh’ [Merry Christmas from Toraigh],” she told Tuairisc.ie.
Comharchumann Thoraí intends to have a special ‘lighting of lights’ night in the week before Christmas to officially start the festive season on the island.
Between then and now, however, there are several fundraising events planned for the island and the Go Fund Me page will be open to anyone around the world who would like to help the people of Toraigh to ‘bring Christmas to the island.’
Toraigh is unique among Irish islands in being the only one to still have a king in the Gaelic tradition. The current king is Patsy Dan Mac Ruairí, who was elected to the formerly hereditary role in 1993. The 72-year-old King of Toraigh follows a line of island monarchs that stretches back to the 6th century when Saint Colm Cille made islander Dubhagán the first king. The king does not have absolute power on the island these days but rather acts as an ambassador and spokesman for the community.
Mac Ruairí most recently spoke publicly when appealing for a priest “with sea legs” to come and live on the island. Father Kieran, who had been living on Toraigh for four years, recently left and a replacement priest is being sought.
“We enjoyed Father Kieran very much, he came to Toraigh expecting to stay a few weeks but he was here for four years. He was very good at festivals like Christmas, St Patrick's Day and Easter. He was a good priest and we’ll miss him,” he said.
He said he hoped that a new priest would be available soon and that he would be happy to live on the island and speak Irish (the language of the island).
You can contribute to the Toraigh Christmas fund here.