Lesley Kehoe and Gordon Bond are running Peig Sayers’ Cottage on The Great Blasket Islands for the summer season
Irish couple Lesley Kehoe and Gordon Bond have traded in their city jobs in Dublin for a simpler life on the Great Blasket Islands off the coast of Co Kerry.
Twenty-seven-year-old Kehoe and 29-year-old Bond had grown tired of their “monotonous” commute from their home in Co Kildare to their jobs in Dublin, where Kehoe worked at a Seamus Heaney exhibition and Bond worked as a civil servant before making their big move.
Kehoe discussed her and Bond’s adventure with The Irish Sunday Mirror: “I have always been interested in the Great Blasket Islands – I wrote my thesis about their heritage. As part of my research, Gordon and I went out there and we stayed in one of the cottages.”
The Great Blasket Islands, off the beautiful coast of Co Kerry, were abandoned back in 1954 after a decline in population, along with concerns about the difficulty of reaching the island in the event of an emergency. The island, which remains largely uninhabited, does not have electricity or hot running water.
'I gcuimhne ar mhuintir an Oileáin seo go léir
Mar ná beidh a leithéidí arís ann.'
In memory of all the people of this Island— Lesley (@island_lesley) July 15, 2019
For the like of them will never be seen again. pic.twitter.com/GTDuDZgtDL
Nonetheless, Kehoe said it was love at first sight: “We just fell in love with the place and in January I saw a Facebook post advertising a job looking after the hostel there.”
“I had been working in the heritage sector at a Seamus Heaney exhibition and Gordon was in the civil service at the time. I loved my work, but we both wanted a bit of a change and a break from our routine so we decided to go for it and 10 days later we got the job.”
In April, Kehoe and Gordon packed their bags to head for An Blascaod Mor, the largest of the Great Blasket Islands off the picturesque coast of Co Kerry, and they’ll live there until October, the end of the season.
We're leaving our jobs and moving to the Great Blasket Island for the 2019 season. We're either very mad or very brave, possibly both. Electricity-free life means we won't always be contactable so if you need us, we're in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! pic.twitter.com/y9XxH1ttls— Lesley (@island_lesley) February 13, 2019
On the island, the couple runs and maintains Peig Sayers’ Cottage, a guest accommodation named for the famous Irish novelist who used to live and work there. Kehoe notes that she and Gordon work to maintain the heritage of the site, as oppose to commercialize it:
The houses that now host guest accomodation are the Congested District Board homes built in the 1900s. They host a maximum of 21 people and give visitors a chance to appreciate the island's magic. Nobody is out here to cause harm and every effort is made to prevent it.— Lesley (@island_lesley) July 29, 2019
Change of pace
Kehoe discussed the change of lifestyle she’s encountered on the island: “There’s a wind turbine which powers a socket so we have one socket for the whole place – it wouldn’t be powerful enough to run a hoover or anything but it can charge my phone. I can take bookings for the hostel on that and send in our shopping lists – we couldn’t do without it.”
“I still walk into a room sometimes and think, ‘It’s very dark in here’ and go to turn on the light, then remember I can’t.”
“The lack of electricity hasn’t actually bothered me that much but it did take me a while to get used to not having hot water. I said I was going to heat up water every day, that I’d never have a cold shower – but to be honest you’d be upstairs and dressed by the time you’d have the water heated in the kettle so I just decided to brave it.”
Despite the lack of electricity, Kehoe has been dutiful in sharing pictures and videos that showcase a way of life that may seem equal parts foreign and idyllic when compared to the modern 'rat race.'
Another day in paradise. There is nowhere on earth like the Great Blasket pic.twitter.com/GFFY5ECzgu— Lesley (@island_lesley) July 14, 2019
With limited emergency resources, Kehoe and Gordon are forced to be mindful in their day-to-day life: “You just have to be prepared and hope that nothing goes wrong.”
“Sometimes we are cut off from the mainland for three or four days. We just have to be mindful of that and not take any chances, we take it easy when we’re lifting chairs and tables in the house and things like that.”
Ahead of one anticipated stormy night in July, Kehoe assured her followers that she and Gordon had all the necessities ready to go:
But nobody needs worry about us - we're well stocked! pic.twitter.com/Q7WLpLgnbu— Lesley (@island_lesley) July 21, 2019
While the Irish couple is the only permanent residents on the island for the time being, they frequently have visitors staying in holiday accommodations: “We can have up to 31 people in the accommodation, boats come out from Dingle, Bantry, and Dunquin.”
“Then if the weather is bad it’s just us but that’s actually our favorite time. All you can hear is the beach and the waves. That’s when we really get to appreciate the island and landscape and what the islanders would have went through when they were living here.”
While the couple is no doubt enjoying their break from modern life, Kehoe says there are a few things she misses: “I miss my family obviously but they’ve all come out to visit. Other than that, I really miss my dog, she’s old so we couldn’t bring her with us. I don’t really get any cravings apart from ice cream on a hot day.”
Today was a very special day. My parents, my incredible 83-year old Nanny and my beautiful dog visited the Great Blasket and we feel so lucky to have had them here pic.twitter.com/WubutCWpez— Lesley (@island_lesley) August 6, 2019
The couple’s time on the island will come to a close in October and Lesley said they will be “heartbroken” to leave.
“I don’t think either of us are ready to leave the island, it’s become a huge part of our lives and it’s definitely changed us. I think living here has shown us what works for us and what doesn’t and this pace of life definitely suits us."
Can you believe this view? Not a single filter - just point and shoot. Blessed to live here pic.twitter.com/Z0EFIebWw0— Lesley (@island_lesley) May 13, 2019
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Have you ever been to the Great Blasket Islands? Would you ever want to live there? Let us know in the comments!