Most of the time I take little heed of the passing years but once in a while something stares you in the face that makes you realise you are not walking up the hill any more!
Believe it or not, it was 50 years ago this summer that John Lennon made us all sit up when he purchased his own island in Clew Bay. The Beatles were the biggest music act on the planet and here was John Lennon coming to live among us off the West coast!
Part of a maze of inner islands in the spectacular County Mayo bay, Dorinish Island was owned by Westport Harbour Board and had been used as a piloting station for cargo ships navigating the harbour. The tidal harbour was no longer a busy port and the board put the 19-acre island up for sale by public auction.
The Beatle saw it advertised in an English newspaper and sent over a representative who paid £1,700, easily outbidding local farmers interested in purchasing the island for pasture.
Lennon originally bought the island as a family retreat for his wife, Cynthia and son, Julian, but when he arrived with his new girlfriend, Yoko Ono, in June 1968 the press went ballistic. However, the only story to emerge was about Oko’s huge beehive hairdo that received a lot of attention from gulls and gannets looking for material for their nests!
A neighbour’s dog also took a fancy to John’s ankle length Afghan coat thinking it was some strange animal to be challenged. The Beatle visited the island twice and spent only one night there with Ono in a gypsy caravan brought over for the occasion.
Later, Lennon gave a group of hippies permission to live on the island in a commune. Calling themselves ‘The Tribe of the Sun’, they arrived in 1969 but only lasted a couple of years in the harsh weather conditions.
Four years after Lennon’s death, Yoko Ono sold the island for £30,000 and donated the money to an Irish orphanage. To this day Dorinish is still known locally as ‘Beatle Island’.