Rescued by the Irish Navy

It is impossible for me not to mention that during my stay on the island in 1999 I was the sole cause of an Irish Navy call-out, and that a rather large War Ship made its move from Caherciveen to the Blasket Island, via Dingle, to, well, pick up a prescription I had forgotten!

I am an insulin-dependent diabetic, and need to inject myself with insulin at least twice a day. I kept my insulin in a gas-powered fridge on the island, but on one occasion, with my love for staying on the island, (I don't think I had been off the island for about two months at this stage)I found that, looking at my supplies of insulin, I had about enough to last me for twenty four hours, and, of course, this was during a time when the boats were not running due to the ocean swells. There were only three of us on the island in fact. Myself, Sue the weaver, and also a German camper.

I was in the habit of going to Sue's in the evening, for a cup of tea. I did this throughout my stay on the island, going there about once a week, but during times we were cut off from the mainland I would go there every other evening. Mostly we gossiped, but I also learned a few things about the island from Sue's extensive stay here, the most memorable thing for me was her description of the time a white Snowy Owl made a three day retreat in the village! I told Sue about my situation and she phoned the pharmacy in Dingle via her mobile phone. I left her to it because she looked very busy and said it might take some time.

I went for a walk, absolutely relishing having the island almost to myself. As someone who had lived in England this was exceptional; to have a whole mountain in the sea, pretty much entirely there just for you. Do not mistake my intent her; I did not want it solely for myself but on the occasions when it appeared that I did indeed have this vast tract of land to myself, (and knowing that Sue and the camper were in the village at one end, thus giving me the knowledge that everything ahead of me was people-less), then there was an impelling sense of opportunity, love and intimacy in me as I walked.

I remember writing poetry to describe this, and the sense of pure nature that a single person may appreciate: it is more like the first land; on the earth the first words. Such are the ways of beauty and doves, touch her.The walk I did then was certainly one of the most intimate of my life. As in the poem, I regarded the earth very much as my Mother. I am aware that Native Americans have brought people to the Blasket Island on Vision Quests. The details have always been a bit sketchy as to why they would do this – perhaps it was a group of people associated with Native wisdom somewhere in the British Isles who took people here. I never understood the exact dynamics of it but it is something which I heard from two separate people. There was an interesting man who liked Native Americans and he was on the island for a while, he borrowed my fishing rod once and said he planned to catch a 'Salmon of Knowledge' but I don't think he really knew how to fish and he came back with nothing. I understand the ability to seek a vision here though. Especially if one is to come when it is people-less. If one is to come ready and expecting to be cut off for a week or more, then that person may easily find something along the lines of their quest, and perhaps the man who hoped for a Salmon of Knowledge found something else as he sat there in hope.

Anyway, I remember that it was still three o'clock or so in the afternoon, not that I had a watch of course, and I went down to see Sue and she looked very purposeful and energetic. She smiled and said: 'The Irish Navy are coming within the hour to bring you your insulin.'
'What?' I was stunned.
They're going from Caherciveen, then picking up your insulin from your pharmacy in Dingle, then coming here, so make sure you're on the quay when they come.'

I was delighted with the news. It was a feeling of gratitude similar to when you think you have lost something, like a necklace, but find it on the bathroom floor.

About an hour and a half later I saw something which I must admit made me giggle. I saw a Warship enter the Blasket Sound on account of my forgetfulness! But a stronger impulse or emotion took over and that was an utter love for the Irish people as a race. The sense of community and friendliness which the Irish often demonstrated was here made even more true by the effort of a whole crew and a Commander who had obviously talked and met with my Pharmacist, here to help me when I was in grave danger. For without that insulin I could easily have slipped into a coma. My only option without the insulin would have been to eat only protein,(not easy considering my supplies were basically rice and onions), and to do exercise to lower blood sugars. But I had no idea whether this would work, and it felt very dangerous to try it. The Warship, which was the largest vessel I had ever seen in these waters, was my salvation from this. It was definitely a War machine, all in grey. I remember how clean it looked and its almost silent entry into the Sound.

I went down to the quay, because I was outside Sue's house at the time, and I was met by a single man in an outboard-powered inflatable. He came onto the quay, greeted me and handed me the prescription package. Someone must have told him that there was only one man on the island so he knew it was me. He did ask me: 'Simon?' and I nodded and thanked him, so sincerely. He had a real look of purpose about him that all people in the services seem to have, but he also seemed to be in a rush to get back on his ship. There was nothing authoritative about him and I was glad of this. He was a pure serviceman at his best, and I remember adding that I wanted him to thank everyone involved.

And off he went. Residents of Dún Chaoin and Coumeenole must have wondered what on earth was going on. It may have got in the papers, I honestly don't know. I'd like to say that I went up onto the South side of the island to watch the ship go back toward the Ring of Kerry, but I felt so grateful for having my insulin that I felt like I should look after myself, and give myself a dose of the insulin. I think watching the ship going back would have encouraged a feeling of guilt in me, so perhaps it is good that I just felt gratitude. That said, I can't be sure, but I have a feeling that I caused all this commotion on a restful Sunday!

©: Simon Francis Hambrook.

The Green Dragon No 13

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