The drastic decline in pupil numbers at the 125-year-old St. Columba's N.S. on Inishturk Island, off the Mayo coast – the most peripheral classrooms in Europe, has prompted the island Community Council to issue an SOS for young families to consider moving to the outpost nine miles off the cost.
The educational facilities will be second to none with just three pupils enrolled for the September term guaranteeing virtually a one-to one teacher-pupil ratio.
There are some vacant dwellings available for long term renting on the island, which is accessible all year round by a regular ferry service from Roonagh Pier near Louisburgh.
Over recent years the go-ahead community have greatly enhanced the lifestyle on Inishturk.
From a communications point of view there is full speed broadband – a facility that not all mainland communities in modern day Ireland enjoy.
Likewise the thriving community centre and shop provide both a shopping and social outlet for locals.
The island is virtually traffic free and the views of Killary Harbour and Croagh Patrick are breathtaking.
I have spent many happy summers there and the hospitality and friendliness of the 62 inhabitants is legendary.
Perhaps, the one drawback is the prospect of having to spent winters on the island, but with the large ferry serving the island there are very few occasions when it cannot sail.
Anyone interested in bird watching, hill walking, fishing and outdoor pursuits will find Inishturk a real haven of tranquillity and bliss.
The population breakdown according to the latest statistics show that prior to the summer holidays the island had 62 inhabitants – 38 less than in 1980.
Eleven of the island population were over 65, 23 were aged between 40 and 65, eight between 20 and 40, nine were at third level, five were on the mainland in secondary school while six were attending primary school.
Unfortunately job opportunities on the island are few and far between with fishing and farming the mainstays but one of the advantages of life on Inishturk is crime free – a major consideration in any community.
A new medical centre is located close to the harbour, which boasts a new pier allowing full access at low tide and last year a loop walk was completed on the island.
Summer sees an influx of visitors who avail of the local B&Bs and the traditional music sessions in the Community Centre.
There are families who would love island life and all the advantages that go with it. Let us hope there will be a response to the invitation.