Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Imagine what it would be like to live on Lennon's Irish desert isle

You could happily go off your onion on an island. Good place to do it. Generally speaking, it's other people who drive folk doolally, particularly on islands and other backward rural areas.

But, on an uninhabited island, it's up to you to push yourself off the edge. You start off, I imagine, all idealistic, waking full of the joys each morning and exulting: "Hello wind! Hello sea! Hello guano!"

But after six months, you're goose-stepping down the beach at midnight with a crab on your head, yodelling ominously: "I'm a little toothbrush looking for some teeth."

A private island, once owned by John Lennon, has just come on the market. Dorninish Island, in Clew Bay off the coast of Co Mayo, is going for a song.

Not a song of sixpence. A song of £240,000. But that's not bad, as these things go.

What do you get for your moolah? Well, there are 19 acres of grass and sand, a freshwater well, the ruins of an old house, and the lingering, ghostly smell of burnt tepees.

The tepees belonged to a hippy community, which lasted an impressive two years on Dorninish, before fire from a storm-tossed oil lamp engulfed the store tent's canvas. The resultant conflagration was as good an excuse as any to scarper.

Lennon had allowed Sid Rawle, dubbed 'King of the Hippies', to live rent-free on the island, together with his followers. Though the Beatle never lived there himself, he visited a couple of times and must have thought: "You could happily go off your glass onion here."

Shortly before his assassination, he told the New York Times he was planning to retire there. Alas, he never got the chance, and his widow Yoko Ono sold the island to local farmers, who used it as pasture for ruminants.

Humans seeking pastures new might be better considering Inish Turk Beg, also up for sale in Clew Bay.

Unfortunately, they'll need to have a good rake through all their pockets to find the £2.85m necessary to buy that.

But that's half the amount the present Turkish owner spent on it. It boasts luxury homes, stables, a dance hall, cinema, gymnasium and even an astroturf pitch for anyone who fancies playing with himself.

I'm sure that, rather than isolating yourself there, you could turn it into a holiday paradise for those and such as those. Islands are odd. Their geography, because it is visible and comprehensible, imprints itself on your brainlobes. This gives you a strong sense of place.

Having spent way too much time in such places, I still get strong impressions of them in my mind and, at times, feel the pangs of return strongly. Generally speaking, however, it's never a good idea to go back to anything.

Think of how many footer players have returned to clubs where once they were legends, and the result has been disaster and the tarnishing of their place in mythology. Remember, too, that these days you need to be connected to the internut, otherwise you'll have to speak to people. And, if none are around, you'll have to speak to yourself. And, in my experience, that just leads to arguments. Improbably enough, Inish Turk Beg has broadband internet, so you could always send out for pizza - but be prepared to wait a few days for it.

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