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“Oileán Na Marbh” – Isle of the Dead


Carrickfinn, County Donegal, Ireland

SKU: THE ISLE OF THE DEAD-001 Categories: , , ,
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Carrickfinn, County Donegal, Ireland
I have visited some strange places across Ireland throughout my years, although recently I was unexpectedly contacted by a gentleman with information regarding the strangest location I would ever visit…. “Oilean Na Marbh” an Island of the Dead. Initially I believed this may be a joke or an old urban legend tale or something. Although my doubts soon lifted & my heart broke into pieces when I started to research into this island’s almost unbelievable history.
This little Island you see in my photo may look like a normal lump of rocky ground on a beach in Donegal. Little do we know that this island is resting ground to over 500 stillborn & famine babies! All buried here in what was once a very secret burial ground These children were born between the 18th and 19th centuries. These poor little souls could not be buried on consecrated ground simply because they had not been baptised before passing away. This was common practice across Ireland for hundreds of years & many children were buried just outside of consecrated grounds such as graveyards & churches etc. The closer to holy ground the better because those children were not allowed within the actual boundary walls.
However, the community of Carrickfinn instead chose this now sacred island for their unbaptised burials right up until its last burial in 1912. It has been kept this small communities secret until only recent times. The poor parents would have carried their child in a small wooden box across this beach at low tide to this island during the cover of night. They buried the children here & left this island forever in hope that nobody would ever find out. Back in those times it was seen as a shameful deed here in Ireland to have given birth outside of marriage or if your child had passed away before being baptised. In my personal opinion this was an utter disgrace I’m pleased that religion has stopped these dated practices & finally moved forward with the times.
On a final note my friends, I have not travelled here in one earn to simply take a photo & tell the world about Donegal’s best kept secret. No! I would never share this without good reason. I have only captured this photo & told you the truth about this island because the local community from Carrickfinn nowadays want everyone to know about this secret island’s burials. As only through people knowing about the souls of these 500 children can they start being remembered & prayed for aiding towards their eternal rest in heaven, not outside it’s gates like we were once led to believe!
As Séamus Peter Boyle, one of the founding campaigners to have a plaque erected on the island in honour of the dead said – “This was so important for our community to remember those on the island and to pass our knowledge on. It is part of our heritage and it is a good thing that it is not forgotten. Now there is a memorial cross and a commemorative stone to show that they will never be forgotten. The memorial stone reads “In memory of the stillborn babies, Famine children and sailors buried here in Oileán na Marbh (Isle of the Dead) up until the early 1900s. Erected and dedicated by the community. ‘Is e an Tiarna m’aoire’
RIP to all these once lost but now found souls on “Oilean Na Marbh”….

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