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Last Deserted Village residents have emotional reunion


BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN  Anthony Callaghan and his sister Annie Ward with extended members of the Callaghan family at their former home in the Deserted Village in Achill. Pic: Sean Molloy/Blue Flag Media

Anton McNulty

AN emotional family reunion took place in Achill over the weekend when two members of the last family to live in the Deserted Village returned to their former home.
The Callaghan family were the last family to live in one of the famed Deserted Village cottages on Achill Island until they left the island in 1948. Over the weekend, two of the remaining eight children, brother and sister Anthony Callaghan and Annie Ward, along with extended family members, returned to their former family home.
The Deserted Village is believed to once have had a population of 1,700 prior to the Great Famine when the majority of the residents left to settle closer to the sea in Dooagh and Pollagh in Achill.
While the traditional stone cottages were used as a seasonal Boley village until the early 20th Century, the Callaghan family remained living there permanently.
Anthony Callaghan, son of Patrick and Annabelle Callaghan, was the last of the family to be born in the Deserted Village and was six years old when the family emigrated. He now resides in Glasgow and along with his sister, Annie, who resides in Donegal, they returned to their former homestead, which is now in ruins on the foot of Slievemore.
This trip was much more special than their previous visits as they were accompanied by 50 family members from all over the UK and Ireland, all keen to connect with their unique heritage.
Anthony and Annie recalled their memories of living in the village and going to school in their bare feet and looking after their cattle. Marie McGuire, daughter of Anthony, said that it was an emotional occasion.
“It was an emotional time for all of us and it was great to be back in Achill together as a family. We all live in different countries and don’t meet up too often and when we do it’s often for funerals. To be together for such a happy occasion was something we will always remember,” she said.
Hugh Ward, son of Annie, explained that the family had been talking about a reunion for a number of years and it was important to see their heritage.
“We are lucky enough to have two members of the family who are here still with us. It’s just incredible, we have learned so much about our history up here today. It is a fabulous occasion but there is a lot of sadness too obviously. The times spent here were hard times. We are privileged nowadays when we look back and see what they had. It is a lifetime for us, the younger ones here are all in awe of it,” he said.
The family unveiled a plaque at the family home with a photograph taken in 1935 of some of the children. The names of the children are also listed and they are Patrick, Bridgie, Mary, Annie, Katie, Bella, Agnes and Anthony.
Hugh said that it was right that the last family to live in the Deserted Village are remembered.
“I live in Co Cork now and the amount of people who have said they have been up in Mayo and say do you know the Deserted Village. They have all been and I can say that my mother’s family were the last ones to leave. For us it is an incredible story and I don’t think it gets the appreciation that it should. They were incredible people.”