Rathlin Island HostelBlog 4: The Island Sometimes Known As Raghery

Week 6

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The sense of camaraderie at McCuaig’s, the sheer craic, and personal investment, coupled with beautiful landscape made my time on Rathlin second to none. Special mentions to the hostel-runners: Fergus and Tania; but especially Sean, Patsy and Rohan, who made me feel like a member of the family. How could I not take another
week? On my final day we spotted blue whales jumping in Mill Bay, right in front of the hostel.


DVD for Always Sunny in Philadelphia Series 1-2 arrives. Check out the box’s audience warning marks.

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Sean (McFaul) reckoned I’d experience culture shock on return to Belfast. At first, little things; then the rising noise of the traffic, the internalisation of city folk, and a return of claustrophobia. Still, Rathlin’s weather taught me to appreciate the colours and patterns closer to home.

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Enter, Sean Duffield, cartoonist of Paper Tiger Comix, who I’d invited to come from Brighton and be my guest in N. Ireland. Sean had one request.

Week 7

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Belfast to Ballycastle, often it’s needed to change buses at Ballymena. We discovered a small park five minutes from the station with these beautiful Four Seasons statues.

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Sean gets comfortable seal-spotting down at Rue Point, earning the nickname ‘Manimal’.

We take the round-island coach trip.
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Even saw a peregrine falcon at West Lighthouse. It’s a pleasure having Sean D around. His sticking to daily writing exercises provides the perfect context for professional practice myself. Sean is also an awesome cook. There’s not much pub time, as Sean wants to walk e v e r y w h e r e.

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We do make a visit to Yvonne Braithwaite’s Breakwater Arts Studio, hosting Rathlin’s first ever Culture Night. It’s an intimate evening of songs and stories from islanders, handed down through generations, as the sun goes down accompanied by deelish cheeses and warming wines.

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Watershed Cafe Suzie shows us around some caves.
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andy vs sean

And we’re introduced to a healing pool, legend having it that if you bottle this water and give it to a friend, it will clear foot ailments of all descript. Though you can’t use the water on yourself…

healing pool

…No. It really has no effect.

We set sail for home like every visitor to Rathlin, forever changed.

I’ll be returning this weekend (5th December), for a few drinks in the bar. You’re invited to join us.

If you’d like to keep a closer eye on Rathlin, there’s a host of stuff around the web, including the Rathlin Community Page, and the regularly rewarding Friends and Residents of Rathlin page on Facebook.


RathlinHostelBlog 3: Everyone doesn’t want to leave.

Week 5

Hristina and I meet in nearby Ballintoy to coo at Bendhu House, eat at harbour, shriek at divers in rocky waters.

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2015-08-28 14.43.44There’s a pub there with a Game of Thrones room, apt, as they shoot at the harbour twenty minutes walk.

Back on the island, 520 people come in for the Rathlin Run. Special Guest Star: Rathlin chum Moira Morton arrives. Sean and Patsy take us for a look around West Lighthouse.

On the way back, I’m inspired for a horror short and home, we’re made Sunday dinner and treated to many stories. Throughout the week, I’m talking to four islander writers, hatching plans for a writer’s retreat. Beer and burgers for a fiver!

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Writing: End of month deadlines: Sloppily prepped, I do submit an article on writing I am pleased with, five poems and a piece on behalf of Richard Barr, storyteller supremo. 2nd draft my horror piece and continue with the space opera.

Special Guest Stars #2: Donna Traynor and BBC Newsline. I appear in cafe background, but will it make the edit?

Answer: Usual ole nuisance associated with film crews. They might not show up, they show up late, they don’t want to shoot in the cafe, they do want to shoot in the cafe, they’re setting up for ages, or are they filming, I’ve already drank two cups, the marshmallows, the hot chocolate and I can’t order another because they’re still here, directing everything. Annoyed. Filming or not? Apropos of nothing, I drink from an empty cup because this is amusing to me. This ends up on five seconds of the broadcast.

There’s been a problem with the volunteer due to show up on Saturday. Will she? I might stay on. To be continued.

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RathlinHostelblog 2: A kitchen of seals

Week 3

Sean and I kick it off by getting quite polaxed. Jasus, it’s half three! Pretty Barbara has a staggeringly good technical drawing of HMS Drake. 26 beds to change at the weekend!

Special Guest Appearance #2: Mum and Dad find Rathlin breathtaking but get hit on Day 2 by crappiest weather in ages. Oh well, they’ll be back.

Writing: Slack week. Abandoned re-write of Pixels, (shit I can’t shine it seems), diary, postcards. Reading Joyce’s Ulysees and Asimov’s Youth, really short dose of ace.

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Week 4

Special Guest Star: John AKA Jackfirecat! From Oxford! To See me! And the island! John stops to film every moth, we watch the seals with beer (72!), we get more drunk than gentlemen over 40 should and visit Rue Point/Pertwee Lighthouse. We brave the Lamas Fair and insert yellowman into strawberries. No really sir, a younger boy told us to do it. It’s quite good.

Bonding with Hristina from Zurich: toasties, pubbing, stargazing. Meanwhile, I book a holiday to Spain with islander Susie (of Watershed), and play ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ on my lips to the amusement of all in the pub.

Writing: Space opera

Sightings: Stonechat, 2xUFOs, turn out to be ships with very tall lights, and this double-rainbow

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RathlinHostelblog 1: Camera-Eye Returning

Well, it’s been an amazing month on Rathlin, my baseline depression default setting raised to: Oh I’m a bit sad, everything around me is beautiful. Oh, I’m not sad. Cruel world, get a dose of this infection.

Week 1
Arrival, and I lock myself in the caravan to finish an 8,000 word supernatural war story. Emerging at midnight, ‘AndyLuke’ greeted at the bar. Hello website visitors! Tough transition making leap from holidaying on Rathlin to working here. Epilepsy playing up a bit. Lovely family (Martin, Katia, Luciano & Sofia) from Holywood help take the sting out and I’m settling to know more locals; therapeutic bunch.
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Oh, and I get a mohican.

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Week 2
Best Guinness ever, Rathlin Red ale great, Martin shaves my head, for it was becoming weed-like. Meet a localauthor, who speaks on writing as eloquently as the best.

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Surprise guest appearance #1: Sarah and the previous assistant, Marianne. Hard drinking. I almost burn the hostel down but am saved from Hell by a quick-witted scout leader.

Massive bonding w/ my bosses Sean and Patsy, and two Germans, Pia and Sarah, who share my nonsensical imagination and we watch the meteor shower til 6am and I’m probably a tiny bit in love. But they never call. Everyone leaves but it’s okay.
Writing: a romance, a western, and a short called ‘The Call’, which I’ve mentioned previously on here. It had been in the works since 2009.

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Meanwhile, on Rathlin Island…

This was to be a weekly, yet so busy since I took up my post on Rathlin, along with how I’m now a writer of fiction, as my actual, legal day job. It’s been full-on laundry, pub, writing, pub, pub. For now though, you can find out what i’ve been up to through other places on the internet, starting with Jackfirecat’s livejournal, which tells of some of beautiful scenes he and I discovered.

Also, you may be interested to dkiscover…

My facebook feed
August reviews for Rathlin Hostel on Trip Advisor

I return to Belfast on Saturday, hopefully a Rathlinblog will be writ that week.

I swam with seals, this month

They just showed up, one, then another. I thought the third the same. Moira Morton and I were out in Mill Bay, a five minute walk from Rathlin’s harbour. Then there was a fourth, swimming to shore behind me. One popped up in front. That one and I decided we were too close to one another, maybe ten feet away, and took a bit of fright. I let my head bob on the waves, meeting eye level and we all smiled at one another. Yes, it was like whack-a-mole, but without the whacking. Sarah stayed on the shore and tried to grab some footage.

UPDATE: She took some beautiful photos, but not much with videos. Here’s a 6second blink-and-miss it of me swimming, Moira floating, a seal bobbing and a girl with a Tablet device in the water??

My snaps,

Rathlin July 1 Rathlin July 2

Later in McCuaig’s, a woman told me she’d been bitten on the leg. ‘They get very protective of their cubs’, she said. I spent a week out there. Day before leave, we took a trip with Damien McFaul’s ‘Miss B Haven’, which fits about 8-10, starting at 6. Damien offers a £10 trip to the stacks, Jenga chaos like pillars were birds roam with Jurassic Park style. A good spot to see puffins at the right time. He also does a £25 trip, seems expensive, but no. It’s two hours, right around the island and breath-takingly beautiful.

At Rue Point lighthouse, Rathlin East, we met a colony of twenty or so seals. Damien cut the engines. They were spread out, and we drifted in between them. Very friendly, no alarms. A few were but six feet from us.

Sean Duffield, editor of the acclaimed War: High Cost of Living graphic anthology, visits in September. We’ll be spending five days at the Rathlin hostel. It’s situated two minutes walk from the coast, close enough for an excellent view. The hostel is run by Sean and Fergus, and Sean’s wife Patsy. Built a few years ago, its open all year round. Tidy, comfortable and homely, still a bit of an awkward secret. In an unexpected turn of events, I got some drink in me and asked Sean and Patsy to consider me for the job of hostel assistant. Once they sobered up, they accepted. That’s where I’ll be spending August, my first month as a self-employed freelance author.


The Guardian picks up on Absence: a comic about epilepsy

‘Flesh Mob’ epic opens The Orb’s Tense Situations anthology

“I think it’s terrific. Really impressive. A really nice easy flow to its movements.” – David Hughes on Sea Legs, available for free on WithPaintedWords.com

First writer’s retreat

Last September, I hurried together a trip to Rathlin. As per the objective, it was cheap, (£60 a head OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAall inclusive), and didn’t mean me stressing over a big group or cancellations. The six of us came from Belfast Writers Group, people I’d got to know over two years, and could depend on. The location was inspiring and the prepared content would be self-fuelled, in the barcamp ethos of everybody brings something. As it was only Alex prepared a presentation, the rest of us either ran out of time, or decided to ad lib. (An earlier draft of my plan made used of a timetabled plan for teaching, readings, private writing, group discussion and time set aside for leisure)

In many ways, the beautiful location worked against the order of things. Rathlin is wild and flourishing, enormous through it’s limits. It was short-sighted thinking this heart-winning location could coop six creatives in a bungalow. It took much buckling down to get us each to write one short piece from a set stimulus point. Once we’d done that,we agreed, post Doctor Who, to entertain one another with an evening lock-in, the compositions and a bottle of wine. There were alternate takes on my breakfast breakdown, observations of the beautiful environment and eerie descriptions of local myth. It was worth resisting the charms of the local pub to allow us to bond beyond friendships, as creatives working and evolving in a singular space.

1200px-Rathlin_Island_Northern_Ireland_17Rathlin Island Northern Ireland 17” by Brian O’NeillOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

(In defence of the pub, it gave inspiration for three of the tales in our canon. We got there after the group-session, and it was one of the prettiest night-skies I’ve ever seen)

On the logistical side of things, plans changed as they do. Lynda, our un-official leader, chef and driver had to drop out at short notice. Holly volunteers to provide wheels and everyone can take turns at breakfast and lunch prep. My food shop plan needed help, so Holly wheeled in there too.

We weren’t dependent on Lynda to fill a bunk as one person slept in over-flow accommodation. Alex signed up a few days before. A few people had dietary concerns. These posed little problem,  required I do an hour or two of research, which, in a perfect would be just common altruism.

I got a lot from this weekend, and am indebted to Holly, Alex, Ellie, Bruce and Philip for making it happen. Also for the inspiration, the Midwinter Comics Retreat crowd, led by the painfully missed wunderkind Debra Boyask.

Leaning Over Rathlin - by Ellie Rose McKee

Leaning Over Rathlin – by Ellie Rose McKee

I want to do another one of these soon. It’s proving a bit of a chore finding venues to accommodate more than six while keeping a low price. I think these things are worth chasing though, particularly in a time of mass unemployment.

If you’d like to be part of a N. Ireland Spring creator’s retreat, drop me a line. It’s safer than Facebook to use the comments function below.

And you can read the piece I wrote on Rathlin, an alternate take of the weekend at Skypen.

70 – Travelblog: Rathlin


It began to get light about 7am on Rathlin.





Three hours free before the ferry, and Bruce’s Kitchen Cafe was closed, maybe related to a resident’s funeral.





Above: a stone chair dedicated to the island, with a poem by Seamus Heaney.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wandered around the shoreline, taking photos and attracting the attention of a dog. The eponymous Rathlin became my companion for half an hour, bringing a stick for me to throw. yanking out tubed stem seaweed for me to throw, lifting a plank from a building yard and dragging it across the street, presumably to throw, and as an ailibi.  And when I washed the seaweed off in a little stream, Rathlin piled right into it, all four legs.










And then, the money ran out. And I went home





I’ll be back though. I’ve already twisted the arm of the Belfast Writer’s Group for a retreat out there, and Richard sent me this text earlier,

“Cheers 4 lovely postcard. Is just a place out a time up there – like a realm just slightly off the frequency. U know 4 yr bday there shud b a party up there. Out in the wilderness, us all imagining we’re the last remains of something, and we’re braced against the outside closing in”

Which sounds very tempting. My birthday is 70 days away,