Emotional reunion for family from deserted Achill Island village

A family reunion has taken place in Achill Island after two members of the last family to live in a deserted village —along with their extended family — returned to their former home.

Anthony Callaghan, 78, and his sister Annie Ward, 85, are the only surviving inhabitants of Slievemore, which is a deserted village on Achill Island off the north-west coast of Ireland.

The brother and sister — along with their siblings Patrick, Bridgie, Mary, Katie, Bella, and Agnes — were the last to leave the village when their father got a job recruiting potato pickers in Scotland in 1948.

They returned two weekends ago to visit their former home, with 50 of their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

The village is believed to 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 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.

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,” McGuire told Mayo News.

The family unveiled a plaque at the family home with a photograph taken in 1935 of some of the children.

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