Challenging times for Rathlin islanders

By Barra Best
BBC Weather

image captionThe ferry to Rathlin Island has been cancelled for two days because of the weather.

Recent poor weather conditions may have caused some disruption to life in Northern Ireland but spare a thought for the residents of Rathlin Island, just off the County Antrim coast.

Ferry crossings between Ballycastle and the island have now been cancelled for two days because of windy conditions.

The winds over the next 36 hours are set to strengthen with a Met Office weather warning in places for particularly strong winds on Thursday, with gusts up to 80mph along the north coast.

As a result islanders will face at least another day of isolation.

Ferry cancellations because of poor weather are nothing new for the residents of Rathlin but it is at this time of year that their effects can be really felt.

"I'm worried that I will not be able to get stock for Christmas dinners next week," said Ksenia Zywczuk from the Manor House guest house.

"I have bookings for around 50 dinners next week, which includes the 'Tuesday Club' for older people, but I don't know if I'll be able to get to Ballycastle for supplies," said Ksenia.

Others have been left isolated on the mainland unable to travel to their homes or businesses on the island.

"Children didn't get home from boarding school last weekend because of bad weather, but we're hoping they'll get home this weekend," said Noel McCurdy from the island's community association.

"We keep an eye on the forecasts and try to plan ahead. We're used to the effects of the bad weather but sometimes we're still caught out, especially at this time of year," he added.

Despite poor weather, postal deliveries are still taken for granted across Northern Ireland but when the ferries are cancelled there is no post in, or out, of Rathlin.

"No post has been sent or received today and it may be the weekend, or even next week before deliveries resume," said Catriona Blaney, who owns the island's gift shop and recently took over the running of the post office.

"With only two-and-a-half weeks to Christmas, people on the island keep an eye on weather forecasts in the hope that a window of opportunity comes up to get over to the mainland for Christmas shopping," she added.

For the past two weekends a Christmas craft fair has been planned for the islanders at the ferry terminal in Ballycastle, but twice it has been cancelled because of poor weather.

It is hoped that, with winds easing from Friday, that the fair can take place this weekend.

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