Europe

Ireland's Tory Island in search of new priest

The Anvil on the Tory Island coast Image copyright Stephen Emerson / Alamy
Image caption The Anvil on the Tory Island coast

Ireland's tiny Tory Island, home to about 150 people, has launched a search for a new parish priest.

It follows the departure of Fr Kieran Creagh, who came to Tory for a few days and ended up staying four years.

Perched perilously off the County Donegal coast in the Atlantic Ocean, the island has one road, one church - and one king.

He is Patsy Dan Rodgers, who is in his 70s, and was nominated to the once hereditary role by the local community.

As king, he is Tory's spokesperson to the outside world, and he said any new priest will need a stomach for stormy seas.

"We're looking forward to the priests who are going to come to the island on the weekend for Sunday Mass, weather permitting," he said.

"We are happy enough with that, because we know that priests are scarce and we're very lucky with this arrangement."

Image copyright Philip Dunn / Alamy
Image caption Patsy Dan Rodgers has ruled Tory Island for over 20 years

Irish is the main language on the island, and Patsy Dan believes that Fr Creagh's decision to learn Irish put him in good stead with the locals

"We loved him very much, he was a powerful priest for special feast days. He loved the island very much, the quietness and what have you.

"He settled in like a native and we loved the way he went to learn some Gaelic as well."

Along with the Irish language, Christianity goes back a long way on Tory.

The remnants of a sixth century monastery founded by Saint Columba still lie on the island.

With that in mind, the King of Tory - who is a painter by trade - was optimistic that fate would deliver yet another dedicated clergyman.

"There is a strong religion on the island and a strong language and culture on the island and I'm very hopeful that will continue.

"One never knows, but the times bring us lots of different things," he added.

A spokesperson for the Bishop's House in Letterkenny confirmed that priests would operate in the parish by rota until a permanent replacement could be found.