The Lonely Crane of Inishkea

Patrick Weston Joyce

Near the coast of Erris in the county Mayo, out among the Atlantic billows, lies the little island of Inishkea, the name of which commemorates a virgin saint Kea or Gedia. Of this saint we know hardly anything, except that she founded a little nunnery on Inishkea in the early ages of the Irish Church, that she took her part in the work of Christianising and softening the rude natives of the west, and that the island perpetuates her name.

It is not however with the saint and her nuns that we are now concerned, but with an inhabitant of a totally different kind. On this island there lives a crane, one lonely bird and no more. From the beginning of the world he has been there, for ever looking down on the waves from his solitary perch, holding no communion with the sea birds around him, and never visited by one of his own kind. The virgin saint's humble little nunnery with its busy community rose and flourished and passed away before him like a shadow: and still he was ever the same. There he stands now; and there he will remain in the same unbroken solitude till the end of the world.

This striking legend is as prevalent to-day as it was hundreds of years ago. The people have no story to account for it; but all along that part of the western coast, they firmly believe that the lonely crane still lives and will live for ever on the island of Inishkea.