Rathlin Island, the only habited island in Northern Ireland, has been a hot topic recently after a half-joking (and therefore half-serious) post-Brexit campaign to join an independent Scotland was picked up by the Scottish media. The campaign was spotted by political correspondent Gerry Braiden and he subsequently wrote an extensive article in the Herald. This was followed by a piece in the Scotsman.
As a part-time resident of Rathlin I have been bought up, as I often describe it, a wee bit betwixt and between. My father, an islander, emigrated to Scotland from Rathlin, and I was raised by my parents as a very proud Glaswegian, who also feels very drawn to, and passionate about, my Rathlin roots. I’m Scottish and yet all the while, a fair bit Rathlin Irish. That spiritual sense is intensified by reality when I am on the island. From my home at Maoil na nDreas (Mullindress), I can see both the mainlands of Scotland and Ireland. Rathlin, it appears, is a stepping stone between the two, the sum of both my parts, worlds that don’t collide but gently collude, the sea-faring channels supporting the existence of both.
In the comments section of the Herald, someone has said that Rathlin looks like it has a giant chip on its shoulder… It hasn’t. It’s a beautiful island where its community, both young and old, care deeply about the future of its population. Whether half-joking or half-serious, the ‘Take us with you’ Rathlin-Scotland campaign is an illustration of something that is integral to the island; a determination to progressively develop and strengthen, and provide its population with a future that has certainty and security for all its generations.
When Robert the Bruce was exiled on the island he reputedly drew his try, try again determination from a spider. Island legs are now the driving force and where they take this Irish rock is anyone’s guess. Physically though, it will always remain betwixt and between, and my home from home.