The country’s loneliest man is on his way back to England after 20 years living on the remote island of Inishfree.
Barry Pilcher, 70, yesterday left the Donegal island, of which he was the sole resident, along with wife Eve, who spent the last few days sharing his wind-swept home.
Both took a ferry to Burtonport and caught a coach to Letterkenny for a bus to Dublin.
Last night, they were on a ferry to Holyhead for a train to London today to the home he left in Dagenham, Essex, for his island hideaway in 1993.
Barry had his saxophone — “a trolley-load of them”, he joked — with him on his England-bound journey.
He said: “I am bringing them all back with me. I have a tenor sax, a soprano sax, and a sopranino sax. I am also taking my flute and clarinet with me. I am so looking forward to playing music with my wife once more. She is a wonderful cello player.”
When Barry, Eve, and their daughter Alice Rainbow transferred to Inishfree, the women — both nurses — only stuck it for a couple of years before moving back to England.
They maintained contact by mobile phone and on the internet. Occasionally, Eve would visit Barry in his ramshackle home.
He admitted that, when his Skype service failed, he couldn’t even share a smile with his wife over the New Year. “Skype is no alternative to giving her a hug.”
Eve joined him five days ago and persuaded him to return to England.
Barry said: “There was no pressure. I could have stayed but I have missed my family and I want to be with them. But I am coming back to Inishfree in the summer.
“There’s a bit of tidying up to do and anyway I know I’ll miss it. It’s a beautiful place, but it is no place for a family.”
On Inishfree, Barry wrote poetry, played his saxophone, and maintained internet contact with other musicians in Europe — when his broadband worked, that is.
He moved from London because he was struck with the beauty of the island and its isolation, which permitted him to work on his music and poetry without being disturbed.
A handful of people have holiday homes on the island. Six even go to the polling booth at election time in Barry’s house, but their main homes are on the mainland.
Barry got a ferry once a week on Fridays, specially laid on for him, to the mainland village of Burtonport to buy supplies and collect his pension.
What he loved about Inishfree was its magic.
“There is no street lighting so you can see the stars at night and things like that,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved