Barry Edgar Pilcher returns to Inishfree for final packing

Poet and tenor sax player Barry Edgar Pilcher, once dubbed Ireland’s loneliest man after living alone on an island for 20 years, returned to Inishfree for the first time in five months on Tuesday and admitted he had almost forgotten what it was like to live in silence.

Barry Edgar Pilcher returns to Inishfree for final packing

Rain lashed Inishfree, off Donegal’s coast, as Barry, 70, and wife Eve carried their overnight cases and food in wheelbarrows 750m from the ferry landing point. It was the only way to reach the cottage, along grassy paths without a road.

As a seagull squawked, Barry, who now lives in Dagenham in London, said: “That’s what I have missed; the sound of the birds. All I hear now is traffic helicopters above my neighbourhood.”

When they reached his rundown cottage, a former post office, Barry’s key wouldn’t unlock the gate. He reckoned rust must have ruined the lock.

He and Eve, also 70, clambered over the five-barred gate and lifted their baggage across to get in out of the rain.

Inside, the cottage was as Barry left it in March when he returned to Britain after 20 years. There was a lot of work to do packing everything he left behind that he wants to take to Dagenham.

Barry used to play his sax alone on the island, but didn’t bring it this time.

However, he has already found work with it. Last month, Barry played jazz concerts in Ghent in Belgium and in a church in Berlin. He has teamed up with members of a Belgian band called Hybryd whom he has been in touch with for 30 years, mainly via the internet when he was alone on Inishfree.

Barry said: “They want me to write a few songs for their next CD. You never know, I could be a world hit yet.”

Barry and Eve moved to Inishfree with their daughter in 1993. The women stuck it only for a couple of years before moving back to Britain while Barry stayed. Eve visited him for a few weeks every year during the summer.

He finally moved back last March because of his age and wanting to be with his wife.

He admitted that at first he found London rush hour confusing after having an island all to himself. But yesterday he said: “Now I have found a new life.”

The couple now have their island cottage for sale, as well as other plots of land they own on Inishfree. But they accept it may be some time before they achieve a sale. They are not even certain yet what to charge for the properties.

Barry is working on a book on Inishfree which he hopes to publish next year, giving him another excuse to return.

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