Sunday 10th September last residents of Cape Clear Island hosted a warm-hearted and poignant farewell party for Chuck and Nell Kruger who are leaving the Island after 30 years. It was the last of a series of events, part of the ‘long goodbye’ arranged by various groups and friends on the Island and elsewhere. The various heartfelt tributes have left them in no doubt as to their cherished place in our Community and in our hearts.
From early morning as the fire was lit in the Club, plates of food and bottles of wine began to appear, from the different families and as the borrowed table cloths were spread, the scale and quality of the feast ahead became apparent. In deference to Nell decorations were limited to the Island’s profuse wild flowers, with posies made by Island children and vases, also borrowed for the occasion.
There followed a relaxed and neighborly afternoon where people could say their personal goodbyes and reminisce about the changes over the past 30 years on the Island. While it was tinged with sadness there was also a realization by all of the enormous contribution made by Chuck and Nell to the Island and the knowledge that their deeds will bear fruit for many years to come.
There were no speeches but around mid-afternoon there was one last group photo, taken by Chuck and others followed by a short ceremony led by Island resident signer and musician, Danny Stewart. There followed a number of poems, by Eleanor Uí Drisceoil, Éamon Lankford and Chuck himself. These included the evocative ‘Fastnet Light’ by Island Poet, J.K. Cottor in deference to Chuck’s many trips around our sentinel lighthouse and Chucks, poem, ‘Butterfly Days’. Catherine Ryan contributed a wonderful rendition of ‘Home of the Whale’ and in keeping the homespun love of practical art pioneered by the couple, they were presented with a set of handcrafted mittens, featuring the Island and the Fastnet, beautifully crafted for the occasion by Kirsty Affleck. These will keep them warm in the colder winter climes of Pennsylvania and remind them of their many friends back here. There was also a newly minted song of which the chorus is enough to tell of its tone and content.
Ye Friends of Cape Clear, gather near, gather near,
Ye Friends of Cape Clear, gather near,
For Chuck & Nell they came, to bring us great acclaim,
With many books and poems, you shall hear, you shall hear,
With many books and poems, you shall hear.
It is hard to choose appropriate gifts for a couple who are downsizing so it was agreed to arrange for a sumptuous Irish hamper to be sent to their new home and perhaps the best gift of all was the blessing kindly performed by Fr. Quelly to wish them both the best as they face a new dimension in their life together.
Chuck is perhaps best known for the Cape Clear International Storytelling Festival and it was appropriate that Festival Co-Director, Daphne Babington was present on the occasion. Also present was Heritage Center Director, Éamon Lankford in deference to the splendid archive of photographs taken by Chuck over 30 years recently presented to the Center.
Their many gifts to the Island includes their warm welcome to strangers and friends alike wishing to enjoy the outstanding natural beauty of their 60 acer holding which straddles the eastern side of South Harbor leading to the Sea Arch and Pointanbullig. This is also the home of the endangered chough and a magnet for ornithologists and whale and dolphin watchers. With their support a very popular walking loop was also instigated some years back which is very popular attraction on the Island. Every effort will be made to maintain this wonderful amenity accessible to all.
All that remains to be said is, Slán abhaile, Chuck & Nell, go raibh míle maith agaibh agus ní bheidh bhfur leithidí ann arís.