By Gerald Creamer
Oyster Island, with its distinctive lighthouse and five cottages, lies a short distance across the channel from Rosses Point. The Island derives its name from the profusion of oyster beds, which existed along its shores until the turn of the century. Oyster is separated from Coney Island by Shrunamile; the channel of a thousand currents, a most appropriate name because of its multitude of eddies with their peculiar whispering sound, which changes with the ebb and flow of the tide.
At the turn of the century, there were five families living on the Island, with the heads of these households listed as Lighthouse Keepers, but as the years rolled by the population dwindled.
The 1901 Sligo Census
Richard Cunnion and Family, Lighthouse Keeper
William Granville and family, Lighthouse Keeper
James Crowley and Sister, Lighthouse Keeper
Manus Ward and Mother, Lighthouse Keeper
James Feeney and Family, Caretaker
By 1911 more detailed census returns were available and the whole population of the Island had changed.
The Islanders in that year are listed as:
Leonard Stocker (aged 41), Principal Lighthouse Keeper, from Sligo, his wife May (aged 41), from Limerick, and their children Susanna (aged 17), May (aged 16), Leonard (aged 12), Adelaide (aged 10), William (aged 9), Cecil (aged 7),
Nancy (aged 5) and Augustine (aged 3). Susanna was born in England, May in Wexford, Leonard in Arklow, Adelaide, William and Nancy in Antrim, Cecil in Mayo and Augustine in Donegal.
Richard Somers (aged 37), Lighthouse Keeper, from County Clare, his wife Margaret (aged 36), from County Cork, and their children John Michael (aged 12), Bernard (aged 9), William (aged 7) and Kathleen (aged 1). John Michael, Bernard, and William were born in Cork. Kathleen was born in Sligo.
Michael Boyle (aged 34), Lighthouse Keeper, from County Waterford, his wife Julia (aged 28), from County Sligo, and their children Charles (aged 6), John (aged 4), Michael (aged 3) and Martin (aged 6 months). Charles, John and Michael were born in County Down. Martin was born in County Sligo. Julia's sister, Mary E. Kennedy (aged 26) also shared the six-roomed house. She was also born in County Sligo.
Today, Captain George Bruen alone keeps the lamps burning on Oyster from his white-washed cottage, which looks across from the Island to the Point. But George divides his year between Oyster and the eastern seaboard of the United States. When he's home the clatter of his outboard motor can be heard from Austie's and Michael James Ward's on Coney Island. When he's abroad, the only sounds come from the horses and hares who live on Oyster and the long dead lighthouse keepers who's whispers meld into the ebb and flow of the tide through Shrunamile, the channel of a thousand currents.
Childhood at Oyster Island: A Memoir of a Lightkeepers Son in the 1930s
The Oyster Pirates
Bell's Weekly Messenger mentions ships that went aground on the island.