Island Picnic

First published on NI Lights August 2015

The perfect day? Well taking a boat to the Copeland Islands, listening to beautiful music and poetry whilst picnicking under blue skies is definitely up there.

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The Open House Festival, which runs for the month of August, brings Bangor to life with its music, theatre, film and food events.  Of course I added to my plethora of festival tees and signed up to volunteer.  For this event however I was there to enjoy it as an actual punter.

My friend Gillian and I boarded the Brothers boat at a sunny Donaghadee harbour, ladened with lunch and layers, and chugged across to the relatively unspoilt island.  A short walk along the shore and past a few headstones (I am fond of a cemetery), took us to the home of our hosts for the day.  Ronnie Brown, now owner of what was once the family home of The Cleggs, who were one of the original families to settle here, opened his house and gardens for this unforgettable event.  The family had even prepared sandwiches, scones and pimms (the best I’ve tasted!).  Thank you Ronnie, Rebecca and the rest of your family for being so hospitable!

We had a brief talk from Willie Ireland about the history of the Clegg family and the cottage whom’s ground we sat upon.  Unfortunately I missed my chance to ask him more about the Island but I guess that means I just have to go back!

FullSizeRender (8) Our entertainment came in the form of beautiful folk music from the Farriers and evocative poetry from Moyra Donaldson.

The Farriers treated us to songs of their travels and of life in their nearby hometown of Bangor.  Singing of shipwrecks and road trains, Stephen reminiscing of his youth drinking Challenge lager in the park with Faded Better Days and Rachel pondering over headstones in Bangor Abbey on her way to the dentist with Relics.  Such talent to make these down to earth experiences sound so poetic.  And anyone who is fascinated by cemeteries as much as me gets a thumbs up in my book!  As Stephen and Rachel charmed us with their dulcet tones and soothing harmonies Kate bewitched us with her violin.

Moyra interjected with poems of sea life and memories of childhood holidays, epitomising the experience of the day we were having on the island.


Gillian and I took the opportunity to do a little exploring of the island.  On this perfect sunny day the island was a serene place to soak up.  I of course had to explore the small cemetery reading the headstones with the lyrics of Relics running through my head.


rolling green fields, lonesome trees and jagged thistles
Seaweed crunches beneath my feet on pebbled bays
Spongey green grass cushions my feet
Glistening waves lap along the shore
As the sun beats down
the distant sound of music beckons me back from the endless horizon

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This was my first time on Copeland Island but it definitely won’t be my last.  A truly special day that I will treasure always.

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