UTV’s new series of Lesser Spotted Ulster returns next Friday (18 July) at 8pm when Joe Mahon journeys to the tiny island of Cleenish in Upper Lough Erne in County Fermanagh.
Once the site of a famous monastic school that was the alma mater of St Columbanus, it was used after the First World War to re-house injured soldiers returning home from the trenches. Joe discovers the difficulties experienced by the twelve soldiers who lived here as a bridge to the mainland was only built in the 1950s making access to and from the island extremely challenging.
Joe hears how only one of the soldiers endured the island’s demanding conditions, farming on Cleenish until he died at the age of 101.
However, the former soldier did retain an extraordinary friendship with two of the other inhabitants of the island whose grandchildren are visiting their former home on Cleenish for the first time.
Joe shows the veteran’s relatives round the small island while they discuss their grandfathers’ friendship.
Joe also learns about another population introduced to Cleenish at the end of the nineteenth century by the landlord, Captain Collum who brought European brown hares to the area for the first time.
Joe discovers why the hares initially became residents of Cleenish and how the disappearance of the breed is good news for the native Irish hare.