I'd Rather Be In ..... Rathlin Island

By Julie Cross
From Ireland on Sunday

Singer Frances Black was born and brought up in Dublin, where she still lives. However, she considers Rathlin Island, off the coast of Co. Antrim, to be her spiritual home.

My father was born and brought up on a farm on Rathlin Island. He moved to Dublin in search of work, met my mother and they had five children. We lived in the inner city in a one-bed place. There was great community spirit but little money to go around.

However, my parents would save enough pennies every year for a summer holiday on Rathlin. It was everything Dublin wasn't. The journey there

was as exciting, if not more so, than the holiday itself. For three weeks before our trip I would hardly be able to eat or sleep. When the day arrived, it was like all my birthdays and Christmases coming at once.

We'd be up very early to get the train from Connolly Station to Belfast and then it was several bus journeys to Ballycastle. From there, you could see the island. The final part of the journey was a treacherous boat trip. The sea always seemed to be rough and we'd be rocking around in this tiny boat.

The farmhouse was at the upper end of the island, so my aunt would pick us up in her car. At the farm there were cows, sheep and chickens everywhere, and I'd get up early each morning to help milk the cows and then I'd spend the day exploring the island. We felt very free there and very safe.

The house is still in the family. I go there three or four times a year. It's my spiritual home, a haven and a retreat. I'll often meet my brothers and sister there or I'll bring my children. These days, I'll arrive with a car full of lovely food. My first job is to clean the house and then I'll spend my time relaxing, going for long walks and eating nice food.

There's only about 80 people on the island and I know most very well. If the weather is awful, it is not a nice place to be. So, if I'm in search of a bit of sun, I love Lanzarote. However, wherever I am, my heart is always in Rathlin.