What makes someone move to a rock in the ocean? Cape Clear Island, the most southerly inhabited part of Ireland, is home to Chuck and Nell Kruger, a couple who retired early and moved there over 20 years ago.
“What makes someone move to a rock in the ocean, in the middle of nowhere?” It’s a question Cape Clear islanders often ask themselves, while pondering the paths taken by those who’ve come to live with them. Without fail though, their doors are open to anyone who makes the journey.
And so, for the past 20 years, the southernmost inhabited part of Ireland has been home to American author and poet, Chuck Kruger and his wife Nell. By their own admission, it was a chance holiday in 1979 that had them enthralled.
They drove the countryside; picnicked; stayed in guest houses; and pretty much marveled at the freedom and the greenness of it all. It was like nothing they had ever experienced before.
Having left upstate New York in 1966 for a new life in Switzerland - in protest against the Vietnam War; the Krugers had hoped a few European years would give them a new aspect on life before eventually repatriating. But a return visit to Ireland in the late 80s sealed their fate.
Something clicked - inspiring these two teachers to buy a 60-acre farm on Cape Clear. All of 8 miles off the West Cork coast, the Krugers had found their unlikely sanctuary - on an ancient island, with a history stretching back 5,000 years. And they’ve never looked back.
Chuck and Nell rise with the sun everyday. They breakfast together before Chuck sits down for the morning, at his writing desk. They share lunch in each other's company. And afterwards, they either venture into the garden for a few hours or step out along the island’s myriad walkways. Rain or shine.
Come evening time, they both immerse themselves in island life, and contribute. For example, without the Krugers, there wouldn’t be a Cape Clear Island International Story Telling Festival every September.
A natural raconteur, Chuck freely guides people around his island home, which runs little more than 3 miles in length, and a shade over a mile at its widest. A nature lover’s paradise, with a much milder climate than the mainland, Cape not only attracts hundreds of species of migratory birds, it also lures spotters from all over the world.
Just ask Chuck about the Blue-Winged Warbler and the scrambles on Baltimore pier to commandeer vessels across Roaring Water Bay. And he’ll offer you a smile, and willingly tell the tale.
Cape is the Kruger’s home now. And this summer, the island’s half-American, half-Irish couple will celebrate their 50th anniversary. Rumour has it, they’ll do so alongside their neighbours, at the island’s ancient marriage stones.
This is Cape, as seen through the eyes of a blow-in called Chuck. A blow-in who never wants to blow-out. Cape Clear wouldn’t let him, or Nell for that matter.
Narrated and produced by David Young.
Production Supervision by Liam O'Brien.
First broadcast 3rd March 2012.
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