The Irish Book

Whidbey Island

Whidbey History  

The Irish Book

The Irish Book by Dorothy Neil



The book begins with the year 1851, but its roots go back hundreds of years to a small green isle off the British Isles, called Ireland. The Irish are never quite so happy as when they are settled on an island, where for generations Islanders have been noted as a breed apart!

 Separated from the mainland by water, their loyalties lie with those brave enough to live far removed from the hustle and bustle of mainland life. Where an evening spent on the beach raking in smelt far surpasses the presentation of El Trovatore in Seattle, and where fast food outlets cannot compete with homemade jams and jellies from black raspberries and wild strawberries found in woodlands and on sunny slopes.

As quick to laugh as to fight, on North Whidbey the Irish were among the earliest settlers, outnumbered by later migrations of Dutch, Scandinavians and Germans, but never losing their identity as Irish. Through the difficult years of survival in an alien country, through time¹s demands and rewards, the Irish temperament remains, a riotous, laugh- inspired amalgamation of light hearted music, verse and wit. Settled on a green, green Island as rocky as the fields of Mother Ireland, where the weather plays the same tunes as those of the Ould Country, and where the joy of living overshadows hard work or sorrow, being Irish is a gift from heaven's overabundance. Erin go bragh is still its slogan.

Once a year in Oak Harbor the wearin' o' the green becomes a reality, as St. Patrick's Day arrives with a sprinkling of shamrocks around every doorway in town, and the annual parade wends its way down Pioneer Way to City Beach. There in the shadow of the Great Windmill is the Blarney Stone, commemorating the first Irish settlers in Oak Harbor in the early 1850s.

The stone was dedicated in 1980 by Father Barry Ashwell:

We honor today the simple Irish folk who settled this land so long ago with dreams of a new life. It was a new life for the Maylors, McCrohans, O'Learys, Nunans, Barringtons, Morse and Byrne and Hill families. They came to an island off the coast of Washington Territory and made friends with the Indians, built homes, planted crops, built businesses and brought an Irish wit and humor with them. They had endured untold privations back in the Old Country and lived through them with a sense of humor. There was no telling what they could do in a free country!