Scarred land and Legacy - Cicatrix artists go to Cleenish Island
May 28, 2019
On 18th May 2019 artists Henny Burnett and Susan Francis ((unfortunately Cicatrix founder, Prudence Maltby was unable to attend) travelled to Enniskillen in Northern Ireland to represent Cicatrix at the 2019 WW1 Engagement Centre Festival, 'Shared Heritage; Land Legacies', organised by Queen's University, Belfast. The intention of the event was to draw together valuable knowledge gained through the various areas of research over the WW1commemoration period. In addition to presenting the Cicatrix project to a broad audience at the Enniskillen museum, the day also incorporated a trip to Cleenish Island.
Cleenish Island is a little known land mass in the wilds of Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. As WW1 drew to a close, certain soldiers were offered land to farm there with a newly built house attached. They would own this house themselves and in return would pay a yearly amount back to the government. Of course this seemed like a good deal for the soldiers and many took the government up on the offer, moving to what was, in reality, an isolating and remote region. Very soon, what might have seemed like an idyllic dream proved to be more of a nightmare. The island had very poor access leaving the families cut off for much of their time there. With injuries ranging from lost limbs to shellshock, many were ill equipped to farm the land. Lack of access to the mainland meant little of the produce they did produce made it over regularly to sell and families soon got behind in their payments to the government. Requests for further support fell on distinctly deaf ears. Suicides followed, deaths through war time injuries which plagued their sufferers meant months of separation from family for treatment on the mainland and perhaps the lack of opportunity to say goodbye. The story of Cleenish Island is a hard one. Like many others.
One family still remains on Cleenish, farming the deep green fields with their herds of cows, with a bridge providing easy access, and the landscape dotted with the ruins of the deserted family homes. It's a brief but poignant history in a land which carries many stories of hardship. Brief but not forgotten. You can access video's of the talk in Enniskillen museum here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=faCS6luicVc