National Geographic : 1955 Oct
570 Caldy Treasures the Ogham Stone Uncovered in a burial ground, the slab is preserved in the Priory church. Fragmentary characters from the Ogham, an ancient Irish alphabet, look like runes (upper left corner). They are believed to have been carved in the 6th century. Latin inscription dates from about 900 (page 576). The photographer chalked letters to make them stand out. Pyro. The monk was drowned in this well about A. D. 500. Setting out to visit the village, I passed a large lily pond whose flowers, still in bud, promised a marvelous display of both yellow and pink blooms. A monk stood in the water up to his knees examining the plants. Farther on, whitewashed cottages with blue slate roofs dotted a large village green. Here I stopped to speak to a Miss Harris, who was leaning over her garden gate. She invited me into a home as comfortable as any on the mainland. Questioning brought out the fact that the island's population numbers about 20 lay peo ple and 40 monks. "Not one of us was born here," Miss Harris said. "The last native family left six years ago. Now there are no children," she added regretfully. Average age of the laity is about 65. I met Mrs. Plenty, spry at 94, and Miss Allis-Smith, who still planned to travel at 92. She told me she had visited every inhabited country, in cluding Tibet. "That was before the Commu nists got there," she remarked with a sniff. Except for two men employed by the monks, the lay residents have sufficient pri vate means to live in retirement. As tenants of the Cistercian order they pay low rents. Unlike the people of England's Holy Is land,* these carefree people are exempt from local (though not national) taxes, a privilege protected by seigneurial laws laid down cen turies ago. No Rushing Motor Traffic Here Never troubled by traffic, the islanders do not own even a bicycle. The only powered vehicle, an American tractor, belongs to the monastery farm. It raises the dust on the one and only road, barely half a mile long by 10 feet wide. As no hard liquor is sold, those of the laity who like a drop of Scotch or noggin of rum must fetch it from the mainland. In this narrow isle, only three-fourths of a mile wide at its broadest part, I spoke to people of 11 nationalities, from every part of the British Isles as well as from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Trinidad, and Ceylon. Here, indeed, I found a United Nations. I never heard an argument or even a cross word in my seven weeks' stay. Although there are 13 dogs and cats in the town, pets are restricted, for the monks desire to protect the thousands of birds which make the island their sanctuary. Rabbits and rats can be shot, as well as lesser and greater black-backed gulls, which rob other birds of eggs and young. But no body owns a gun except the monks, and they find little time to use it. Caldy has only one store, the Abbey Shop. I found its window filled with an amazing array of glazed earthenware, potted plants, curios, and religious souvenirs. Wondering who purchased the goods, I inquired inside. Miss Stanton, a voluntary worker who man * See "Pilgrimage to Holy Island and the Fames," by John E. H. Nolan, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, October, 1952.