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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Island 'where man first set foot'
house
The only house on tiny Inis Saimer
A tiny island off Donegal with a chequered history is set to enjoy a new lease of life.

According to local mythology, Inis Saimer off the coast of Ballyshannon was the first place in Ireland where man set foot.

Now, the island, which is not much longer than its single house, is to be rented out.

Present owner Brendan Connolly says the only criteria for anyone renting the house and island "is ownership of a boat, although the journey from Ballyshannon only takes a minute and a half".

The house, which dates from the mid-1800s, was built by the old Erne Fishery Company to take advantage of the rich salmon and eel fishing.

Speaking on BBC's Good Morning Ulster, Mr Connolly said he bought the island because it was a "once in a lifetime chance to acquire a unique and very private spot".

"The myth is that man first put foot in Ireland on Saimer Island and that was a group from Greece led by Parphelon," he said.

house on island
An aerial view of Inis Saimer

The story goes that Parphelon, a chieftain from Scythia near Macedonia in northern Greece, inadvertently gave the island its name.

The chieftain believed his wife was paying too much attention to another man who was one of his followers.

In an act of jealousy, he killed his wife's dog, Saimer.

The dog was buried on the island, giving it its name.

Another version says the name is derived from the Irish word for island, Inis, and the ancient name for the nearby River Erne, Saimer, meaning the river which flows east.

Inis Saimer was also used in historical times as a dwelling place for Irish chieftains and Cistercian monks.

Through the ages, the island was occasionally used as a hiding place and was regarded as a natural crannog, a dwelling erected in the midst of water for security reasons.

Safe haven

Even at low tide it remains surrounded by water and was regarded as a safe haven.

Brendan Connolly bought the island in 1998 and after renovating the house, added a floating jetty "for easy access".

"The boat and the jetty rise up and down with the tide and you can walk onto the island via the gangway, so you don't have to slip and slide over rocks covered in seaweed," he said.

Mr Connolly, an author based in County Meath, lived in the house while he was renovating it because "I love the Ballyshannon area".

He says he mainly uses the three-bedroom house as a holiday home.

He has previously leased the house on short-term contract and would now like to rent it out for a year at 800 euro a month.




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