Help! Beatle's Irish island struggles to drum up interest

An island once owned by John Lennon is on the market. Finbarr Flynn reports from Dublin.

An island once owned by John Lennon is on the market. Finbarr Flynn reports from Dublin.

IT COULD have been where John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent their retirement, yet Dorinish Island became home only to grazing sheep and seabirds.

Now, the land the size of a dozen soccer fields off Ireland's west coast is being offered as a retreat to a potential new owner for ?300,000 ($A370,000), 45 years after the Beatle bought it.

Just before he was shot dead in New York in 1980, Lennon revived plans to build a home on the island before Ono sold it to local farmers in 1984.

"About a year before he was murdered his London solicitor inquired about reviving the planning permission which he had obtained shortly after the purchase," said Michael Browne, 73, a local who took Lennon to visit Dorinish. "He was constantly panning a cine-camera to get a panoramic of the bay."

The history of Dorinish, in Clew Bay in Mayo, marks it out from the slew of Irish islands for sale in the wake of the country's real-estate market collapse.

The farmers are selling the 8.4-hectare island because it is getting harder for them to keep animals there as they get older, according to Andrew Crowley of Sherry FitzGerald Crowley, the agent in charge of the sale.

He said he could not specify how much they paid for the island originally, but Mr Browne said Lennon paid about #1700 in 1967. "The island isn't being used as much as it should be, and they were never going to build on it," Mr Crowley said. "The owners are getting on in years and maintaining their livestock at such a distance isn't practicable any more."

The Beatles connection isn't making it easier to sell. Dorinish, known locally as "Beatle Island", has been on the market since mid-July and so far there has been no buyer.

The island is being marketed without it having planning permission, while the ruins of old marine pilot houses dating back to the 19th century are still visible. For some, ownership of an Irish island became a symbol of affluence. "The kind of person who wants to own an island is the sort of person who wants to print their own money," said Dominic Daly, a realtor selling three islands, including Spanish Island off the southern coast for ?600,000.

Sherry FitzGerald Crowley is also involved in the sale of Inish Turk Beg, another island close to Lennon's planned retreat.

Including a luxury home with swimming pool, gym, and chandelier-bedecked dining room with panoramic views of the bay, Inish Turk Beg is on sale for ?2.85 million after being taken over by receivers.

In Clew Bay alone, there are more than 300 islands, including Dorinish. Lennon bought Dorinish, which is made up of two small islands joined by a stone causeway, from the Westport Harbour Board through an intermediary to avoid publicity, Mr Browne said.

Mr Browne's father was the auctioneer responsible for selling the island and it was his advertisement in a London newspaper that caught Lennon's eye, he said.

"After about a year, he sent over a gypsy-type caravan to be put out on the island," said Mr Browne, who remembers a trip with Lennon to buy rubber boots before the journey to the island. "The caravan was painted in psychedelic patterns like the Sergeant Pepper album cover, so people eventually worked out that John Lennon was involved."

Lennon and Ono visited the island together in 1968. He was asked in an interview published in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971 if he had a picture of their life when he hit 64. "I hope we're a nice old couple living off the coast of Ireland or something like that looking out at our scrapbook of madness," Lennon said. BLOOMBERG

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