After a high-flying career that saw movie stuntman Pascal Whelan work on some of Hollywood’s biggest movies, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Live and Let Die,” Whelan called it quits and headed off to virtually abandoned Omey Island off the coast of Ireland.
Whelan routinely hitchhikes off the island to a nearby pub on the mainland, and by chance, photographer Kevin Griffin picked him up one day. Griffin was intrigued by Whelan’s story, and it wasn’t long before Griffin decided he had to be the one to tell it.
Whalen grew up on Omey Island in the 1940s, when there were other families living there. The inhabitants lived self-sufficiently in cottages with thatched roofs, tending to small farms of vegetables and animals. When he became an adult, he moved to Australia, where he became a stuntman. He eventually started a “stunt show” and spent seven years touring Australia.
After he grew tired of touring in Australia, Whelan moved back to Ireland, bought a mobile home, put it on the island, and started a stuntman school on the mainland.
While Whelan was running the stuntman school, a friend of his was fatally injured during one of the shows. After that, Whelan abandoned his career and moved completely to the island.
Whelan told Business Insider he moved to the island because he spent his “happiest childhood moments” there. He calls it a spiritual “healing place.” Everyone else on the island has long since moved away to more modern living situations, but Whelan loves the peaceful solitude.
Because the island is located only a mile off the shore, people can drive or walk to the island when the tide is low.
Time the tide wrong and you could lose a car. He calls himself a “master tide-timer,” but even he once lost two cars in one week.
During the summer months, many people come for a day of relaxing or taking in the more gruesome sights on the island, like this beached whale.
During the winter, it can be dark on the island for 15 hours out of the day, because it is so stormy there. People rarely visit then.
When Whelan was younger and healthier, he would spend the mornings on the island fishing for lobster or picking shellfish for dinner that night. These days, Whelan is far less active.
Whelan used to maintain a robust vegetable garden. Now, he has a smaller one where he grows onions and carrots because they are “low maintenance.”
Around noon, Whelan drives or hitchhikes to a local pub on the mainland called Sweeney’s. After a few pints of beer, Whelan heads back to the island.
Despite his living situation, Whelan told the Independent he is “not a hermit, far from it.” Omey Island is simply the only place that he wants to live.
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