Pro ice hockey player and yoga teacher are caretakers of Kerry’s Great Blasket Island

A well-known former Canadian professional ice hockey player and his Dutch partner are about to take on a new challenge as caretakers of the Great Blasket Island.

The couple, Brock Montgomery, 29, from Moose Jaw, Canada, and Claire de Haas from Alkmaar, the Netherlands, refused to give up on their hopes of landing the jobs as they applied three times and were up against almost 100,000 applicants over that time. .

Despite the Co Kerry island having no running water and electricity, Brock, a former right wing player for the Texas Stars in the National Hockey League and most recently with the German Tilburg Trappers, and Claire, a yoga teacher, knew the “opportunity” was for them.

Speaking from their home in Portugal Claire, 27, said they “live a simple life” and did not want to give up on the chance of a “new challenge” despite losing out to other applicants on a number of occasions and the pandemic.

“We live an adventurous and simple life and are always looking for new experiences. When this opportunity came by we immediately felt this was something for us, “Ms de Haas said.

“It’s a unique opportunity where we will be learning lots from a new culture and surroundings.”

We know it’s going to be hard work, but we like the challenge.

The couple met four years ago and went to Bali for nine months where they became certified yoga teachers.

Brock, who now owns the clothing brand Mountain Life Apparel, is currently studying meditation and mindfulness to start working with athletes and first responders.

He also aspires to travel – making small documentaries around the world – interviewing interesting people with unique stories to tell.

Two seagulls have a bird’s eye view of the Great Blasket Island from near Dunquin on Slea Head, Co Kerry. Picture: Dan Linehan

Claire believes the couple will bring, “fun energy, flexibility, a positive vibe to the island, along with enjoying hosting people and our own life experiences.”

“(We are sure we will get) a lifetime memory, an experience we will never forget. Also, the experience of a different culture is going to be an asset. ”

Neither of them have been to Ireland before.

Billy O’Connor, who runs the accommodation on the Island along with his partner Alice Hayes said they did not advertise the positions due to tens of thousands of previous applications. The pair hope to open the island to visitors on April 1 – providing all things Covid-19 are kept at bay.

The young Dutch woman jokes she is worried about the rain but “we don’t have many concerns”.

We have been talking to Billy and Alice about the job and we feel pretty comfortable.

“Obviously the busy time of the year might be an extreme period for us, but we’re ready for this.”

There are no permanent residents on the island, which was deserted in the 1950s because emergency services were unable to reach it in storms.

Mr O’Connor and Ms Hayes own three cottages, which are rented out to holidaymakers, and a coffee shop on the island.

The couple have been inundated with inquiries by phone, email, social media messages and paper applications from around the world and from such countries as Mexico, Finland and Argentina since first advertising the two positions three years ago.

In the first year of advertising the positions more than 40,000 applications were received by Mr O’Connor and Ms Hayes.

  A farmer looking out towards the Great Blasket Island from Dun Chaoin on the west coast of Kerry.  Picture: Dan LInehan
A farmer looking out towards the Great Blasket Island from Dun Chaoin on the west coast of Kerry. Picture: Dan LInehan

Located about three miles off the coast of Dingle, Co Kerry, the Great Blasket Island was home to the late author and storyteller Peig Sayers, whose writings formed part of the Leaving Cert Irish curriculum.

Over the past several months the couple have been carrying out some essential tasks including adding another bedroom to one of the cottages and upgrading other amenities.

The previous caretakers on the island were Limerick woman, Niamh Kelleher, and her boyfriend, Jack Cakehead from France; Annie Birney and Eoin Boyle, from Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin; and Kildare couple, Leslie Kehoe and Gordon Bond.

Mr O’Connor’s links to the island date back to when his grandfather and granduncle bought the island which eventually ended up in lengthy and costly legal battles in the High Court and Supreme Court against the State and Charles Haughey over ownership and use rights.

The couple’s adventure can be followed on Instagram on @clairedehaas, @brockmontgomeryy and @mountainlifeapparel.


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