A well-known former Canadian professional ice hockey player and his Dutch partner are about to take on a new challenge as guardians of Great Blasket Island.
The couple, Brock Montgomery (29) from Moose Jaw, Canada and Claire de Haas (27) from Alkmaar, Netherlands refused to give up their hopes of landing the roles as they applied three times and faced to nearly 100,000 candidates over this period.
Although the island of Co Kerry has no running water or electricity, Mr Montgomery, a former right-hander for the Texas Stars and more recently German trappers from Tilburg, and Ms de Haas, a yoga teacher, said that they knew the opportunity was for them. .
Speaking from their home in Portugal, Ms de Haas explained that they ‘lived a simple life’ and did not want to give up the possibility of a ‘new challenge’ despite losing to other candidates on several occasions .
“We live an adventurous and simple life and are always looking for new experiences. When this opportunity presented itself, we immediately felt that it was something for us.
“It’s a unique opportunity where we will learn a lot about a new culture and a new environment. We know it will be hard work, but we like the challenge,” said Ms. de Haas, who played field hockey for 12 years.
The couple met four years ago and went to Bali for nine months, where they became certified yoga teachers.
Mr. Montgomery, who now owns clothing brand Mountain Life Apparel, is currently studying meditation and mindfulness to start working with athletes and first responders, and also aspires to travel making short documentaries around the world by interviewing people with unique stories to tell.
The couple, Ms de Haas believes, will bring “fun energy, flexibility, a positive vibe to the island while enjoying the hospitality of people and our own life experiences”.
“(We’re sure we’ll have) an unforgettable memory, an experience we’ll never forget. Also, experiencing a different culture will be an asset. None of them have been to Ireland before.
Billy O’Connor, who manages accommodation on the island with his partner Alice Hayes, said they had not advertised the positions this year due to tens of thousands of previous applications. The couple hope to open the island to visitors on April 1, provided anything Covid-19 is kept at bay.
Ms de Haas jokes that she is worried about the rain but “we don’t have a lot of worries. We’ve spoken with Billy and Alice about work and we feel quite comfortable. Obviously, the busy time of year could be an extreme time for us, but we are ready for it.”
No permanent residents
There are no permanent residents on the island, which was deserted in the 1950s because emergency services were unable to reach it during a storm.
Mr. O’Connor and Mrs. Hayes own three cottages which are rented out to holidaymakers, as well as a cafe on the island.
The couple have been inundated with inquiries by phone, email, social media and print from around the world, including countries like Mexico, Finland and Argentina, since the two positions were first advertised three years ago.
In the first year the positions were advertised, more than 40,000 applications were received by Mr. O’Connor and Ms. Hayes.
Located about three miles off the coast of Dingle, County Kerry, Great Blasket Island was home to the late author and storyteller Peig Sayers, whose writings were part of Ireland’s Leaving Cert scheme.
Over the past few months, the couple have been carrying out essential tasks on the island, including adding another bedroom to one of the cottages and upgrading other amenities.
Mr O’Connor’s ties to the island date back to when his grandfather and great-uncle bought the island, which ultimately ended in lengthy and costly legal battles in the High Court and Supreme Court v. State and Charles Haughey over ownership and use rights.
The adventure of the new guardians can be followed on Instagram at @clairedehaas, @brockmontgomeryy and @mountainlifeapparel.