The Prodigal Beach Speaks by Joe McAvoy

(CNN) A beach that was washed away by storms more than 30 years ago has reappeared off the west coast of Ireland. 

The sands at Dooagh on County Mayo’s Achill Island vanished in the winter of 1984, leaving nothing but bare rock and rock pools. 

But over the course of a few days in April 2017, the Atlantic returned what it had stolen, depositing thousands of tons of sand and creating a brand new 300-meter golden strand.

May 9, 2017


I am ready to tell my side now; to set the record straight. Enough time has passed; the rumors and sly asides, the vile media coverage all sufficiently silenced by time. 

I legged it. I wasn’t “washed away.”  I wasn’t “stolen.” I didn’t “vanish.” I left. Period. The locals used the storm for cover. They knew I had been thinking of decamping for years. I just didn’t fit in anymore. I had outgrown them. I was miserable. Was there another locale that had gained my affections? That’s for me to know and for you to find out. I will concede that there were some wild oats needing some fast sowing and that was unlikely to happen on an island off the north Irish coast. And that’s all I’ll have to say on that matter. 

I was deeply frustrated (see: wild oats to be sowed). I felt used, taken for granted. I was simply expected to be there. “Oh, the beach? T’is grand t’is, simply grand! Been there forever. You must come up for your next holiday.”  No holidays for me, though. People burying things in me, doing things on top of me; the culchies and jackeens both. Nasty, dirty things. Walking their dogs on me, pretending to look for their plastic bags as they just walked away from the festering canine turds. I felt manky. There were other things that ought not to be discussed in polite company. 

I was paid no heed. Nobody said, “Slåinte´, dear friend.  How’s the craic? Can we get you anything? Do we need to talk about anything? Need a little time off? How about a nice raking?”  Never. I was knackered. I needed time to find myself. I didn’t feel the love. I didn’t feel the sun. What sun? It was bucketing down every day. You try being a beach on an island off the north coast of Ireland year in and year out. You’ll get an inkling of what I was going through, you will. So, it was slån agaibh, baby.

As beaches go, I did my best. No glass, no piles of kelp stinking up the place, no hooligans hanging around after hours. I wouldn’t allow it. I tried to keep things clean, neat and safe. I could be persuaded to add a dash of Irish flourish in the telling if it makes things more, shall we say…big-time commercial/cinema-worthy. I would want a big cut there, so be forewarned. And I have this idea of Brendan Gleeson as Van (the Man) Morrison in silhouette walking over me in  the surf as the setting sun paints the horizon with the colors of a bruise while he whispers in that euphonic brogue, “Take me back, take me way way way back” over and over again with a soft penny whistle/fiddle thing in the background for maximum effect. Perhaps Colin Farrell doing my voiceover? Just an idea. I have been exploring my creative side lately. Could be a new slant on the classic coming of age story. I think there is a bankable tale to be sold. I am getting worked up just in the telling.

What did I do for the last third of a century? Where did I go? Well, that’s rather complicated. And really, it’s a private matter, is it not? But this thing has gone viral and I know that you will write something with or without me so let me just say that I came apart for a wee bit of time. Literally. After all, the only things holding me together up on the island were gravity and a dollop of moisture. Once I had slipped into the sea behind the curtain of night, I scattered all over the map with tons of me washing up in the New York and Boston areas (total Irish diaspora cliché, I know), in the Bahamas (simply grand!), in West Africa…  I was a mess, all over the place. I won’t refute that. We will not even discuss the Mykonos years.

There were hard questions for which I was seeking answers: How am I talking here? Why do I prefer the cabana people in St. Tropez to the masses at the Jones Beach Central Mall? Should I check out Fire Island? Why my inordinate fear of black sand? Why was Neil Diamond invited to The Last Waltz in 1976? And I feel resolved for the most part, more in touch with myself, working through my prejudices. Except the Neil Diamond thing. That one will haunt me for the rest of time. 

In short, I grew up. Whatever oats were left unsown were no longer screaming for immediate attention. I gained discipline, lost hundreds of tons of weight and started feeling so much better about my less bloated, more energetic and focused self. There was a time when I wouldn’t have even considered showing up in Brazil. But I spent an astonishing year just north of Porto Alegre laid out over a three mile stretch under the canopy of a restinga forest hosting pungent herbs while the wind serenaded me through the grasses and sedge and fine things in wee string bikinis and thongs cuddled into me and I gotta tell you, I was Bermuda pink and packed so hard you could roll a marble on me. 

But the “auld sod” was always beckoning. Like a lost limb t’was. “Come back,” I heard the lilt in the pleas, “we miss you dearly and we will rejoice in your return. We will install shite bag dispensers every hundred feet. We will fine the bejeesus out of the litterers, we will. We will love and nurture you.” I decided to give it a try and I have come back. And the reception has been grand, just grand. But they know now. Don’t feck with me ever again or they can go back to their “rock pool” economy of the last thirty years. Mykonos beckons as well.

One thought on “The Prodigal Beach Speaks by Joe McAvoy

Leave a Reply