Couple who beat 100,000 applicants for caretaker role on Great Blasket Island revealed

ireland
Couple Who Beat 100,000 Applicants For Caretaker Role On Great Blasket Island Revealed Couple Who Beat 100,000 Applicants For Caretaker Role On Great Blasket Island Revealed
Brock Montgomery (29) from Canada and Claire de Haas (27) from the Netherlands refused to give up on their hopes of landing the role
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Sarah Slater

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 (27) from Alkmaar, the Netherlands refused to give up on their hopes of landing the roles as they applied three times and were up against close to 100,000 applicants over that period.

Despite the Co Kerry island having no running water and electricity, Mr Montgomery, a previous right wing player for the Texas Stars and most recently with the German Tilburg Trappers, and Ms de Haas, a yoga teacher, said they knew the opportunity was for them.

Speaking from their home in Portugal, Ms de Haas explained that 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.

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“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.

“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,” 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 the 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 small documentaries around the world interviewing people with unique stories to tell.

The couple, Ms de Haas believes, 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 this year due to tens of thousands of previous applications. The pair hope to open the island to visitors on April 1st, providing all things Covid-19 are kept at bay.

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Ms de Haas jokes she is worried about the rain but "we don't have many concerns. We have been speaking with 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."

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 in storms.

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

The couple have been inundated with enquiries by phone, email, social media and paper from around the world, including from countries such 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.

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 on the island, including adding another bedroom to one of the cottages and upgrading other amenities.

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 and Supreme Courts against the State and Charles Haughey over ownership and use rights.

The new caretakers' adventure can be followed on Instagram at @clairedehaas, @brockmontgomeryy and @mountainlifeapparel.

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