Tory Islanders - Orientation

Identification. Tory Island is a small island off the coast of County Donegal in the extreme northwest of Ireland. Politically it is part of the Republic of Ireland (Eire).

Location. The island, roughly 5 kilometers long and 1.6 kilometers at its widest, is oriented in a west-east direction and is 14 kilometers from the nearest landfall on the mainland. The cliffs on the north side rise to as much as 120 meters and protect the southern slopes from the sea, making a little agriculture possible. The climate is mild and temperate, with temperatures never reaching much more than 21° C in summer, or much less than 2° C in winter. Annual precipitation (average 102 centimeters) is somewhat lower than on the mainland, but storms of up to gale force 9 are common and the channel is known for its rough crosstides. The official growing season starts on 17 March (Saint Patrick's day) and continues to early October.

Demography. The population of Tory (with a fairly even sex ratio) is approximately 300. An accurate estimate is hard to establish because migrant laboring leads to a high population in the summer and low in the winter. The first census (1841) showed 399 (191 males, 208 females), and that of 1961, 264 (146 males, 118 females). The population of Ireland declined by one-half over the same period. In both cases emigration is the major factor, but high fertility (Tory net reproduction rate =1.6) prevents further decline.

Linguistic Affiliation. The islanders speak as a first Language the northern dialect of Irish Gaelic, which has strong affinities with its daughter dialect, Scots Gaelic, as spoken in the highlands and islands of Scotland. Both are related to Welsh, Breton, and Cornish (extinct) as members of the once-widespread Celtic Branch of the Indo-European Language Family. Many islanders also speak English with varying degrees of fluency depending on degree of contact. English is taught as a second language in school, and some people are literate in both languages. Spoken Gaelic is now heavily loaded with English loanwords, but these are easily Gaelicized and assimilated.

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