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The dominant star shaped fortress on Spike Island testifies to it's strategic importance in the once heavily fortified bastion of British military might that was Cork Harbour. Beneath and around this edifice however lies the story of an island steeped in extensive Irish heritage that stretches further back into the mists of Irelands past beyond the arrival of the Normans and on through to the darkest period of Irish history. From an island of ecclesiastical retreat and contemplation to a dark and godforsaken destination of victims of Ireland's Great Famine, Spike Island has been a part of two contrasting periods in Irish history. The era of saints and scholars during which Spike was described as a Holy Island is set against a later backdrop of famine, disease and death and the dark judicial practice that saw men and boys transported from it to the penal colonies of distant Australia.This book explores the island through these two very different environments from the founding of the monastery there by Saint Carthage to the use of the island as a place of detention, punishment and undignified death. From saints to starvation, "Spike Island" embodies a part of the brightest a darkest legacy of Ireland's history.