The Irish name for Horse Island is Oileán na gCapall, and Michael Kirby, fisherman, painter and poet from Ballinskelligs (1906-2005) writes in one of his books, Skelligs Calling, about the Irish place names in and around Ballinskelligs Bay, that it isn´t quite clear where the name comes from but that there are more than this Oileán na gCapall along the Irish coast.
Until the end of the 1950s there lived two families on Horse Island, the Barrys und the Fitzgeralds, when life became too hard and uncomfortable on the rather barren island, especially in Winter. Even if the distance from Ballinskelligs Pier to the island is not that far, a heavy swell from the Atlantic through the narrow sound made crossing by boat impossible a lot of the time and the families finally moved to the mainland.
In his book Skelligside Michael Kirby writes about the Lady of Horse Island, his aunt Julia Kirby, who in the 1860s married a David Fitzgerald from the island but was soon left a widow with six children.
Her relatives from Ballinskelligs helped as much as they could and often in Spring French fishing boats would come for mackerel and the Breton fishermen would keep her company and she would look after them when the weather was to rough for them to go out with their boats. Tobacco and "sour" red wine was exchanged in the village for milk and eggs and some French cooking of cockels and mussels and sea snails was introduced to the area.