Saturday, 27 August 2011

What makes a place special is the way it buries itself inside the heart, not whether it's flat or rugged, rich or austere, wet or arid, gentle or harsh, warm or cold, wild or tame. Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love & respect shown toward it, & by the way in which it's bounty is received.
- Richard Nelson
Above the west coast of Kerry viewed from ' An Blasket Mor ' largest of the Islands and the last one to be inhabited. Although now uninhabited, the Blasket Islands were once home to a thriving community, cut off from the rest of Ireland by the two miles of sea forming the Blasket Sound.

All supplies had to be carried by boat, and in the days when the only means of transport was a canvas covered curragh or naomhóg, the islanders were sometimes marooned for weeks at a time, especially in the stormy winter months.
Numbers dwindled over the years as emigration took its toll, but the final decision to evacuate the island came when the turf supply (the only source of fuel on the island) became scarce, and the last remaining islanders left the Great Blasket in 1953.

The Islanders

As a Gaelic-speaking community, away from the influence of the rest of the country, the islands had gained a reputation for refinement of language that attracted scholars to their shores in the summer months.

From this small island Tomás Ó Criomhtháin's book, The Islandman (An tOileánach), and Péig Sayers autobiography, (Péig, A Scéal Féin), became classics of Irish literature. Muirís Ó Súilleabháin's book entitled Twenty Years A-Growing (Fiche Bliain ag Fás) became a best-seller, translated into several different languages.

I spent the Spring -Summer school term of 1966 in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) part of the mainland , on my mile and a half walk to and from school I would see the Islands (on clear days) and they found a home in my heart.

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