Leaving the Great Blasket Island....
Ní bheidh ár leithéidí arís ann.... - Tomás Ó Criomhthain
A chairde, fáilte róimh thar n-ais ar feadh seachtain agus scéal eile! Tá súil agam go raibh seachtain maith ag gach éinne ón uair deirneach a bhíos ag scríobh! Seachtain eile don dianghlasáil déanta againn agus muid níos congaraí do píosa beag saoirse!
I hope you have all had a lovely week, wherever in the world you are. Here in Ireland, we have another week of lockdown under our belt and are slowly but surely getting closer to having some freedom! The winter weather has well and truly set in here on the Dingle Peninsula – there seems to be an almost permanent sprinkling of mist and rain at all times now! The wind has picked up and the temperatures have dropped also. Combined with the evenings getting dark before 5pm, it can make for a very dreary combination! However, being by the fireside in a warm house certainly helps…The rain is lovely to look at when you’re indoors!
It has been a relatively busy week here at Dingle Peninsula Tourism, as we try to ‘plan to plan’ for the next few months. It is very difficult to make any concrete plans at the moment, as what the immediate future will look like continues to be uncertain. The current lockdown restrictions are set to end on December 1st, however the drop in cases has stagnated to a certain degree, so it is now unsure whether or not the restrictions will be extended beyond that date. We are also still unaware of what restrictions will look like over the Christmas period, so it is difficult to plan even to that point! Taking it a day at a time will be the go-to for the coming months!!
Anyway! Enough about Covid and restrictions and everything else! It’s time to bring you a little bit of the Dingle Peninsula….Earlier this week, the 17th November, marked 67 years since the last residents of the Blasket Islands left the Island for the final time and came to the mainland permanently. For those of you who may not know, the Blasket Islands are a group of 6 islands off the west coast of the Dingle Peninsula. They are the most westerly part of Ireland, and it is frequently said that the next parish after the Blaskets is America! The highest number of residents the island ever saw was 175 people, yet the island is renowned for its culture and the Irish language.
The evacuation in November 1953 of the 22 remaining islanders was ordered by the Irish Taoiseach at the time, Eamon de Valera. This was due to concern that the island’s inhabitants were too far removed from the mainland to access emergency services and assistance and there were increasingly difficult weather conditions on the island. The families that were left on the island were brought to the village of Dún Chaoin where newly built cottages awaited them. Dún Chaoin is now home to the Blasket Centre, a space dedicated to preserving and telling the stories and history of the islanders. A few former Blasket Island residents have written their stories of life on the island, including ‘Peig’ by Peig Sayers, ‘The Islander’ by Tomás Ó Criomhthain and ‘Twenty Years a’Growing’ by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin. No one can quite understand what life on the island was like, but these stories help you to imagine.
As I think of the final 22 islanders, I can’t help but feel for them, as they left their homes for the final time and embarked on a new life on the mainland. The Great Blasket Island has been uninhabited since, yet the story of these islanders lives on. It is now possible to spend a night on the island, to experience what life may have been like away from the mainland. If you are ever visiting the Dingle Peninsula, be sure and take a boat trip out around the islands and take a walk along the Great Blasket Island to really immerse yourself in the area and the story.
I’m sure most of you have heard some mention of the Blasket Islands previously, however when I realised this week marked the anniversary of the islanders’ final departure, I thought it would be a nice story to share with you all. If you have not already, I would also urge you to read any of the three books from the islanders I’ve mentioned above – their stories are special and should be read again and again. And without a doubt, when it is safe to do so, come to the Dingle Peninsula and see the islands for yourself!
Wishing you all a safe and happy weekend. Until next week,