You wonder what Peig Sayers would make of it. The woman whose Great Blasket memoir shocked generations of Leaving Cert students must look down with interest on the newest occupants of her ancestral home.
On that day, Niamh Kelleher and Jack Cakehead will be temporary stewards of this atoll, three miles off the coast of Kerry.
After beating thousands of applicants from Mexico and Argentina, the young couple will run the island’s B&B and café for the summer season — all without running water or electricity.
Personal experience shows that the Great Blasket is no place without serious rain gear – even in July.
Ages ago, four of us celebrating the end of our exams rented a boat and motor for a camping trip — only to emerge rain-soaked, wind-blown wrecks after the longest weekend of our young lives.
In his autobiography The Islanderremarked Tomás Ó Criomhthain: “The likes of us shall not be seen again.” No idle bragging.
He recalled going to a mainland wedding during a particularly blustery October in 1920 and being stranded in Dingle for three weeks as storms lashed the coast.
When he finally returned, his island family were shocked to see him and believed he had drowned on the voyage. Ó Criomthain’s humble house has been painstakingly restored by the Office of Public Works (OPW) – a fitting testament to a generation that endured conditions as harsh as we can imagine.
Apart from the summer tourist season, the island was now uninhabited and the island’s population peaked at 176 in 1916 and steadily declined to the last 22 who were evacuated in 1953.
Later this year I plan to revisit the scene of our lost student weekend – this time in the comfort of a rented cottage.
I will swim in the crystal clear waters of Trá Bhán and climb the steep slope to see the silhouette of Fear Marbh as dusk falls.
Without my phone or any connection to the real world 5 km away, Micheál Ó Cearna’s memoirs, From Great Blasket to Americawill be my only entertainment – the island life that also accompanied him for more than 5,500 km and 60 years in Springfield, USA.
“I can’t get the island out of my head, it’s been with me my whole life. There was no court, no doctor, no priest, but we didn’t need them.”
Looking out over Ireland from this lonely place, I picture the childhood of Gearóid Cheaist Ó Catháin – the last person born on the island, made famous in a 1948 newspaper article as ‘The Loneliest Boy Alive’.
“I lived happily there until I was six years old,” he recalled of a childhood when his 30-year-old uncle was closest to him.
“The old people were my playmates, we did everything together – shearing sheep, catching rabbits, mowing lawns and sailing in the Naomhóg.”
Seeing everyone of the same age in a private space untroubled by jealousy, greed or hatred – a truly magical world.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/an-island-paradise-even-if-it-left-me-quite-windswept-41629354.html An island paradise – even if it got me pretty windswept