GREAT BLASKET ISLAND – the abandoned heart of Irish heritage

Great Blasket Island extreme left. It looks fine from here, but getting there is the problem.


The weather was against us today. We were planning to take a boat out to Great Blasket Island, off the coast from the most westerly part of Ireland.

Gale force winds and dangerous seas made the trip impossible. That was a pity, because the now deserted island sounds fascinating.

Battered by winds and rain, we’d hiked to the western end of the lovely Dingle Peninsula, itself a bastion of Irish culture, music and language.

The weather cleared briefly at the end of the day, and we could drink coffee and hot chocolate and look our across the landscape featured in the film Ryan’s Daughter.

For centuries a few families had eked out a living farming and fishing the treacherous waters around Great Blasket Island. But in 1953, when the population fell to 21 souls the government decided it was no longer feasible to provide services there, and evacuated the residents, resettling on the mainland those who hadn’t already left for the greener pastures of Springfield, Massachusetts.

As a consolation prize, our guide John took us to visit the smart new Blascaoid Centre, where the life and achievements of the islanders are remembered.

Life was simple on Great Blasket...simple and hard.

The wind which kept us on the mainland would often keep islanders inside their houses for days.

I wouldn't care to go out in a boat like this on those waters, even after it had been given some cladding.

We were impressed by the museum, and particularly by the art featured there. Ireland may not be noted for its visual art, but we liked a lot of what we saw today.

The Journey - designed by Roisin de Buitlear, constructed in collaboration with Salah Kawala.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Great Blasket life was the number of significant writers it turned up, given that nobody received any education past grade six, and many islanders were illiterate in Irish.

Peig Sayers, Tomas O’Criomhthain and Muiris O’Suilleabhain were not names we knew, but we bought Muiris’s book Twenty Years A’Growing and will give it a go.

The writer was the guest of South West Walks and Utracks.

3 Comments

Filed under Ireland

3 responses to “GREAT BLASKET ISLAND – the abandoned heart of Irish heritage

  1. The area looks beautiful. The scenery in Ryan’s daughter was spectacular. It seems a trip to Ireland is needed.

  2. I am really enjoying your travelogue about your trip to Ireland – we also visited the Dingle peninsula, but decided against the ferry to the Blaskets – too cold and windy and the sea was wild and choppy. The museum looks really impressive – I don’t remember seeing that statue of the man walking against the wind though! Well-captured indeed!

  3. angela highstead

    oh Richard you bring back such wonderful memories. I bought every book sat at the end of the Blasket Island centre looking out over the Blasket Islands. Just me and my imagination. I will take the books down, dust them off and read them again. A wonder ful piece of Ireland.

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