seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Evacuation of the Blasket Islands

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blasket-islandsThe remaining human inhabitants of the Blasket Islands, a group of islands off the west coast of Ireland forming part of County Kerry, are evacuated to the mainland on November 17, 1953.

The Blasket Islands are inhabited until 1953 by a completely Irish-speaking population, and today are part of the Gaeltacht. Sadly, the Blasket Island community declines as a result of the persistent emigration of its young people. The last twenty-two inhabitants are forcefully evacuated by the government to the mainland on November 17, 1953, after the Irish government decides that it can no longer guarantee the safety of the remaining population. Many of the descendants currently live in Springfield, Massachusetts, and some former residents still live on the Dingle Peninsula, within sight of their former home.

The islanders are the subject of much anthropological and linguistic study around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries particularly from writers and linguists such as Robin Flower, George Derwent Thomson, and Kenneth H. Jackson. Thanks to their encouragement and that of others, a number of books are written by islanders that record much of the islands’ traditions and way of life. These include An tOileánach (The Islandman) by Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Peig by Peig Sayers, and Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin.

The Great Blasket Island, the principal island of the Blaskets, remains uninhabited today, but visitors can travel by ferry over to this remote and wildly beautiful place and spend several hours or all day marvelling at its natural beauty and what remains of years of human endeavour.

The Blasket Islands have been called Next Parish America, based on the erroneous idea that the next parish west of the islands would be the United States. The actual next parish west of the Blasket Island would be located in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

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