If you could tell us another one, it wouldn’t be too much.
Great Blasket is a place to visit off the Irish coast. Sit at the kitchen table. Let the island fill you spirit with the daily struggles and celebrations of a time no longer. Join the gam.
The storyteller, Tomas O’Crohan, is the exquisite rarity of one comfortable in different worlds with the ablity to explain one to the other. Each story combines faith and fate, wonder and expectation, joy and resignation felt most by those bound to land and sea. Tomas can also write it in a way that the reader hears it.
Births and deaths in his own family receive no less attention than the successes and tragedies of neighbour and visitor. Island survival relies on nature, individual skill and motivation, sharing goods and opportunities, and marketplace forces on shore and on visiting ships. When these fail, the providence of another’s disaster floats into grasp.
What makes this telling so fascinating is the history. Tomas was born on this three mile long island in 1856. He lived through the famine and spoke only Irish (Gaelic) until later in life. Although schooling opportunities were limited on the island, he obviously loved learning and took every opportunity. Encouragement from visiting scholars led him to record these stories in his native language. One of these scholars, Robin Flower, translated these into English and published them in 1937, the year Tomas O’Crohan died.
His observations on the passing of a way of life honour the islanders not only by the recorded memories, but in a great read. The village closed in the 1950’s. This narrative keeps it alive in the way that only a great storyteller can.
His son wrote an epilogue of sorts about the lives of the islanders after they moved to the nearby Irish shore. Will have to get A Day in Our Life by Sean O’Crohan on my Christmas list.