An tOileán a Treigheadh – 17ú Samhain, 1953

On November 17, 1953, 70 years ago yesterday, the last of the community of An Blascaod Mór left the island for the mainland in Corca Dhuibne, a more than mile journey from the slipway at An Caladh. Just 22 people, members of four families, had remained until ordered to leave by the state.


Léarscáil a rinne Seoirse Mac Thomais (Aghaidheanna Fidil agus Púicíní, Muiris Mac Conghail, BÁC 2009)

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The community was mostly dependent on fishing and latterly supplemented by “an dole” that had been awarded to the islanders by the first Fianna Fáil government in 1933. 

It was the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera, who both introduced the dole, and who ordered the people to leave in 1953. 

Ironically perhaps, his grandson Éamon Ó Cuív when Minister for the Gaeltacht, and generally praised as having been a good one, in 2003 – speaking 50 years after “Treigeadh an tOileán” – made the point that had there been electricity and other services that the community might have been saved.

Tígh Tómas Ó Criomhthain (Matt Treacy)

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As Máirtín Ó Cadhain and others had pointed out for decades after the foundation of a state allegedly committed to preserving the remaining Irish speaking communities, the Irish state had done very little to ensure that those communities had the economic means to survive. 

The fishing communities of the west coast, almost all of them Irish speaking, had seen a sector that once had a prospect of becoming a thriving national industry neglected and eventually sacrificed on the altar of “Europe.” Even a fraction of the grants and tax breaks given to foreign investors would have laid the basis for an indigenous sector employing thousands. 

Blasket Island (Matt Treacy)

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In the meantime, the living carriers of an oral, musical and written tradition that stretched back more than 1500 years were left with no choice but to hit for Springfield Massachusetts, Glascow, and Kilburn, or even Dublin.

Part of that exile and displacement contributed to a revived literature. Ó Cadhain, of course  was part of that, as too were the brothers Ó Grianna and Mac Grianna, Micí Mac Gabhann and others.

However, the books that were written by the last Blasket Islanders have earned a particular place in that body of work. Those writers were the inheritors of a tradition that included the poet Piaras Feiritéar of the displaced gaelicised lords of Corca Dhuibhne who was hung by the Cromwellians in Killarney in October 1653. Feiritéar is believed to have hidden on the island, at Scairt Phiarais, and whose poem about the cave high above the rocks and waves lived on in the oral tradition of the people, long before it was printed.


Scairt Phiarais · Smerwick (B.) · The Schools’ Collection | dú (

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Many great writers, inspired by visitors to the island like George Thompson who drew the map above, Robert Flower – Bláithín, and assisted by others such as Pádraig Ó Siochfhrada, An Seabhac, wrote about their lives on the island.

The best known are Tómas Ó Criomhthain author of An tÓileánach; Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, Fiche Blian Ag Fás and of course Peig Sayers whose eponymously titled and brilliantly funny and wise book has been restored to its rightful place after decades of cultural inferiority complex inspired denigration. 

Peig Sayers sa bhaile

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There are of course others; of the island like Seán Cheain I Chearnaigh, Eibhlís ní Shúilleabháin Máire ní Ghuithín, and other writers who were or are from the wider peninsula of Corca Dhuibhne up to the present day and among whom are Pádraig Ó Murchú, Pádraig Ua Maoileoin, Pádraig Ó Cíobháin, Seán Ó Lúing and others. Not to mention those like Monsignor de Brun and Seán Ó Ríordáin who were inspired by the region. Not least of whom was Brendan Behan who wrote one of the great poems about the deserted island.


Agus ag plé an ábhar sin, bhíos – mar Dub gan na brístí bándhearg a caitheann lucht na galf -ag caint le bean sa mBuailtín sa Samhradh, agus idir an cur agus cuiteamh faoi an caid, duirt sí liom: “Faigheann tú an scríbhneoireacht Béarla is fearr agus is saibhir i mBaile Átha Cliath, agus an Gaelann agus an litríocht na Gaelann is fearr i Chorca Dhuibne.” 

Agus fágaimid siúd mar atá sé, b’feidir!


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Dave Wall
8 days ago

Teip eile den Rialtas na hÉireann. The Government has no interest in Culture, Heritage or the language. They have given up on even pretending.

Andrew Sheahan
8 days ago
Reply to  Dave Wall

Total agree. Our youth thinks history started at the millennium.

In the light of his recent political statements, would you vote for Conor McGregor if he ran for election?

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