Blasket Island Museum

Dingle Peninsula


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The Blasket Islands are 4 or 5 small islands at the end of the Dingle Peninsula. The largest is Great Blasket Island, which was home to a large population of Irish speaking people until the middle of this century. The Blasket Islanders had a thriving culture, and were visited by many a scholar to learn Irish and capture the culture. Interestingly, because of many years of imposed education in English, many of the Blasket Islanders were illiterate in their native tongue. It was only at the urging of these visiting foreign scholars, some from as far away as Sweden, that the islanders began to write in Irish.  Since then, many famous Irish books, some autobiographical, have originated from the island.

Due to the extreme weather, passage to the mainland was only possible on less than half the days of the year. If they were lucky, some of these days were Sundays so that the entire population could make the trip to church in Dunquin. This connection to Dunquin was also the source of new islanders through marriage, allowing the population to grow and survive. The men spent most days on the water fishing and collecting lobster traps. The women tended the livestock and collected the peat which was burned for fuel. The islanders chose a so-called "King" as their leader who was responsible for many decisions on the island.

The isolation also meant that life on the island was dangerous. The island life was also not very attractive to the young people growing up on the island. The population slowly dwindled until in 1953, when there were no more young women in the island's community, the island was evacuated for the safety of its residents. The catalyst for this evacuation was the death of an islander who couldn't get medical attention because of bad weather preventing a crossing from the mainland.

Because of the importance of the island in the history of Irish language literature, this museum also has lots of information about the Irish language itself. In addition to sculptures of various things (birds, water, clouds, animals) along the walls of the main corridor with their Irish name engraved within, there was information about the origin of the language and its relationship to other languages like Welsh, Gaellic, and Manx. In addition to all this, was a wall of televisions showing a elementary school class learning various vocabulary in Irish.


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