An Old Woman's Reflections

An Old Woman's Reflections

An Old Woman's Reflections

An Old Woman's Reflections

Synopsis

Known affectionately as "the Queen of Gaelic Storytellers," Peig Sayers here offers reminiscences of the daily events that made up her life (such as seal catching, collecting turf for roofs, preparing for a funeral wake) alongside the tragedies of drownings at sea, pilgrimages, and the news of the 1916 revolution in Dublin City. It is a unique record of an essential part of the oral Gaelic tradition.

Excerpt

The day's dusty duty has been done, the last boat drawn up on the strand, and the mountain-sides and sea-lochs that fringe the western coast of Ireland are dark. But in a whitewashed kitchen in the glen the peat-fire glows like a berry, and the cricket -- 'the cock of the ashes' -- sings. And the tangle of Gaelic voices singles out as the Story-teller spreads his fingers for attention and begins his tale. It could well be a wonder-tale that crossed the roads of Europe from the East a thousand years ago; passing from mouth to mouth and from generation to generation till at last it comes to rest in this lamp-lit room at the edge of the Atlantic. For an hour or two the listening farmers and fishermen will forget their bleak existence; the intoxicating talk turns them into kings and playboys of the western world. 'And tell me,' said a Kerryman, 'if you had no picturehouse, no playhouse, no cunning radio or television at the tips of your fingers, no amusement whatever from head to head of the week except what was painted on the square above a cottage half-door (the highest excitement being the coming and going of cloud-caps on a mountain) wouldn't you too be hungry for the lovely dovetailed talk?'

The Gaelic story-tellers are the caretakers of a peasant tradition, the carriers of an oral culture, that once covered the Atlantic fringe of Europe. They belong to antiquity, to a Europe that had no books, no radio, no cinema or television, a Europe whose only entertainment was the parish lore or the winter-night's tale told by a passing traveller. Unlettered but not unlearned, they are the inheritors of a considerable art. Usually they arc old men, for it is the old who think long and sleep lightly and have the fabulous . . .

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