A Pity Youth Does Not Last: Reminiscences of the Last of the Great Blasket Island's Poets and Storytellers

A Pity Youth Does Not Last: Reminiscences of the Last of the Great Blasket Island's Poets and Storytellers

A Pity Youth Does Not Last: Reminiscences of the Last of the Great Blasket Island's Poets and Storytellers

A Pity Youth Does Not Last: Reminiscences of the Last of the Great Blasket Island's Poets and Storytellers

Synopsis

Mich'eal O'Guiheen was the son of Peig Sayers, "the Queen of the Gaelic storytellers." The last of the Blasket's celebrated poets and storytellers, he describes how the isolation of his youth was slowly eroded by the creeping of civilization across the three miles separating the islands from County Kerry, and the sadness of leaving the Great Blasket for the last time.

Excerpt

Micheál O'Guiheen was the last of a long line of poets and storytellers, custodians of a rich popular culture going back to the middle ages and beyond. He learnt the art from his mother, Peig Sayers, whose name is known to all students of Gaelic folklore. Born and bred in the Great Blasket Island, he was a schoolmate of Maurice O'Sullivan, author of Twenty Years A-Growing. His brothers and sisters all emigrated to the United States. So, too, did he, but after a few months there he returned, having failed to 'make good'. America offered these exiles an escape from the poverty of their home life, but only on condition that they surrendered their cultural values. Some paid this price without regret, others only with a lifelong sense of loss; for a few it was too heavy, and they came home.

When Micheál returned from America, his island community was on the verge of extinction. a few years later, he and his mother, now a widow, moved out. to the mainland and settled in the place where she had been born -- a little cluster of homesteads in the shadow of Mount Eagle. She died in 1958, and Micheál spent the rest of his life there alone.

I met him on my first visit to the Island in 1923, and we became close friends. He was different from the other boys -- studious and introspective. It was his great hope that one day he might 'go to college'. After 1934 I lost touch with him. I met him for the last time in 1966. As I remembered it, the visitor to the little hamlet where he lived had been greeted by the barking of dogs and cockcrows and children's cries; but now there was silence, and the footpath was overgrown. When Micheál opened the door to me, I had to explain who I

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