In this unit, we are learning about the Blasket Islands and Blasket people. We'll study the history of the Blasket people on the islands and what happened to them after the Irish government evacuated the Great Blasket in 1953. We'll explore the effects of immigration and the lives of Blasket islanders and their descendants in a large (6,000+ people) Blasket Diaspora in Springfield, MA and surrounding areas - through the lens of one Blasket Island man, Martin Kearney. We'll learn about the work being done in The Blasket Centre in Dunquin, Co. Kerry, and explore issues of place and identity. We'll learn about Martin Kearney's life on the island and in America and his struggle with epilepsy, and we'll watch lots of my HD video interviews, done in Dunquin, Co. Kerry and Springfield, MA.
In class on Monday, we watched a short documentary film produced by the OPW (Office of Pubic Works),
Deireadh an Áil: The Last of the Blasket People. The film tells the story of the Blasket people, their final days on the island and their lives in exile. We also explored the OPW monograph, Na Blascodaí: The Blaskets, a marvelous resource on all aspects of life on the islands. We also explored some relevant issues of An Caomhnór (the Blasket Centre publication), a few black and white OPW photos of the Blaskets, Peig Sayers (1878-1958) and Tomás Ó Criomhthain (author of The Islandman), Steve MacDonogh's wonderful book, The Dingle Peninsula, and The Blasket Islands: Next Parish America by Joan and Ray Stagles. Another wonderful resource, which I hope we'll have time to watch, is the 1968 black and white documentary film (using observational cinema techniques) by UCLA film professor Mark McCarty and University of Illinois Chicago anthropologist, Paul Hockings, The Village.
From DER (Documentary Educational Resources) - "An intimate study of the slow-paced diurnal round of activity in Dunquin, County Kerry, Ireland, the westernmost village in Europe and one of the last Gaelic-speaking communities. At the fime of filming, 1967, the village consisted of 180 people, most elderly and poor. This portrait of a peasant society was filmed at a time when acculturation by urban tourists was beginning; the language, customs and subsistence techniques of the past are presented without commentary or narration. Through this cinéma vérité exploration, key village characters emerge: the postmistress, who dispenses sweets, gossip, and pensions; the pub owner, who is also landlord, grocer, de facto mayor, and traditional yarn-spinner. Isolated from the rest of the country, depleted by emigration and devastated by a harsh climate, the society, traditions, and lives of Dunquin carry on."
In 2007, Irish filmmaker and TV producer Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin made a wonderful 40-year retrospective on the village of Dunquin that was filmed for TG4, the Irish language television channel. Many of the people featured in The VIllage talked about that first experience and what Dunquin had been like at that time, and how much it had changed since then - from a dying village to a vibrant and thriving village with a flourishing tourist trade, made possible by the huge success of the David Lean epic film, Ryan's Daughter (set in the wake of the Easter 1916 Rising).
This post will serve as a space for sharing reflections on, ideas and inquiries about, and responses to Blasket Island resources that personally resonate - as well as found resources while cybersleuthing, and during discussions and other research activities.