Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Island Cross Talk - Pages from a Diary

I’m currently reading ‘Island Cross Talk’ originally written in Irish by Tomas O’ Crohan and translated by Tim Enright. (Publisher, Oxford University Press). This book details a fascinating account of the life and times of the Islander, Tomas O’ Crohan, living in the Blasket Islands between 1919 and 1925.

The Blasket Islands are a group of remote islands off the west coast of Kerry, Ireland. Now a place which is no longer inhabited. I am enjoying reading about the history of the islands and you may do too, so I’m enclosing a link to a site providing further information on the Blaskets.

I particularly enjoy how the book has been written, as diary extracts which detail a way of life, the hardships, the poverty, the interaction of people, the friendships, the sense of community, the challenges and how tough life was at that time. I also enjoy the use of language and the musicality of O’Crohan’s voice telling the stories. In a way it reminds me of a time I attended a story telling session at the Irish College in Ranafast many years ago. My Irish wasn’t good enough to understand the finer details of the story at the time but there was something about the pitch, the tone and the sound of the story teller’s voice that engaged me. I note too that many of O’Crohan’s stories were told via the oral tradition and later how the author had been persuaded to write the book which in turn captured the essence of life in the Blaskets for future generations, people like me, perhaps?

It does make me think about the power of the written word. What pictures, memories, history can be shared and enjoyed by future generations. What do we learn from how life used to be? What of the people then and the people today? How do we compare? It also makes me feel privileged to have an education, the joy of being able to read and write and being comfortable with the three ‘R’s. For me, it’s wonderful that we can record events and times of the past and who knows perhaps even provide thoughts and musings for the future? Will our journaling and blogging of today offer that to the readers of the future?

Emm …must read through the Máire Rua journals and scribbling and see if there is something of note for readers of tomorrow!


  1. Hi Mary,
    I thought you might be interested in this link about regional words that are disappearing http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8339552.stm.
    Well, I'm foundered so I'm off to light the fire and wet the tea.
    Pat x

  2. Wow, what a great blog you wrote. And the link to the Blasket Islands site is fascinating. Although I have visited Ireland numerous times, I had never heard of the Blasket Islands. You’re so right, the connection to the past is important to maintain and cherish. We learn so much about ourselves from learning from those who lived before us, and to understand and appreciate the way people lived who are long gone; that is a real “experience” for us. I often read about early American settlers and their ways of life, their hardships, sacrifices, and simple joys. I realize how very different our world is from theirs, and those who inhabited the Blasket Islands, but the human emotions, feelings, reactions, and desires are things we certainly share with those who preceded us generations ago. And yes, maybe, just maybe, the blogs of today will serve later generations in the same manner, as sort of literary time capsules.

  3. Thanks for the link Pat. It's great - reminded me of a few great words and phrases. I think holding on to a few language quirks here and there make for interesting connections and conversations, don't you? Off to 'red up' for the weekend, check that 'the weans' are okay and might even 'wet a pot of tea' too!

  4. Hi Tom - glad you enjoyed the blog post. This book provides a powerful insight into the ways of old and the challenges at that time. I sometimes wonder how life today will be recorded for prosterity ... will the future generations read about us? ... will books become obsolete and be replaced with something much more exciting and whizzy to record daily events? ... who knows ...

  5. This is fascinating. I agree there is much to be learnt from different ways of living, both today and from the past. I'd also not heard of the Blasket Islands, but having visited some of the smaller Scottish Isles just recently, I'm off to look them up! Really wonderful blog post!


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