Hungry for Home: Leaving the Blaskets - A Journey from the Edge of Ireland

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9780140273953: Hungry for Home: Leaving the Blaskets - A Journey from the Edge of Ireland

For hundreds of years the Irish Island of Great Blasket was home to a community of people who lived without gas, electricity or running water. In 1953 life there became too hard and the island was evacuated. An extraordinary migration took place, the island community relocating almost wholesale to an obscure suburb of an ordinary town in Massachusetts, USA. One family provides the human focus and emotional core to this wider story of emigration. Ceit Kearney stayed in Ireland when her two brothers made the epic journey to America. In their last years they share stories of lives geographically and culturally divided by the Atlantic.

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The Great Irish diaspora, that began in the 1840s with the potato famine soon saw the island's population of eight million reduced to less than four million, continued well into the 20th century, and has only finally been reversed with the arrival of tourism in the West of Ireland. Cole Morton here traces one of the last of those tragic emigration stories, from one of the very remotest places in the West: Great Blasket, off the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry. The last chapter in the ancient history of the Blaskets began on Christmas Eve, 1946, when a young man on the island, Seainin ("little Sean"), collapsed in bed with a terrible headache. There was no doctor, no policeman, not even a priest on the island to help. The only telephone was down. And on Christmas Day, Seainin died, "with his aunt whispering the Act of Contrition into a dead ear". And with that, the islanders realised that their lives on Blasket were no longer tenable. It is the kind of story that has been told before, and by natives of the islands as well, in their unique, poetic style: in Peig Sayers' memoirs, for instance, or Muiris O Suilleabhain's Twenty Years A-Growing. But Morton's account is equally worth reading, imaginative and sensitively written, as it follows the O Cearna family all the way from Blasket to the mainland, and eventually to America, the New World... It is pleasing, too, that the author does not pretend to some mythical Irish ancestry of his own, as is so fashionable nowadays with politicians and creatives on both sides of the Atlantic. Instead he states clearly that he is neither American nor Irish, but comes from East London. Good for him. -- Christopher Hart

From the Author:

What kind of book is Hungry for Home?
What kind of book is Hungry for Home? When people ask me that question I say it's the story of a family who made an incredible journey from the Middle Ages to the Space Age just by crossing the Atlantic. They are extraordinary people who lived in the most isolated circumstances, and yet produced (by virtue of the oral culture retained on the island) some of the most beautiful literature to be produced in Gaelic in modern times. And then they moved to America, transporting their island life to a suburb of a landlocked town in New England. The book combines reportage (as I trace and meet the surviving brothers and sisters of the Kearney clan) with travel writing (across Ireland and up the East Coast of America in the footsteps of the emigrants) and dramatic prose (including a recreation of the extraordinarily dramatic and sad events that led to the abandonment of the island half a century ago, as remembered by the people who were there). My intention was also to explore themes of exile and emigration that resonate beyond the curious story of the Blasket community, and to pursue the way our notions of home often prove to be fragile and elusive. During the writing of it I was struck by the parallels between the experiences of the islanders and of those of my friends and neighbours who have moved to London from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. This book should speak to anyone who feels, like me, that they have been hungry for home without really knowing where home is.

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Moreton, Cole
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (2001)
ISBN 10: 0140273956 ISBN 13: 9780140273953
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1

Book Description Penguin Books Ltd, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0140273956

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