Looking out over the Blasket Islands, from a perch high up on Clogher head, my mind is consumed with thoughts of the past and settlers who made this, the most westerly point of Europe their home.
It’s hard to escape history in a place like this, especially when the Dingle Peninsula has supported various tribes and populations for almost 6,000 years. Evidence of that past is strewn all over the landscape, visual reminders of a rich a varied past , one steeped in history, folklore and one that is everpresent on my mind.
For me the Blasket Islands, in particular, the ‘Great Blasket Island’, will always be associated with the book Peig Sayers. ‘Peig’ (1936), her autobiography was a staple on the secondary school curriculum for years, and those of a certain generation will have studied it in Irish for the Leaving Cert. For any of you who are unfimiliar with the book ‘Peig’ depicts the declining years of a traditional, Irish-speaking way of life, charactesrised by poverty and hardship. It is a bleak book in truth and one that was taken off the curriculum in the late 1990s.
The Blasket Islands
I have never been on the island, or any of the other Blasket Islands for the matter, but looking at it now over the Blasket Sound it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to live there. The only inhabitable area of the ‘Great Blasket Island’ is at the east side, protected, some what form the elements by a steep incline that dominates the rest of the island. On record, the population of the island at it’s peak in 1916 was 176 people. How they all managed to fit on such a tiny piece of land, let alone sustain themselves baffles me. One can only imagine the hardship those people must have gone through, with a constant struggle for survival. Following the First World War, the island began to decline and in 1953 the last twenty inhabitants left the island.
Being in such a rich environment, with such a rich history and natural beauty is all consuming. The many time I have visited the peninsula I always come away better for the experience. From a photographers perspective, places like the Dingle Peninsula offer so much. Jutting out as it does into the sea, the most westerly point in Europe, the peninsula has a rugged and beautiful coastline. Battered by the Atlantic ocean and the predominant westerly winds, the coastline is visually stunning, particularly along it’s most westerly points.
Evenings like the one I experienced on Clogher Head, on a stunning summers evening offer so much. Consumed by history and natural beauty I left with heavy heart, but happy in the knowledge that I would return soon and maybe next time I will be pointing my camera towards the mainland, wondering why anyone would want to live there!