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Saturday 23 August 2014

Is this the last memoir of the Blasket Island natives?

Published 22/05/2013 | 11:31

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An Dr Mícheál J Ó Ceárna. Photo by Marian O'Flaherty.

ONE of the most eagerly anticipated events of The Gathering will take place this weekend as Dr Mícheál Ó Cearna (Mike Carney), the oldest surviving Blasket Island native, will travel home to his native Corca Dhuibhne from Springfield, USA, to launch his memoirs.

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ONE of the most eagerly anticipated events of The Gathering will take place this weekend as Dr Mícheál Ó Cearna (Mike Carney), the oldest surviving Blasket Island native, will travel home to his native Corca Dhuibhne from Springfield, USA, to launch his memoirs.

'From The Great Blasket to America - The Last Memoir by an Islander' (by Michael Carney with Gerald Hayes) will receive its launch in Ionad an Bhlascaoid this Friday night after Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan officially opens 'The Blasket Island & West Kerry Welcome Home Week' at 7pm.

2013 is a significant year as it marks 60 years since the evacuation of the Great Blasket Island. It also marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of Ionad an Bhlascaoid.

Mike Carney, who was born on An Bhlascaoid Mór in 1920, is the oldest living native of the Blasket Islands. He left the island in 1937 to seek out a future in Dublin before eventually emigrating to Springfield, Massachusetts in the USA.

The death on the island of his younger brother without a priest or doctor in 1947 set off a chain of events that led to the Islands' evacuation and Dr Mike played a key role in the evacuation: personally lobbying Éamon de Valera to relocate the remaining Islanders who at the time were living in increasingly desperate conditions.

The memoir documents the story of Dr Mike's life and his efforts in promoting Irish culture in America to preserve the memory of the Islands, putting pen to paper as did so many of his island counterparts, such as Tomás Ó Criothan, Peig Sayers and Muiris Ó Suailleabháin.

"Mike decided to put his memoirs together; at 92 years of age he spends a lot of time reminiscing about events over the full span of his long life," Gerald (Jerry) Hayes, who is married to Dr Mike's daughter Maureen, and who helped compile the memoir, told The Kerryman.

"In the book he says that he was motivated by a desire to keep the memory of the island and the story of his emigration alive. It is different than other Blasket books because it includes the story of the evacuation as told by an islander, the story of the emigration of an islander to America, and the story of efforts to protect the legacy of the island."

"This may well be the last of a long line of books written by islanders," he added.

Dr Mike knew little English when travelled to Dublin at the age of 16, where he first found work as a barman. Before long he found his feet and began writing columns as Gaeilge for The Irish Press.

After emigrating to Springfield, MA, he worked as a story manager, a security officer and became president of the John Boyle O'Reilly Club, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting Irish heritage, – a post he held for 16 years.

He also played a pivotal role in the development of Ionad an Bhlascaoid in Dún Chaoin and in 2009 he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree in Celtic literature from the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

"This book launch will be the first event on our very ambitious Gathering events schedule," Mícheál de Mórdha of Ionad an Bhlascaoid told The Kerryman.

"The publication is being mooted as the last biography to be written by a Blasket native; as long as we have books like this, the Blasket will never die."

"We extend our heartiest compliments to Dr. Mike and his son-in-law, Jerry Hayes, who have given us a very stirring 'insider' account of the trials and tribulations of a remarkable man and the community which produced and nurtured him;

"Comhgháirdeas le Maidhc Sheáin Team - mar ab fhearr aithne air ar an mBlascaod - as chuntas tábhachtach a thabhairt dúinn ar shaol atá imithe ach nach bhfuil ligthe i ndearmad."

Kerryman

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