The Great Blasket Islands

Written by: Eiken Laan

Visits long ago 
to the Blaskets Islands,
to untouched areas 
on the Dingle peninsula
came to mind 
on this sleet winter’s eve.

The peninsula,
nestled in heather mountains.
The coastline,
tongues of lonely white sand.
waved rocks,
drenched in blue mussels
tide pools, 
alive with shrimps and periwinkles
A sea-salted life
unspoiled and free.

Only marine life remains,
but I still hear the music
our native language,
the voices of Seanchaí
the ballads, sean?s, 
Peig Sayers
who shaped our school years,
her renditions of island life
her mad pise?gs,
handed down 
from generation to generation.

Stories of
Islanders huddled together
under thatch,
open turf fires
cooking pot on a hook,
the sweet air wafting
of clay pipe tobacco
a pinch of snuff
sniffed from a silver box,
nursing a glass 
of neat Poitín, uisce beatha,
the strong smell of tweeds
and geansaí báinín.

I think of times lost,
changed forever.
Cottage ruins,
where goats roam free,
An Blascaod Mór
my history, my heritage.

Gaelic words in this poem


* Seanchaí – storytellers
Sean?s – singing without music
Peig Sayers and her mad pise?gs – A Gaelic writer who we studied in school and her mad superstitions.
Poitín, uisce beatha – very strong alcohol made from potatoes, called the water of life.
geansaí báinín – strong sheep wool sweaters usually in a cream colour with complex patterns.