What a magical day we had on the island. The weather could not have been more perfect – and we had an extraordinary Blasket Centre guide, Tommy Long. Students responded deeply to his amazing knowledge of Blasket island people and way of life, his sincere appreciation for their culture, his humor and his respectful interest in their studies and understanding of this community.
The boat ride (and dinghy experience) was exceptional – spirits were high, the seas were fairly calm, and everyone was excited for this journey. Tommy gave us an incredible tour of the main parts of the village, telling us great stories about the people who lived in each of the houses and weaving bits of Blasket history in, as we went. I was really proud of my students – they were attentive, curious, and respectful.
It was a particularly poignant moment when students stood inside the Sean Tom O’Cearnaigh home and thought about what life might have been like for this family that we have studied and this unique and isolated Irish-speaking community. You can read Martin Kearney’s older brother, Mike Carney’s beautiful and funny memoir, From the Great Blasket to America: The Last Memoir by an Islander and click here to watch Mike Carney’s trip back to the island (RTÉ News Now) in May of last year as part of the 2013 Blasket Gathering events.
We had a lovely serendipitous experience – we had met a wonderful young scholar at the Bibeanna and Ventry men tea at Brenda Ní Shúilleabháin’s house – Eilís Ní Dhúill (that’s her on the far right). She’s a lecturer and a Ph.D. student, and is the Hardiman and Irish Research Council Scholar in the Department of Irish, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at NUI Galway (National University of Ireland, Galway). I was so pleased to meet her – she’s studying Irish cultural history documentaries and is currently studying the Bibeanna, so it was amazing to have Brenda include her in the tea with the Bibeanna. A few days later, without either of us knowing this would occur, we both showed up (me, with my students) at the Dunquin pier to go out to the island!
Here’s one of her photos from the island (thanks, Eilís)!
I’ll post a few of her Bibeanna photos, at a later time, as well.
Students asked great questions on the island and I could see each of them making deep connections and contextualizing what they had learned and experienced – over the whole of this three-week journey. The beautiful natural setting was a perfect place to wonder, wander and reflect. I had planned this excursion as a capstone experience and it was incredible. My expectations for how the class would go, how students would engage and react, and the impact all of this would have on them, were far surpassed – a fabulous end to a really amazing class and learning journey. Thanks to my wonderful students (read their blog posts about this class, here) and all of our marvelous guides along the way.