A Dark Day on the Blaskets by Mícheál Ó Dubhshláine, was re-published last week by Tigh Áine. It is a fascinating portrait of a young woman and her times. As well as a page-turner, it is an engrossing description of a place at a turning point in its cultural history, a place celebrated in the remarkable classics of the ‘Blasket Library’.
In the summer of 1909 Eibhlin Nic Niocaill arrives on the Dingle Peninsula in the extreme south-west of Ireland. One of the finest scholars in the new national movement, she had come from Dublin to study the West Kerry dialect of Irish. Here she explored the countryside and travelled to the Great Blasket, spending an intense, mystical month on the island, meeting the inhabitants, whose lifestyle had changed little in 200 years. But on 13 August she and 17-year-old Donal O Criomhthain both drowned.