On an Irish Island

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Robert Kanigel tells the story of Great Blasket, an island off the west coast of Ireland renowned during the early 20th century for the rich communal life of its residents and the unadulterated Irish they spoke. With the Irish language vanishing all through the rest of Ireland, the Great Blasket became a magnet for scholars and writers drawn there during the Gaelic renaissance. On an Irish Island is a love letter to a vanished way of life.


Robert Kanigel

Comments [11]

glork from Glen Ridge NJ

Thank you Mr. Kanigel, it was a wonderful story about Great Blasket Island and most of us learned a great deal. Please ignore many of the critics below...I think some people listen only to find something to criticize, or else they just don't know how to be grateful and appreciative. I enjoyed this segment very much and did indeed wish there had been more time allotted .

Mar. 29 2012 01:48 PM
Adam from NJ

How fitting....just as the British pushed the Gaelic out if Ireland....The BBC segment pushed the Blasket Island Segment off the show.

Mar. 29 2012 01:13 PM
maggie from nj

There are quite a few things your very interesting guest needs to catch up on to give a more accurate picture of this topic.

First, Irish indeed has undergone a renaissance. Irish is spoken as a second language to some degree by almost all Irish, and they will lapse into it when necessary to exchange some thoughts they'd prefer the tourists not to hear.

Of course, there are those enclaves, the gaeltachts (more closely pronounced "gale tahkt", btw.) There are also many Americans who speak Irish fluently, having learned it in classes in the US--see the Irish Heritage Foundation. It's quite popular.

The word Gaelic includes the languages--all related-- spoken once in Wales, in Scotland, in the North of France etc. Irish is the specific language spoken in Ireland so the two are not interchangeable.

I'd recommend the book , "the Tailor and Ansty" by Eric Cross, and "The Islandman", author I cannot recollect---both classics--for those interested in the topic of the Irish speaking Irish and their culture.

Finally, Irish was not kept alive solely by the Blaskets! Where did your guest get these ideas?

Mar. 29 2012 01:07 PM
maureen helbig from Westchester

Why is everyone so negative. It was a nice interview. My mother lived and was raised in Roscommon, born in 1905 she was not allowed to speak Irish. She could sure quote Shakepeare though!!!

Mar. 29 2012 01:02 PM
Hilary Bean Mhic Suibhne from New York

There was also a movement of miners from west Kerry to Butte Montana in the early 20 century.

Nowadays there are Irish Classes being held in colleges and cultural centers all around the US.

Irish is still alive and well and living all around the world. Thankfully.

Mar. 29 2012 12:58 PM
eledryth from New Jersey

Does this gentleman not know that Gaelic has been taught in the schools now for many, many years? When was he there last? Gaelic isn't that hard to learn IF you really want to. I learned it at 60! Also the Gaelic catholic priests kept alive the religious stories that the Catholic church almost lost in Europe.

Mar. 29 2012 12:55 PM
John Lee from UWS

check out the story of the NYC garbageman who learned Irish, won a fulbright grant to study it and was just honored by NY City Council

also--the short film of a chinese man who learns Irish

Mar. 29 2012 12:52 PM

if the islanders were isolated for so long & had no priest, were they Catholic or actually pagan?

Mar. 29 2012 12:52 PM
Hugh Sansom

Mr. Lopate mentioned Welsh just as I was thinking of it. Welsh wasn't as nearly non-existent as Hebrew was in the 19th century, but it was declining. Today there are more speakers of Welsh than there are of either Irish or Scottish Gaelic.

Mar. 29 2012 12:50 PM
Mia from NJ

Does Mr. Kanigel keep up with the current status of the Irish language in Ireland today?

If so, what does he think of the fact that the all-Gaelic network TG4 (or Telefis na Gaelige) is still on the air, 15 years after it started? On a visit to Dublin last year I saw some of it and found it fascinating, even the soap opera Ros na Run (thankfully, most of the programmes have English subtitles).

Mar. 29 2012 12:47 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I've often wondered why the Irish haven;t been able to resurrect Gaelic? Jews managed to resurrect Hebrew in Israel. Is learning Gaelic harder than learning Hebrew?

Mar. 29 2012 12:44 PM

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