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On Great Blasket Island, A Different Way Of Life 10:18

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Great Blasket Island (Flickr/world of jan)
Great Blasket Island (Flickr/world of jan)

Peig Sayers was one of just a few hundred native Irish speakers on Great Blasket Island, a tiny island just off the west coast of Ireland.

"Sayers was story teller, a conveyor, a holder within her heart and brain of the folklore of the island and of this part of Ireland," author Robert Kanigel said.

For generations the islanders lived alone and apart from the rest of Europe — cut off from modernity. In the early 20th century a great Gaelic renaissance emerged. The purity of the Blasket Irish, as a language and as a way of life, became an irresistible magnet for scholars and writers.

"The appeal to the visitors at this time, a resurgence of interest in Irish culture and the Irish language, was that the Blasket Irish was something pretty close to pure," Kanigel said. "Uncontaminated, untainted by English."

That purity didn't last and by 1953 the island was abandoned. Kanigel tells the story of why in his new book "On an Irish Island."


  • Robert Kanigel, author, "On an Irish Island"

Read an excerpt "On An Irish Island" by Robert Kanigel (Copyright © 2012 by Robert Kanigel. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.)

This segment aired on March 9, 2012.

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