• November 24, 2020

On this day (17th November) in 1953 the Blasket Islands off Kerry were evacuated.

They were not the first Atlantic fringe community to be forced out by a combination of population depletion, extreme weather conditions and changing lifestyles. St Kilda off the Hebrides had been evacuated earlier it’s Islanders going to mainland Scotland in 1930. Later other Island communities would also die such as Inishark off Galway in 1960. Even Islands comparatively close to their mainland are vulnerable. The Calf of Man almost within shouting distance of the Isle of Man could be cut off for weeks in winter and the Island was evacuated in the 1950s. Island communities on the Atlantic fringe continue to die. Inishbiggle just yards off shore from the coasts of both Achill Island and Co Mayo has been let down by successive Irish government and promised links including a bridge or cable car have never come to fruition the population of 90 in 1980 had shrunk to 18 in 2016 the school and Post Office closed.

Irish Central reports here on the end of the Blaskets as an Island community with a unique culture and linguistically a repository for a largely unchanged version of the Irish language which attracted scholars throughout the twentieth century.

The Blasket Islanders were resettled by the De Valera government returning to their Islands only to tend their sheep. On my first visit to Dingle peninsula 50 years ago I saw the Islands striking presence in the Atlantic and a small boat rowing towards them – perhaps they were still working the sheep 17 years after the evacuation..who knows!


Related link:

This shows the later Inishark evacuation which was captured on film in 1960:


Report on Blaskets:


Film of life of St Kilda 1928:


Image: Derelict house on the Blaskets

Bernard Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary Celtic League (submitted 17th November 2020)

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