Today we visited the Blasket Heritage Center in Dun Chaoin (Dunquin). Although it is in the middle of nowhere, Dun Chaoin is one of the most beautiful places we have visited while in Ireland. The scenery is absolutely spectacular and the view of the water is amazing.
We got an early start, ate breakfast, and walked from our hostel to the Blasket Heritage Center which was right down the very narrow road across from us. When we entered the Heritage Center we went straight into the theater to watch a video which talked about the history of Great Blasket, the western island off of Dun Chaoin.
The sea plays a major part in the Blasket’s history. The sea was very rough at times but provided the people on the island with food. It is 2/3 mile wide and every field and cove has its own name. Even though this island is very small, it comes with a large history of writers and scholars. The video we viewed emphasized and explained the importance of some influential writers. Most famous were Tomas O Crimothain, Munris O Shuilleabhain (“The Island Man”), Peig Sayers (“An Old Womans Reflections”), Eibhlis Ni Shuilleabhain, and Sean O Crimtham. Each writer explored many aspects of life on and off the island. For them, the Great Blasket was home and the mainland was unfamiliar. All of their perspectives are greatly noted and they explored and spoke of different experiences they encountered.
The Great Blasket literally means “sharp reef”. It was inhabited in the Iron Age. It was leased to the Ferriter family until 1653. The population started to increase and Protestant missionaries created a school house. The famine in 1845 and the outbreak of typhoid led to the decrease of population on the island due to death and emigration to America. As better health began to emerge in later years, the population began to grow again. However, in 1953, the Great Blasket became abandoned.
The Heritage Center is composed of different rooms explaining about different aspects of the Great Blasket. One room illustrated the land of the Great Blasket and explored the various tools, boats and cropping tools used on the island. The next room spoke of the islands economy. The tending of milch cows and cattle greatly helped economy, as did the selling and exporting of major crops such as oats and potatoes. Another room talked about the sea surrounding the island. In this particular room a quote on the wall read, “For the Islanders the sea was not only a source of food but the object of fear and admiration”. The sea surronding the island was harsh but also provided a lifestyle for the islanders.
We ended the day with a boat ride to the Great Blasket where we walked around and sat on the beach admiring the beautiful settings around us. It was at this point that we got a first hand look at the island we had learned about earlier at the Heritage Center. Through exploring ruins and observing puffins, seals, sheep, and all the other animals present on the island, it is now easy to see why many travel to the Blasket Island to experience both it’s rich culture and astounding beauty.