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Mike Carney and the Great Blasket Island off the coast of County Kerry. Photo by: Valerie O’Sullivan

Oldest Blasket Islander living in U.S. wants to live out his days on Kerry isle (PHOTOS)

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Mike Carney and the Great Blasket Island off the coast of County Kerry. Photo by: Valerie O’Sullivan

The oldest surviving Blasket Islander has told how he longs to return to his long-lost former island home to live out the rest of his days.

Micheal O Cearna, 93, left the remote Co. Kerry outpost in 1937 to seek a better future in Dublin, settling over a decade later with other emigrant islanders in Springfield, MA - where he still lives to this day.

The father-of-four was instrumental in persuading the then Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Eamon de Valera, to evacuate the 22 remaining islanders from the increasingly desperate conditions they faced on their storm-ravaged outpost on Nov 17, 1953.

But Dr. O Cearna, one of just nine surviving natives of The Great Blasket, said he constantly dreams about "a lost way of life" and said he expects "to be full of emotion" next Sunday, which marks the 60th anniversary of the evacuation of the island.

The native Irish speaker admits the tears flowed when he set foot on the abandoned, windswept isle, with members of his US-based family, last May.

He had returned with members of his US-based family to his former home, which lies three miles off the Dingle coast, to launch his memoirs.

His book, 'From The Great Blasket To America - The Last Memoir by an Islander' follows in the rich literary footsteps of famous island writers he personally knew, like Tomas O Criomhthain, Muiris O Suilleabhain, and Peig Sayers.

It was the death of one of Dr. O Cearna's eight siblings, Sean, 24, in 1947, from meningitis, that triggered the abandonment of the Irish-speaking island six years later.

Cut off from the mainland because of stormy weather and a malfunctioning telephone service, the dwindling population had been unable to summon a doctor from the mainland - prompting Dr. O Cearna to lobby de Valera to relocate the last remaining, and mostly elderly, islanders.

But despite the hardship and daily struggle of island life, Dr. O Cearna [note - he's a doctor in Celtic Literature] insists his happiest memories are of his childhood amongst the tight-knit community.

Speaking from his home in Springfield, he said: "It's going to be very emotional next Sunday, because there are just nine islanders left. There's six in Ireland and three here in the US - myself, my sister and my niece.

"It's the most beautiful place on Earth, but the best thing about it was the people. We had no court, no doctor, no nurse and no priest, but we didn't need them, because we had the best community you could imagine."

"But in the last few years life had become very difficult. The youth had left the island and the older people were left to fend for themselves."

Dr. O Cearna, who in his colourful life worked as a barman, store manager and security officer, was pivotal in setting up the successful Blasket Island Centre in Dunquin in west Kerry 20 years ago.

And he said he still dreams of setting out from Dunquin's tiny pier one more time and returning to live amongst his lost community.

He added: "I dream about the island and my childhood there, snaring rabbits, fishing off the rocks and taking part in tug-of-war contests on the beach.

"I'd love to go back and live there, but I don't think my old bones could take it.

"I'll be saying a prayer for the island and all the islanders on Sunday and no doubt I'll shed a tear on the day.  There aren't many of us left now, but because of the Blasket Island Centre in Dunquin, I know that our wonderful island and people will never be forgotten."

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