A 93-year-old Blasket Islander has made an emotional return to his homeland in Kerry – and celebrated his status as the island’s oldest living native.

Springfield resident Michael Carney, aka Micheál Ó Ceárna, used the trip at the weekend to promote the launch of his memoirs.

The Irish Times
reports that he was accompanied on the journey to Kerry by sons, daughters, grandchildren and son-in-law.

Carney was born on the island in 1920 and left at the age of 16, spending much of his life in America.

He told the paper that he has always maintained strong links with west Kerry and appealed to Irish people not to lose sight of their heritage.

His memoirs were launched by arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan at the Blasket Island interpretive centre at Dunquin.

From the Great Blasket to America – The Last Memoir by an Islander (The Collins Press, €12.99) tells the story of Carney’s childhood as well as his decision to leave the island – and its isolation – in 1937 to seek a better future in Dublin and eventually in America.

Carney spoke no English when he left the island to work in Dublin and continues to speak Irish.

He has been conferred with an honorary doctorate in Celtic literature from Maynooth for his efforts on behalf of the Irish language.

Son-in-law Gerald Hayes encouraged Carney to write the book when he was 92.

Carney’s book, subtitled ‘the last memoir’, follows in the 80-year tradition of Tomás Ó Criomhthain’s An tOileánach , Peig Sayers’s Peig and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin’s Fiche Bliain ag Fás and many others.

But, the paper says, it is the first to be written only in English.

The Great Blasket is now an uninhabited treeless island in the Atlantic.

It became a centre of literary effort thanks to the encouragement of urban-based scholars who visited the remote fishing community seeking to learn Irish in the early part of the 20th century.

The island was abandoned 60 years ago after life became impossible for the handful of islanders left there.

Now in State ownership after years of neglect, restoration work is taking place on the old village and other areas.


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