(An Blascaod Mór
) is the principal island of the Blaskets
, County Kerry
The island lies approximately 2 km from the mainland at Dunmore Head, and extends 6 km to the southwest, rising to 292 metres at its highest point (Croaghmore). The nearest mainland town is Dunquin
; a ferry to the island operates from a nearby pier
during summer months. Despite its close proximity to the mainland, visitors to the Dingle coast can often not see the island through the notorious sea mist.
The island was inhabited until 1953
, when the Irish government decided that it could no longer guarantee the safety of the remaining population. It was the home of three noted Irish writers: Tomás Ó Criomhthain
, Peig Sayers
and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin
. Their works were all written in Irish
, and have all been translated into English
, as well as other languages. The homes of Tomás Ó Criomhthain and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin are now in ruins but the house in which Sayers once lived has been restored, and used to form part of the hostel
which previously functioned on the island.
Until 1953, the inhabitants of Great Blasket Island formed the most westerly settlement in Europe. The small fishing community (even at its peak the population was hardly more than 150) mostly lived in primitive cottages perched on the relatively sheltered north-east shore. In April 1947, having been cut off from the mainland for weeks due to bad weather, the islanders made an emergency call to the Irish Prime Minister, Eamon de Valera, urgently requesting supplies which duly arrived two days later by boat.
Considering the tiny population, the island produced a remarkable number of gifted writers who brought vividly to life their harsh existence and who kept alive old Irish folk tales of the land. Best known are Machnamh Seanamhná
(An Old Woman's Reflections
, Peig Sayers, 1939), Fiche Bliain Ag Fás
(Twenty Years A-Growing
, Muiris Ó Súilleabháin, 1933), and An t-Oileánach
, Tomás Ó Criomhthain, 1937).
The hostel and cafe that once operated on the island have been closed. This is a result of the ongoing dispute between the Irish State which wishes to make the island a national park and an individual who claims to own the greater part of the island. The individual in question actually owns only the greater part of the island's free holdings. The greater part of the island is commonage which the owners of the freeholds have rights over.
Status of the Island in 2008
The differences between the State and Blascaoid Mor Teoranta [BMT] were settled by an agreement made in August 2007 AND , subject to the granting of Planning Permission, it is intended that more than 95% of the island land [including the old village ] will be sold to the State and will become a de facto National park.The Office of Public Works will confirm the existence of the 2007 agreement with BMT. The total area of the island exceeds , all of which [except the wholly owned enclosed fields of less than 70 acres with their buildings] consists of land held in common in Fee Simple, NOT COMMONAGE , which consists of mere grazing for livestock.Blascaoid Mor Teoranta [BMT ], the main property owner, in addition to its wholly owned land and buildings, also owns a 2/3rd share of the remainder [exceeding ] in Fee Simple in common. The rest of this property is owned in Fee Simple in common by the other owners of land on the island. Official records confirm title.