From the Great Blasket to America
by Michael J. Carney with Gerald W. Hayes (2013)
Mike Carney, the oldest living native Blasket Islander, was born on the Great Blasket Island in 1920. Raised in that unique, isolated Irish-speaking community, Mike left in 1937 to seek a better future in Dublin – and eventually in America. The death of his younger brother on the island without a priest or doctor in 1947 set off a chain of events that led to its evacuation. Mike played a pivotal role in the process, lobbying Éamon de Valera to relocate the remaining islanders living in increasingly desperate conditions. Mike settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, with other former islanders. While taking advantage of opportunities in his adopted country, he never lost his love for the country of his birth, saying 'it's like loving both parents'.
This is the story of his life and his efforts to preserve the memory of the Great Blasket, to promote Irish culture in America, to respect roots left behind and to set down roots in a new land. Written as Mike approached the age of ninety-three, with his son-in-law Gerald Hayes, this memoir is probably the last in a long line of books written by Blasket Islanders, including Tomás Ó Criomhthain, Muiris Ó Súilleabháin and Peig Sayers. Recounting one man's life but relating the experience of many, it chronicles a lifetime devoted to family, community and legacy. All the while, he seems haunted by the immortal words of Ó Criomhthain: 'the like of us will never be again.'