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Unsung Irish : Tomás Ó Criomhthain January 25, 2007

Posted by Rambling Man in Ag foghlaim na Gaeilge, The Unsung Irish.

Tomás Ó Criomhthain (pr. O’Croh’en), was a Blasket Islander, fisherman, native Irish speaker and writer who lived all his life on Great Blasket Island, Co. Kerry from 1856-1937.

He is most famous for his two works of literature which he wrote late in life and which give a great insight into the now extinct way of life of the islanders of the 18 and 1900s. I have just purchased his second and perhaps best known book An tOileánach, meaning “the Islander” and am very much looking forward to reading it.

Once persuaded to write, Ó Criomhthain began recording his day to day life in the form of a diary and sent them to Killarneyman Brian Ó Ceallaigh, who then edited and arranged for them to be published.

If the final few lines of the book are anything to go by, I am glad to have become aware of this book and this man so few have heard about. These people were the true native Irish and had traditions, lives and language etc. that would perhaps seem as foreign to us modern Irish today as French or Japanese.

ocriomhthain.jpg “I have written minutely of much that we did, for it was my wish that somewhere there should be a memorial of it all, and I have done my best to set down the character of the people about me so that some record of us might live after us, for the like of us will never be again.”An tOileánach.


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1. aonghus - January 26, 2007

Pity you’ve never heard of him.

But there are few, if any, Irish speakers who haven’t.

2. Rambling Man - January 26, 2007

i’m afraid aonghus i’m only rediscovering an interest in irish now, fifteen years after leaving school …

3. aonghus - January 26, 2007

Go néirí leat.

Cabhair fán mbéalach ar líne:

http://www.csis.ul.ie/focloir/ (An Foclóir Beag)

http://www.nualeargais.ie/gnag/gram.htm (Gramadach na Gaeilge)

agus mar sin de…

4. Rambling Man - January 26, 2007

go raibh maith agat

5. laurie - January 30, 2007

i took a day-long irish language course here in minnesota a year or so ago. obviously not trying to learn the language in a day, but my hope was to learn enough basics of pronunciation so that when i encountered written gaelic i could at least sort of pronounce it my head as i scrambled for a dictionary.

not to be. what a complicated language. but how beautiful, too. all i remember from that session is the letter H screws things up, and how to say good morning. dia dhuit–i might have the spelling wrong, but that one i can pronounce in my head.

6. Rambling Man - January 30, 2007

hey laurie – you got the spelling right ! the trick is not to try and pronounce it as if you were speaking english or with english sounds … try learning the unique sounds in irish and it’ll be a good start … not that i’m too good at irish either … there are some nice links from aonghus above …

7. laurie - January 31, 2007

jia gwitch….response is jia mira gwitch.
that’s how i remember it (phonetically, i mean.). is that “god be with you” and then “and god and mary be with you”?

i was thinking of getting some tapes. i’d be interested in learning a little more. i looked at aonghus’s links but they were all waaaay too advanced for me.

8. Rambling Man - January 31, 2007

yeah that the correct pronunciation and meaning – see you’re not as bad as you think. the problem with the advanced websites – i have that problem too – and thats the way we were taught in school – straight into it without an explanation of the basics … i’ll try find a link for you and blog it

9. laurie - January 31, 2007

well, if it took me all day to learn dia dhuit, what will i learn my second day?

but i’d love a good link if you find one. thanks. i’m half irish (and who in america isn’t?) and much more interested in my irish half than my german half.

10. Rambling Man - January 31, 2007

funny – i spent 12 years formal schooling learning irish and cannot speak it – i spent 4 years in university and 2 in germany speaking german and am fluent … it’s all about how you learn it i guess.

11. laurie - January 31, 2007

i studied spanish for four years and learned enough to intimidate a cab driver who, i think, was trying to lure my non-spanish speaking (and very beautiful) traveling companion into the bushes for nefarious reasons during a visit to acapulco many years ago. i couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but i pretended that i did, and i was able to say enough that he behaved himself.

a year of university french was not enough for me to communicate in provincial quebec….

and now, a day of irish! i seem to be taking shorter and shorter courses. what’s next, an hour of mandarin?

12. Rambling Man - January 31, 2007

ah those darn pesky cab drivers ! One of NYC’s own cabbies tried to rip me off riding from Newark to Hoboken – I knew the right fare and he thought I didn’t, being the big, innocent Paddy – but i used to live there … i think he might even have apologised !

13. Laurie - January 31, 2007

at least you understood his language.
more or less.

14. aonghus - February 2, 2007


have a look at the Daltai website; plenty of advice, and you might find classes.


A Fhir Fánach, cá bhfuil tú ag cuir fút? Is cinnte go bhfuil ranganna áit éigin thart ort chun an caonach a bhaint den ghaeilge dhuit.

15. Rambling Man - February 5, 2007

Táim i Phort Láirge. Tá cúpla ranganna anseo gan dabht ach tá mé gnóthach le mo leanbh nua ! buíochas as an méid comhairle … caithfidh mé blag nua a dhéanamh faoi na nascanna lastuas.

16. Aoife - April 3, 2007

I am reading ‘Lar Dar Saol’ by O’ Criomhthain for one of final exams at college. I would appreciate any opinions on the autobiography itself, to help me write a detailed account. Much appreciated!

17. Rambling Man - April 4, 2007

sorry aoife – haven’t read it

18. Rhys - September 17, 2007

Same here in Wales, many great poets and authors, which 80% of the population will never have heard of never mind being familiar with their work. And as you say, they can give an insight into our/your own (not too distant) history/heritage that far too many are quick to dismiss.

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