THE Office of Public Works has completed work on the restoration of the original house of the renowned Great Blasket Island writer Tomás Ó Criomhthain. The house was in a roofless, derelict condition and has been restored in a traditional manner to a high standard. It will be fitted-out with simple period furniture in the style of the time of occupation.
The house will be a great attraction for visitors to the Island and will help the re-imagining of the harsh living conditions endured by the Island community before it was finally abandoned in 1953. Despite the daily challenges of the environment the once thriving community produced many works of literature in Irish which are regarded as classics. Ó Criomhthain wrote the first and probably most important of these, An tOileánach (The Islandman) and was notably followed by Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty-Years-a-Growing) by Muiris Ó Súilleabháin and Peig, an autobiography by Peig Sayers.
As part of the restoration project another house in the historic village was also restored and will act as a reception point for visitors and focus for OPW’s guide staff during the tourist season (April-September). Some 10,000 people visit the Island annually.
The restoration scheme was grant-aided by Fáilte Ireland under its Wild Atlantic Way Tourism Development Programme. The Blasket Islands are designated a ‘Signature Point’ under the Programme and further improvements are planned at the Visitor Centre in Dún Chaoin on the mainland. The Centre already receives over 50,000 visitors yearly. Tourism makes a vital contribution to the socio-economic fabric of this remote area on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula and the additional investment is expected to generate a substantial increase.
The restoration work was carried-out by main contractors Griffin Brothers of Castleisland.