Islandmen reborn – capturing a Blasket gathering
A film about two American cousins who’d previously never met, on an island they’ve never been to – why does the story of ‘The Crest’ speak so vividly to us all?
Getting to the Great Blasket is the peak though. They had both tried and failed in the past and now together they stood side-by-side on the ferry in the rain. They took turns when they got there: the first to land, the first to enter the kings house, the first to catch a wave, the first to cliff-dive into the warm Atlantic. “It was like a Blasket baptism,” Andy says laughing. “The rain stopped when we arrived. A group of donkeys came down to meet us. Seals splashed in the surf. It was like coming home.”
They mounted their surf boards and paddled along cliff faces, into caves and under archs knowing that they were seeing parts of the island very few people got to see. They stood in the king’s house and looked through his window, staring at the same view he would have seen. The house is tiny, they say. Someone left a mattress there, some graffitti. They felt like they should go back and fix it up.
They see parallels everywhere. The racks holding the naomhogs that resemble DK’s surf board racks in his workshop back home. The remains of the fishing industry that mimic Andy’s life in New England. They want to be at home and so they are. And proud of it.
They paint two surfboards at the king’s house, not knowing they are being watched by another island man – Mike Carney, the oldest living islander who was visiting the island, as he described it in his own words, for the last time. On the ferry home they talk to him and to the descendants of Robin Flowers, a British writer and folklorist who came to the island in 1910 to document the literature and life there. So many descendents together at one time. A small flicker of history passes between them and then they seperate again in Dingle, but the two men from America are bigger for it and somehow humbled by their experience, they say. But their smiles haven’t gone away.
Reunion is incredibly seductive. Particularly when you are trying to forge something unknown. It is, in essence, what the Gathering is for – to bring home those people who have become stories themselves. The emigrants and their descendants. It’s exciting and poignant all at the same time. Full of sadness and loss but well worth gathering for.
Follow Gary Quinn on Twitter on @thesearoad