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Why did Blasket Islanders emigrate to Springfield Massachusetts?

I went out to a pub on the Saturday night of
the weekend in June 2003 that I was in Dingle Ireland, and I was talking to a young American woman who told me that she lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. She told me that she came to Dingle once a year to stay for a while in a house that her father owns.

It was just a conversation, which at the time was just what I needed.

But it's conspicuous to me now that she was from Springfield Massachusetts. Many of the former residents of Great Blasket Island (two miles off the tip of the Dingle peninsula) emigrated to Springfield. I don't know why, and I didn't know at the time that it was a notable fact.

Over a period of years, the aboriginal Gaelic population of Great Blasket decreased by incremental emigration, from a peak of about 160 until the final 22 inhabitants left under an Irish governmental decree in 1953.

Some went to the mainland — including the famed storyteller Peig Sayers, who could see the island from her new home on the peninsula until she died five years later.

But a large number — I believe it was a majority — went to America, and many to Springfield.

I would have asked Eileen, if I had known then of this peculiarity. Of course, she might not have known — but that's the closest I've been to the information.


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