Like a fish in the water

We had one more thing to do when we said goodbye to the Island. We had to find Thomas O’Crohan his burial place. I knew it was in Dunquin, and since Dunquin is only 10 houses it could not be that hard to find the cemetery.
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It’s always a good start to look for the cemetery next to the church. And that is exactly what happened. The weather had deteriorated to drab 100 percent by the time we stepped of the boat back on the mainland, but there was still beauty to be found.
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The church is really small. White walls, on our day with the fog it looked more grey.
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Inside a splash of color. I could see God coming in through the windows in the front. My mind played games. I saw a group of people, heads down, caps in their weathered hands, pants and shoes that obviously had seen better days. The people from the Blasket. I saw them. I did.
Since they were standing with the head down, I did the same.
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Sand on the tiles, it must be hard to keep it out. I smelled the sea. The salt. The fog. There is no church on the Island so every week on sunday, the tiny canvas boats brought the tiny community to Dunquin to have mass. It was rare that a priest went to the Island. Which was good. Often priests are the first to change the old ways and to convert the people to whatever they think it has to be, with a loss of identity as immediate result.
It was a good thing that the Islanders had to come to the mainland. It minimized impact on their life style. They could hold on to their good values. There was no crime on the Island. Life was too hard, they needed energy to live. No energy left for bad stuff.
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Lori and I were ready to swing open the metal gate to the cemetery. It needed a drop of oil. Creeking.
The first stone I saw belonged to the family o’Catain. I dare not venture in telling who they were, because after all the reading I did, I still can’t make out the family bonds due to so many similar names, both pronounced in Irish and English, which makes it even harder to pinpoint the who is who.
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If at all possible, it is becoming darker, and the fog is descending more and more. We have to be careful where we step and put our feet down, as the grounds have shifted. Ireland has too many people buried, Dunquin cemetery is no exception. Too many souls for sure!
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I keep looking around, for that one grave. Not knowing why I want to see it so bad. Maybe because deep inside, I believe that Tomas can’t be gone.
The young calf from an old cow.
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And then I see it. A big smiling fish and waves above his name. Tomas O’Criomtain. The Islandman. His last resting place.
With a view over his beloved island.
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You can see the outlines of the Great Blasket when you look just above Kruger’s bar. The yellow building in the background.
I am smiling. The fish fits. Jumping in and out of the waves. I can imagine Tomas being that fish. In his element in and around the water, the ocean. His home.
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On the back of his gravestone a naomhog with full crew. On their way. Unison in breaking up the waves with the long oars.
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A peaceful place for Tomas, surrounded by people he knew and loved. Who joined him for after life in Dunquin cemetery.
My friend Lori is wrapped up in her own thinking process. We hardly speak. No need for words. We are silent with the silenced.
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Time to leave the Great Blasket behind and find our way back to Dingle.
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Rounding Slea Head we see the last shadows of the Island. I have a heavy heart. The story of the Island and the people who lived it will never leave me.
I will try to come back. I need to. There are more stories to tell, even if I can’t tell them nearly as good as Tomas, Peig, Siobhan and Maurice did.
The pull to the island is still present.

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2 thoughts on “Like a fish in the water

  1. Busy reading The Islander, the second translation of Tomas’ book. Really enjoying the book. Great read! Thanks for the excellent photos of Tomas’ last resting place. I feel as if I know the man from his book.
    I live in County Cavan in Ireland (originally from Johannesburg in South Africa) and have visited the Dingle area, weather was too poor for travelling to Great Blasket, but there will be a time to visit.

  2. This is stunning, both in the view and that you found him! The Islandman is probably one of the best books I have ever read, captivating and intriguing and beautiful. I am SO GLAD you got to Great Blasket and to Dunquin, oh Cat, this is fantastic!!

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