Blasket Islander Mike Carney was the local hero at the May 25 launch of his book, ‘From the Great Blasket to America – the Last Memoir by an Islander.’
The event, held at the Great Blasket Center in Dunquin, Co. Kerry – with a view to the island where he spent his first 16 years – drew an overflow crowd of about 500 people, including national dignitaries and three Irish Cultural Center members.
Carney was joined by his family, including children Maureen Carney Hayes, Kathleen, Eileen and Michael Carney, his son-in-law Jerry Hayes who helped write the book, and grandchildren. He was surrounded by many friends from both Ireland and Greater Springfield.
One guest was ICC President Sean F. Cahillane, who brought official greetings from the Chicopee-based organization.
“We’re so happy and proud to be a part of this event and to be connected with this book,” said Cahillane, whose mother Eileen Kearney Cahillane, was also born on the island and was a cousin to the author. Mike Carney is now 92.
Host of the event was Blasket Center Director Michael DeMordha.
Other ICC members present were Mary Ellen Lowney and Mary Ellen O’Brien.
The 200-page book, published this year, tells the story of Carney, who was born in 1920 and eventually moved to the Hungry Hill section of Springfield, where he married Maureen Ward Carney.
Jerry Hayes told a packed audience the story of how Carney decided to write the book, and how together they wove the words to put the life story on the record. It joins an impressive list of books written by Blasket Island authors as well as by others about the island that was evacuated in 1953. The Great Blasket was home to about 200 people at the turn of the last century, but fell victim to isolation and immigration.
Carney was moved to tears by the outpouring of support and affection, standing up and greeting the crowd at the end. A few days later, he rode the ferry across the Blasket Sound, climbed up the steep hill to the old village and had a look. That moment was recorded by RTE, national Irish television, and aired for all to see.
The North American launch took place on Saturday June 15 in the Elms Library. Over 100 people, including Irish Consul General Michael Lonergan, came to honor Mike, and hear Jerry Hayes tell the story. ICC President Sean Cahillane hosted the event which was co-sponsored by the Irish Cultural Center and John Boyle O’Reilly Club. If anyone is interested in purchasing Mike’s book, please call the Center.
By Mary Ellen Lowney