OUR LIKE WILL NOT BE THERE AGAIN: Notes from the West of Ireland by Lawrence Millman

OUR LIKE WILL NOT BE THERE AGAIN: Notes from the West of Ireland

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An elegy, self-consciously mythic, but moving nonetheless, for the race of men who ""have the Irish"": the fishermen, tinkers, and storytellers (shanachies) of the Gaeltacht. What Cromwell couldn't destroy, Millman seems to be saying, the European Economic Council and the Irish Tourist Board will successfully vanquish. The depopulation of Kerry and Clare and Connemara is officially decried but the old ways of farming the land of rock piles and peat bogs have been consigned to death: they are no longer ""productive"" or viable. Equipped with a modicum of Irish, a tape recorder, and an exaggerated reverence for preindustrial society, Millman sought out those who ""put mouth to mouth but never put pen to paper"" and coaxed from them the old wonder tales of Finn McCool, the pishrogues (that inheritance of stories, songs, cures, proverbs, and superstitions which booklearning destroys), and their own memories of life before the assaults of modernity made them human relics. Millman's rendering of this past is wildly romantic, but the romanticization is strictly his own; to Scan Murphy of Ballinskelligs the language was nothing special: ""They spoke it like churning the butter; it was like churning the butter, that's all."" Today the thinkers have been swept off the roads and stuffed into tigins, halfway houses toward respectability; the Blasket Islands, the westernmost part of the West, are bereft of human inhabitation. Only the very old remember the tales of ghosts and heroes. . . . And though their passing has been lamented regularly since Yeats was a fledgling--and mocked regularly since Synge's Playboy of the Western World--Millman proceeds with great tact and delicacy, involving us in his requiem for ""the passing of every art that was also a way of life.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1977
Publisher: Little, Brown