Though it is almost one hundred years since it was first written, ‘Caisleáin Óir’, Séamus Ó' Grianna's best-known novel, still has the power both to touch the heart with its story of the blighting of young love and to delight the ear with the excellence of its idiomatic Irish.
The story of Séimí Phádraig Dubh and his sweetheart Babaí Mháirtín growing up at the turn of the century in the rocky peninsula of Rannafast in the Rosses in Donegal is one of bitter sadness, as they are deprived by fate and economic necessity of the magic glimpsed as children:
‘’A Shéimí, goidé an cineál tithe iad sin’’, arsa sise, ag amharc ar na néalta, atá os cionn luí na gréine? ‘’Tá’’, arsa Séimí , ‘‘sin caisleáin óir a bhfuil na daoine beaga ina gcónaí iontu...’’
The book is a memorable account of the life of poor people who in spite of relentless toil, hiring fairs, appalling conditions as migratory workers in Scotland and enforced emigration, had a culture richer than that of many cities. It is a vital document in the social history of this country, a timely reminder of what we so recently were.
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