Peig Sayers

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Peig Sayers ( / ˌpɛɡ ˈsɛərz / ; actually Máiréad Sayers; married Peig Uí Ghaoithín or Uí Ghuithín; * 1873 in Dún Chaoin , County Kerry , Ireland ; † December 8, 1958 in Daingean Uí Chúis ) was an Irish author and storyteller. In her day she was considered one of the most important storytellers in her country. Her autobiography is considered to be one of the greatest works or classics of Irish literature of the 20th century and has long been required reading for Irish lessons in Irish schools.


Máiréad Sayers was born in the village of Baile an Bhiocáire (Vicarstown) near Dún Chaoin and was baptized on March 29, 1873. She was one of thirteen children of Peig Ní Bhrosnacháin (Anglicized: Brosnan) and her husband, the smallholder and worker Tomás Sayers. She attended school in Dún Chaoin and was given the job as a maid at the age of 14 until she returned home for health reasons. Her second job in a household, which she accepted in order to save money for emigrating to the United States , she left again due to poor conditions and, through her brother's mediation, married the farmer and fisherman Pádraig 'Flint' Ó Gaoithín from the Blasket Islands in 1892 , an archipelago off Kerry. She followed him to his hometown on Blascaod Mór (Anglicised: Great Blasket), where she was to spend her entire married life.

Gravestone of Peig Sayers
Gravestone of Peig Sayers

Ten children were born to the couple by 1911, six of whom reached adulthood. One of her sons was killed in a fall from a cliff, all the others emigrated to the USA, with the exception of Mícheál. Her husband died in middle age, so she was the last member of the family to remain on the island.

In 1942 Peig Sayers returned to her home town of Dún Chaoin, where she lived with her son Mícheál. She died in a Dingle hospital in December 1958.

Work and reception

Like many of her fellow men, Peig Sayers had never learned to write in their mother tongue. On the isolated island (population at weddings only about 175 people), on the one hand, the Irish language was retained as a means of communication - unlike in many other parts of Ireland, where English dominated, cf. Gaeltacht - on the other hand, written literature was almost unknown, and it was passed on exclusively in oral form. Sayers, considered the most famous and best storyteller in her county, dictated her autobiography to her son Mícheál in 1936. As with the other two authors of the so-called “ Blasket literature ”, the impulse to have her biography written down mostly came from outside. The fact that the culture and way of life on the Blaskets corresponded exactly to the “typical” Ireland, which was the basis of the Irish language and national movement at this time, may have contributed to the success of the texts.

Early on, literary figures from the main island had visited Great Blasket and drew the attention of the academic world to the stories and tales of Sayers. Among them were the Irish author and language activist Máire Ní Chinnéide , who edited Sayers' first two publications, which were published in 1936 and 1939. The Irish Folklore Commission ( Irish Folklore Commission ) also collected beyond 375 texts of different lengths, which were verschriftlicht 325 dictation and the rest were taken by dictaphone. These and another bundle of folk songs and stories, anecdotes, memories and other forms of text are kept at University College in Dublin.

Until the 1990s, Peig was required reading in Irish secondary schools, which made it a "plague and scourge" for many students; often the work is even referred to as the “most hated” of entire generations. The association with "pushing school desks" and boring lessons and incomprehensible texts on the one hand and the "cultural baggage" of growing up in Ireland on the other influenced this attitude towards the work and the author. Only after the 50th anniversary of her death does a reassessment appear to be emerging. Numerous events and lecture series highlighted the complexity of the person Peig Sayer behind the literary work. A multimedia theater project in 2013 dealt with the complexity of Peig Sayers.

"She was literate in English but illiterate, in the" pen and paper "sense in Irish. She is hated and adored and she could be simultaneously funny, irreverent, pious. "

“She could write English but was illiterate - in the pen-and-paper sense - of the Irish language. She is hated and adored, and she could be funny, disrespectful and pious at the same time. "

- Caitríona Ní Mhurchú


  • Peig. A scéal féin. (ed. Máire Ní Chinnéide). Talbot, Dublin 1936.
    • Peig. The Autobiography of Peig Sayers . Talbot, Dublin 1973 (English, Irish: Peig. A scéal féin. Translated by Bryan MacMahon ).
  • Power namh Seanamhná . (ed. Máire Ní Chinnéide). Stationery Office, Dublin 1939.
    • An old woman's reflections . Oxford University Press, London 1962 (English, Irish: Machtnamh Seanamhná . Translated by Seamus Ennis).
  • Irish Folklore Commission (Ed.): Scéalta ón mBlascaod . (ed. Kenneth Jackson). Dublin 1939.

In German translation

  • As Irish as I am: a fisher woman tells her life . Lamuv-Verlag, Göttingen 1996, ISBN 978-3-88977-537-5 (English: Peig . Translated by Hans-Christian Oeser).

Individual evidence

  1. a b Sean O'Sullivan: The Man Who Was Rescued from Hell . New edition. In: Folktales of Ireland . University of Chicago Press, Chicago / London 1999, ISBN 978-0-226-63998-7 , pp. 270–271 : “The narrator, Peig Sayers, who died in December, 1958, was one of the greatest woman storytellers of recent times. Some of her tales were recorded on the Ediphone in the late 'twenties by Dr. Robin Flower, Keeper of Manuscripts at the British Museum, and again by Seosamh Ó Dálaigh twenty years later. "
  2. a b c d e Coilín D. Owens: Peig Sayers (1973-1858) . In: Alexander G. Gonzalez, Emmanuel Sampath Nelson (Eds.): Modern Irish Writers: A Bio-critical Sourcebook . Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997, ISBN 978-0-313-29557-7 , pp. 368 .
  3. a b c d e f g Axel Jagau: The King on Inish. For the Anglicization of Irish-language literature in translations . In: Silke Pasewalck, Dieter Neidlinger, Terje Loogus (eds.): Interculturality and (literary) translation . Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2014, ISBN 978-3-86057-097-5 , p. 159–162 ( digitized via ).
  4. As Irish as I am: A Fisherwoman Tells Her Life (1996). In: Retrieved December 3, 2019 .
  5. ^ A b Maria Luddy: Sayers [married name Ó Gaoithín or Ó Guithín], Peig (1873–1958), storyteller | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. September 23, 2004, accessed December 2, 2019 .
  6. ^ Bo Almqvist: The Scholar and the Storyteller Heinrich Wagner's Collections from Peig Sayers . In: An Cumann Le Béaloideas Éireann / Folklore of Ireland Society (ed.): Béaloideas . tape 72 , 2004, p. 33 , doi : 10.2307 / 20520850 , JSTOR : 20520850 .
  7. Rosita Boland: When Peig came to Dublin, where everybody was 'posh'. January 9, 2018, accessed December 8, 2019 .
  8. ^ Sheila Langan: On This Day: Blasket Islanders evacuated to mainland Ireland. In: November 17, 2018, accessed December 3, 2019 .
  9. ^ A b c Catherine Foley: Peig comes in from the cold. In: December 6, 2008, accessed December 4, 2019 .
  10. a b Caitríona Ní Mhurchú: Opinion: 'Peig Sayers represents our complexity and there is a little of her in us all'. In: September 12, 2014, accessed December 4, 2019 .
  11. David Kettle: Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs. August 17, 2015, accessed December 4, 2019 .
  12. Shoot To Kill: Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs, Little Wolf Productions. December 5, 2014, accessed December 4, 2019 .