Great Irish Non-Fiction


Number 14:
Peig: The Autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Island by Peig Sayers

Selected by:

First published: 1936

Resonance: “As I write l am actually looking out over the Blaskets (West Kerry home of Peig Sayers]. While I am from Dublin, my father who is from the Donegal Gaeltacht, instilled a great fondness for the language although sadly I would no longer have the command of an teanga. Everyone I know is aware of Peig, the struggles of the writer and the students who suffered reading her struggles. It probably is to Irish students what Shakespeare is to English students. We had to do it as did my father, who still shakes his head when I mention it.”

Memories: “In 5th year in school those boys doing honours Irish travelled down for a week to West Kerry to visualise what we were attempting to read. The book was difficult and written in the ‘Beal bocht’ of poor mouth. Most students reading it also had the poor me attitude to getting through the book, interpreting it and then going to answer questions on it in the Leaving Cert.

Legacy: “An inter generational text that will stay with us forever.”

Available? Wherever books are sold. Also available at your local library.

The list so far:
Jarlath Waldron
Maurice Craig
Damien Shiels
Emily O’Reilly
Graham Howard
David Flanagan
Maura ‘Soshin’ O’Halloran
Kevin C Kearns
Ed Moloney
Gene Kerrigan
Bobby Sands
George O’Brien
Eamonn Sweeney
Terence Patrick Dolan

Great-Irish Non-Fiction’ is a reading list of 100 books chosen by YOU and highlighted over the coming weeks. If you would like to include a favourite leave your suggestion below.

24 thoughts on “Great Irish Non-Fiction

  1. Martco

    good choice
    P IG was literally bet into us for the Leaving (many of us removed the E in various ways from that f’ing front cover) needless to say I can’t remember so much as a cupla focal of it or couldn’t string a sentence together anymore despite landing a honours B…I imagine I’m a typical example of how forced learning is pointless

      1. Joe

        Yeah. Same in mine, and turn Peig’s face into Skeletor’s whilst draping her in guns, bullets and grenades. Such wit.

        1. scottser

          on the original text in irish she’s sat on a stool in front of a fire. i drew a drum kit in front of her and imagined her pulling off cozy powell’s ‘dance with the devil’ as miss delane droned on about the glory of poverty.
          the only bit i remember is when one of the lads finds a barrel of oil on the beach and puts a lighted torch in there to see what was in it..
          oh how we laughed.

          1. Cian

            I changed the cover so she was sitting on a toilet (the civilized kind – not a hole in the ground – or “poll sa talamh” as Peig might say). if you used a blade you could gently remove the ink revealing a white background.

          2. Pip

            Odd how both Powell drummers, Cozy and Don (Slade) both had serious car accidents – the former fatal in 1998, the latter in 1973 leaving him with severe short term memory problems and no sense of taste or smell. His girlfriend was killed.
            On the other hand, Peig………………. No problems remembering the awfulness.

    1. Andrew

      Yeah, I managed to get the same English translation. It really helped. and I wasn’t bad at Irish relatively speaking. I did honours, there were only about 15 that did honours in my year.
      Got a C in the end but wouldn’t be able to speak much now. A friend of mine is fluent though.
      I remember everyone defacing the original with ‘BITCH’ as well.

  2. George

    The writer of this post does not seem to understand the expression “an béal bocht” which has nothing to do with how Irish was spoken. It is an expression to refer to people who exaggerate how poor they are.

    They obviously got it from the title of Flann O’Brien’s book which parodied this kind of autobiography. This is ironic as this exactly the kind of misuse of the Irish language by English speakers that he used to lampoon.

  3. :-Joe

    lol…. huge bang of controversy off this right from the first glance on the main page….

    Still a lot of angry ex-leaving cert students scarred by the ordeal…


      1. :-Joe

        …Is that because you see my comment as silly and worthy of an Adam Buxton parody…..
        -It would be funny either way.


  4. axelf

    “here I am now with one foot in the grave and one foot on the side”

    twas a pity someone didn’t finish the job and spare us all this cr@p

  5. A Person

    Seriously, how is this on the best books list? It was badly written and an awful story. Reminds me of horrible sweat filled rooms, listening to a teacher who did not give a S##t, but he like the rest of use had to sit and read this crap because it was “Irish”

  6. Ian-O

    I just ignored this – didn’t consciously read it and skipped anything to do with it in the exam.

    Utter tosh!!!

  7. Ron

    These replies give a good insight into your age. Older then I thought for some of the more regular commenters.

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