Peig Sayers is one of Ireland's greatest storytellers. Despite not writing a single sentence, Peig dictated her recollections about life on the Great Blasket Island to her son Micheál Ó Guithín.
Peig was the youngest child of Tomás and Margaret Sayers and was one of 13 children. Tomás was a small farmer and a storyteller himself. She attended the local National School until she was 14. Her first job was a domestic servant in the nearby down of Dingle to the Curran family. She was happy there however had to return home after 4 years due to illness. It was her wish to follow in the footsteps of her elder siblings and make the trip to America however the fare for her passage promised by her friend Cáit Boland never arrived. She had no other choice but to return to work as a domestic servant.She returned home to Vicarstown in 1832 and married Pádraig Ó Gaoithín from the Great Blasket Island wurho was 12 years older than her on the 13th February. There are some accounts of it being an arranged marriage while other accounts say she fell madly in love in him after seeing him on the island.
Peig had 11 children, six of which survived, all children emmigrated to the United States during the 1920's. Micheál, returned in 1930 and earned a living sheep rearing and writing poetry. It was a teacher Máire Ní Chinnéide , who was a regular visitor to the Blaskets, urged Peig to tell her story to Micheál. He transcribed her recordings and sent them to Ní Chinnéide in Dublin who edited them for publication. Peig was published in 1936. A second volume, Machnamh Sean-mhná (An Old Woman's Reflections), also edited by Ní Chinnéide, was published in 1939.
The head of the Irish Folklore Commission to send a full-time collector to speak to Peig. Thus in 1938, Seosamh Ó Dálaigh (Joseph Daly) arrived; he would spend several years recording 350 ancient legends, ghost stories, folk stories, and religious stories of Peig's on an Ediphone cylinder. Ó Dálaigh recalled that Sayers' forte was the short tale: "from the opening of the narrative one would have no idea where the tale might turn."
By this time the Blaskets were in terminal decline and many islanders left during the Second World War. Peig, her son and her brother-in-law went back to live near Vicarstown on the mainland at the end of 1941. After a bad fall in the late 1940s, her health deteriorated, and she spent the last eight years of her life in the Dingle Hospital. She was remembered by one of the nuns there as "very stately and very dignified." A further volume of autobiography, Beatha Pheig Sayers, was published posthumously in 1970.
Sayers is most famous for her autobiography Peig (ISBN 0-8156-0258-8), but also for the folklore and stories which were recorded in Machnamh Seanmhná (An Old Woman's Reflections, ISBN 978-0-19-281239-1). The books were not written down by Peig, but were dictated to others.
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Source: "Sayers, Peig (1873–1958) ." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2022
Flower, Robin. The Western Island. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1945. New ed. 1973.
|Date of Birth
|29th Mar 1973
|Date of Death
|8th Dec 1958
|Associated Building (s)
|Peig Sayer's House
|Author and Seanchaí
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)
|Margaret Brosnan (Castleisland)
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)
|12 years old she finished school and went to work as a servant for the Curran family, she returned after 2 years due to illness.
|Spouse (First Name/s and Maiden/Surname)
|Pádraig Ó Guithín
|Place & Date of Marriage
|13 February 1982
|Number of Children
|11, 6 survived
|Place of Death
|She died in Dingle Hospital and is buried in the Dún Chaoin Burial Ground.
|Place & Date of Baptism
|29th March 1873 in Ballyferriter, County Kerry