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Peig Sayers (1873 – 1958) is one of the most remarkable figures in twentieth century Ireland. Her journey to publication is a story of beating the odds. An outsider from the Dublin literary scene by geography, language, gender, education and even literacy (she could write in English but not Irish), she gives a glimpse at the multitude of stories that never got told in a rapidly changing Ireland. It is a story of hardship and personal tragedy, but tells of an extraordinary community and their stories in elegant, blossoming prose.
This isn’t how Peig is typically thought of or referred to in Ireland, however, and for the past thirty or more years she has become a mascot of sorts for critics of the Irish education system, and of policies to protect, support and advance the Irish language or Gaeltacht areas. Why is this so?
In today’s episode, Darach, Peadar and Gearóidín look at Peig’s life and legacy. They listen to a contemporary account of her book being removed as a compulsory text for the Leaving Cert from 1995 onwards – a quarter of a century ago – and wonder why this scar hasn’t healed for certain commentators. They consider the process of the book’s dictation and how this may have influenced the final product. And they ask if criticism of this woman and her book (which passes the Bechdel test) can sometimes have an undercurrent of toxic masculinity.
We also hear from Irish women who are touched by Peig’s life and work and who feel it is as relevant as ever.
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