Many a Leaving Cert student will hear this line today: well at least you never had to study Peig Sayers.
That line has been trotted out by most of those who had painstakingly studied the hard life of Peig Sayers… and they will never let us forget it.
In fairness… it did seem a bit grim. For those who have no idea who Peig Sayers was, a brief description of her life is at the end of these very traumatised, not-at-all over-the-top reactions of listeners of The Early Breakfast!
- “Oh Paula, why oh why mention that book?! On my way to work and had to pull van to side of road as the mention Peig had me crying uncontrollably - it has scarred many a person. Anyway best of luck to all today!” - Stephen
- “Good mornin yung wun. It doesn’t matter what language it’s written in, Peig is one of the most depressing book ever written!” - Gerry, Sligo
- “Ah Peig, an old woman from Kerry, she had a really hard life and you felt sorry for her until she started telling everyone about it and made life unbearable for thousands of school-kids!” - Padraic
- “Paula. Peig Sayers can still bring me out in cold sweats. It started off with the line it’s an old woman I am with one foot in the grave and the other in the edge. Did not get much better. Everyone she met died. Either fell off the island or kicked by a donkey. An Irish version of Murder She Wrote / CSI Blasket Islands. I remember going to the Trip to Tipp. Up on the screen came Peig Sayers. Instant boos all over the stadium. Top line act did not receive such a roar!” - Ger in Cork
(The opening doleful lines of her 1936 book, as dictated to her son, Maidhc, read: "I'm an old woman now with one foot in the grave and the other on its edge . . . Had I known in advance half, or even one-third of what the future had in store for me, my heart wouldn't have been as gay or as courageous as it was in the beginning of my days.")
It did not get any less grim.
- “Morning Paula, why would you be talking about the government sponsored torture, Peig Sayers, at this hour of the morning?! I only remember she threw a mouldy cabbage at someone!” - JB in Clonmel
- “Paula I’m genuinely interested now – what happened to Peig?!” (see below)
- “Peig always moaned that her children never came home (go figure) I thought she use to say she had one foot in the grave and one foot on the pigs back - many’s the time I wanted the pig to move!” - Judith in Wexford
- “Wait! What?? Peig Sayers was a real person!?? My mind is blown! Love the show, have a great day!” - Joanne x
- “Ah lads. Try being called Peig! No other Peigs born in Ireland at the time, 1983, or since! Actually there was one in dingle a few years ago and she is directly descended from Ms Sayers. I'm not. But have had her held over my head for the last 34 years. 'Oh god that book ruined my life!' The culmination was in leaving cert when the Irish teacher would come into the class at the start of the lesson and check who had done their Irish literature homework... hands up who did Peig last night? The lads used to go wild!”
- “I read the English version of Peig or Pig as it was known by us. Trust me was not much better. One long whinge. Her buddy Cait no more had an accident than me, she just wanted to be rid of her!”
- “I didn't find it too bad, mind you we had to learn the sections that you read for oral exam off by heart! Found my school copy in attic a few years ago and read it, quite enjoyed it!” - Peter from Stradbally Laois
And there's this, as well:
The true story of Peig Sayers:
At age 12, Peig Sayers was taken out of school and went to work as a servant for the Curran family in the nearby town of Dingle. She spent two years there before returning home due to illness
She spent the next few years as a domestic servant.
She had expected to join her best friend, Cáit Boland, in America, but Cáit wrote that she had had an accident and could not forward the cost of the fare (HA, yeah right. Cait met a fella clearly*)
Peig moved to the Blasket Islands after marrying Pádraig Ó Guithín (Patrick Guiheen) who was a fisherman in 1892.
She and Pádraig had eleven children, of whom six survived.
Robert Flower of the British Museum visited the Blaskets and was keenly appreciative of Peig Sayers' stories and tales. He recorded them and brought them to the attention of the academic world.
Over several years from 1938 she dictated 350 ancient legends, ghost stories, folk stories, and religious stories to Seosamh Ó Dálaigh of the Irish Folklore Commission.
She continued to live on the island until 1942, when she left the Island and returned to her native place, Dunquin where she lived until her death in 1958.