They said it was fairy-music which was carried on the wind before its delicate notes were plucked from the air by an island fiddler.

The haunting lament of 'Port na bPúcaí' (the tune of the spirits) is just one example of the rich tradition of music and song associated with the Blasket Islands now being celebrated in a new collection.

The book and accompanying CD entitled ‘Beauty an Oileáin’ features precious archival recordings with Blasket islanders along with more recent contributions from their descendants.

The recordings were made with natives of the now abandoned island during the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. They include the Ó Dálaigh brothers, Tom and Muiris, Seán Sheaisí Ó Cearnaigh, John Bhell Ó Duinnshléibhe and Seán Cheaist Ó Catháin.

Dr Ríonach uí Ógáin who compiled the collection says the recordings offer an invaluable and unique insight in to the An Blascaod Mór community.

"When we read the literature and the autobiographies associated with the Blasket Island and island life, we encounter many, many references to music song and dance," Dr uí Ógáin said.

"Then, if we dig a little further, I think we come to understand just how important music song and dance was for the islanders. It was probably the main form of entertainment on the island.

"While the island writings certainly inform us of the tradition, it is only when you hear the islanders themselves playing their music that you fully appreciate the style and spirit of that tradition. That's the real value of this collection, I think. We get a sense of what it was like to be present at these island gatherings," she added.

A woman plays the accordion on An Blascaod Mór (Photo: Ionad an Bhlascaoid)

Many of the songs contained in the recordings can be found in the wider west Kerry tradition.

However, a song such as Beauty Deas an Oileáin is very much specific to the island. It was composed by island poet Seán Ó Duinnshléibhe and it commemorates the victory of a Blasket naomhóg crew at the Fionn Trá regatta in 1880.

The new book and CD builds on an earlier collection issued by Claddagh Records in 1992. However, this collection is more extensive and features recordings of music and song made with descendants of the islanders such as Áine Cheaist Uí Laoithe, Eilín Ní Chearna, Róisín Ni Chéilleachair, Deirdre and Aoife Granville.

Local singer Róisín Ní Chéilleachair says it is an honour to be joining her grandfather Muiris Ó Dálaigh in the collection.

"Both my grandfather Muiris Ó Dálaigh and my granduncle Tom na hInise are included on the CD. They were very well-known musicians in the area and had a very distinctive style of playing," she said.

"It's nice to be part of this. My grandfather had died before I was born, but I feel I’ve connected with him through this project. It feels like we’ve done something together and that’s nice," she added.

An Blascaod Mór was abandoned in 1953 when the last of the islanders were relocated to the mainland.

The island was famed for the purity of the Irish spoken there and the first half of the 20th century saw numerous scholars and collectors visiting An Blascaod Mór to record the rich oral tradition that existed there.