Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Breton sailors

A few weeks ago, I spoke of the beautiful maiden named Nolwenn [display] who lives deep in a dark forest somewhere in Brittany, surrounded by fairies. Happily she emerges from time to time, to sing ancient songs that she learned from her Celtic ancestors, many of whom were seafarers. On such occasions, her singing enchants the local peasant kids, who gather spellbound around the princess. This lilting song, in the archaic Breton language, celebrates three sailors.



Talking of Breton sailors, many of them used to go out to Australia. In 1882, one of them, a 16-year-old fellow named Guillaume Le Queniat, actually liked Melbourne so much that he jumped ship there.

I would imagine that the Izel was a navy brig. (The expression Breizh Izel designates the westernmost territory known as Lower Brittany, where Breton was the only language used by the local folk.) Today, a descendant of the sailor lives out in Australia [genealogical website], and he still has relatives in the region of Plouha, on the northern coast of Brittany. The story of this Breton sailor was brought to my attention by my son, whose house is located on the clifftops, just up the lane from the ancestral home of Guillaume Le Queniat.

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