San Sebastian (cover) Eilís Dillon
The San Sebastian

Early one morning after a night of storms young Pat Hernon wakes to find a beautiful ship floating on the sea below the window of his cottage high on the Connemara shore. The San Sebastian is deserted and, following the custom of those parts, Pat lays claim to her as his own. Little does he guess, however, that the mysterious ship is to draw him into a series of hair-raising adventures, taking him all the way to Brittany and back, before her secret is revealed.
Cover design by Richard Kennedy for the original Faber edition


"In the 'Treasure Island' tradition, with the boy hero who tells the story, the good sea atmosphere, the exciting and mysterious happenings, and the colorful characters." (Saturday Review)

"Of those I have read, the best, I think, is Eilís Dillon's San Sebastian, which has a young hero whose lonely self-reliance would not disgrace R.L. Stevenson, and a fantastically imagined adventure excitingly told in an atmosphere that never loses the poetry of the ocean, washing the coast of Ireland." (The Observer)

"Thrilling." (Irish Press)

"A story skilfully told, plausible characters, a familiar scene lovingly described." (Cork Examiner)

"A fascinating tale of modern piracy" (Edinburgh Evening News)

"With something of the atmosphere of 'Treasure Island', Miss Dillon's book is one about a boy that adults can read with pleasure." (Manchester Evening News)

"An adventure story in the best tradition" (Books of the Month)

"It has the strength of legend as well as the stamp of life ... sound, solid, actual, as well as strange and wild." (Times Literary Supplement)

Now read the opening pages ....

1. I Discover the Brig

As long as I live I shall never forget the morning I looked out and saw the San Sebastian floating quietly under my window. It was a morning of early summer and the sea was calm and silvery, with no sign now of the storm of the night before. I had woken several times during the night to hear the waves thundering on the shore, and the wild wind neighing around the house. It was only on nights like this that I wished I did not live alone.

The whitewashed cottage in which my ancestors had lived for hundreds of years was perched on a height above the Connemara shore. It faced west, full into the Atlantic gales, so that my front door had to stay firmly shut for half the year. The back was sheltered from the mean east wind by the two-peaked mountain that we called the Minaun, which means a kid-goat. The peaks looked just like the budding horns. Rocky fields stretched away behind the house, and a rough boreen twisted its way between them to the road that ran at the foot of the mountain. I owned nearly thirty acres of those fields, but they were so poor that it took endless labour to get a living from them. Without the help of my neighbour, Bartley Folan, I could not have managed at all.

Bartley was surely the best neighbour that ever anyone had. When my father, whose name was Pat Hernon like my own, was lost with his currach a year ago, many people said that a boy of fourteen should not live alone. They said that I should sell the farm for what it would fetch and apprentice myself to a trade in Galway. The idea of doing this filled me with horror. I could not endure the prospect of living away from the sea. The sea comes into Galway, to be sure, but it is a tamed sea, closed into the bay, fit only for the summer people to dabble their toes in. I explained this to Bartley as best I could, and after he had thought it over for a day or two he told the people that they could be quite easy about my future, that he was going to look after me himself. His own family was grown up long since, and all gone to America, and it would be like old times, he said, to have a boy about the place.


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