Eilís Dillon author photograph

Eilís Dillon
The Seals

On the island, life is peaceful, but on the Irish mainland war is raging, and an islandman, Roddy Conneeley, is in the thick of it. One stormy night news comes that he needs a boat to bring him home, but the sea is far too rough. Only Roddy's nephew Pat thinks it's worth trying, for the Conneeleys are descended from seals and none of them has ever drowned. Pat asks his best friend, Mike Hernon, to come with him, and also Jerry Lynskey, great-grandson of the informer. And when old Morgan, Pat's grandfather, agrees to sail with them, the four set out on their perilous mission. The Seals is a highly political book, foreshadowing Eilís Dillon's later historical novels. It is also filled with humour, wild adventure, and the author's most unusual plot twist...

The Seals, Faber edition .. The Seals, US edition .. The Seals, German edition .. The Seals, Polish edition


"Their survival of dangers on both land and sea makes a thrilling adventure story, while the richly detailed background renders it the more exceptional. One of the author's very best." (The Horn Book Magazine)
"A raw, salt, exciting tale, rich in character and rhythm." (Robert Nye, the Scotsman)
"The setting is very realistic and the characterisation excellent." (Times Educational Supplement)


All day long, the sky had been darkening over the island. It had been a clear morning, with the blue curves of the Clare mountains plainly visible.
They're too plain," old Morgan the weaver said. "When you can see the walls of Clare like that, there's a storm coming. And the seagulls have moved in. They're all around the house this minute, driving me out of my mind with their squalling."
It was true that in the afternoon the island had suddenly become covered with little groups of huddled white and grey and black-backed gulls, shrieking dismally to each other though the sun still shone.
"Bad luck to them and their howling," said Jim Conneeley, who was Pat's father and Morgan's son. "They always have the bad story."
"We should be thankful to them," said old Morgan excitedly. "Where would we be without them? They're there to give warning. The seagulls are never wrong. Many a life they've saved, you can take it from me–"
"All right, Father. Sure I was only joking," said Jim. "It's only that I wish they had a more civil way of announcing the storm. To listen to them, you'd think we'd all be better to shut ourselves in our houses and barricade the doors and build up the fires and wait for the big wind to blow the roof off. You'd never think we'd have time to take in the lobster-pots and put the boats safe before the storm strikes." While he was talking, he was taking the oars of the currach from their place by the back door and picking up a coil of new rope from the chest beside the fire.


"Exciting and convincing ... Lovely descriptions of the sea and country, and delicate, satisfying relationships between the boys and the people they work with." (Catherine Storr, New Statesman)
"A gripping adventure story." (The Kerryman)
"Eilís Dillon knows her people well - their sense of historical grievance, their superstition, their quiet and implacable unity - and weaves them into a narrative as effective in its restraint as many tales are in a more superficially exciting fashion." (Times Literary Supplement)
"Exciting and well sustained. I did not want to put it down until I had finished it." (Books and Bookmen)

Back to the top of this page
Back to Eilís Dillon Books for Teenagers

Exit to the Eilís Dillon Irish Writing Pages

Page maintained by Eilís Dillon Literary Estate.
Copyright material, not for commercial reproduction.