The geography of the Aran Islands is very simple, yet it may need a
word to itself. There are three islands: Aranmor, the north island,
about nine miles long; Inishmaan, the middle island, about three
miles and a half across, and nearly round in form; and the south
island, Inishere - in Irish, east island, - like the middle island but
slightly smaller. They lie about thirty miles from Galway, up the
centre of the bay, but they are not far from the cliffs of County
Clare, on the south, or the corner of Connemara on the north.
Kilronan, the principal village on Aranmor, has been so much changed
by the fishing industry, developed there by the Congested Districts
Board, that it has now very little to distinguish it from any
fishing village on the west coast of Ireland. The other islands are
more primitive, but even on them many changes are being made, that
it was not worth while to deal with in the text.
In the pages that follow I have given a direct account of my life on
the islands, and of what I met with among them, inventing nothing,
and changing nothing that is essential. As far as possible, however,
I have disguised the identity of the people I speak of, by making
changes in their names, and in the letters I quote, and by altering
some local and family relationships. I have had nothing to say about
them that was not wholly in their favour, but I have made this
disguise to keep them from ever feeling that a too direct use had
been made of their kindness, and friendship, for which I am more
grateful than it is easy to say.
I am in Aranmor, sitting over a turf fire, listening to a murmur of
Gaelic that is rising from a little public-house under my room.
The steamer which comes to Aran sails according to the tide, and it
was six o'clock this morning when we left the quay of Galway in a
dense shroud of mist.
A low line of shore was visible at first on the right between the
movement of the waves and fog, but when we came further it was lost
sight of, and nothing could be seen but the mist curling in the
rigging, and a small circle of foam.
There were few passengers; a couple of men going out with young pigs
tied loosely in sacking, three or four young girls who sat in the
cabin with their heads completely twisted in their shawls, and a
builder, on his way to repair the pier at Kilronan, who walked up
and down and talked with me.
In about three hours Aran came in sight. A dreary rock appeared at
first sloping up from the sea into the fog; then, as we drew nearer,
a coast-guard station and the village.
A little later I was wandering out along the one good roadway of the
island, looking over low walls on either side into small flat fields
of naked rock.