THE REMOTE ARAN ISLANDS. In honor of Nick and Jane’s visit next week to the West of Ireland, I have been reading THE ARAN ISLANDS by John Milllington Synge. Synge wrote the book to report on his stay from 1898 to 1901 in the Aran Islands (three small islands off the Western coast of Ireland). When Synge was there, the population of the Aran Islands was 2863, and the population of Inis Meain (anglicized as Innishmaan) was 421. (Inis Meain means simply middle island.) Inis Meain, the stoniest of three stony islands, has the tallest walls, well over head high in some places. There are over a thousand miles of stonewalls on the three islands, which among other things, shield stock and crops from the high winds.
The islands were, and are, remote. Synge wrote: “Most of the strangers they see on the islands are philological students, and the people have been led to conclude that linguistic studies, particularly Gaelic studies, are the chief occupation of the outside world.” Synge quotes one man: “Believe me there are few rich men now in the world who are not studying the Gaelic.”