Airneán Árann - a taste of Aran Islands’ tradition

An Taibhdhearc to host an evening with Macdara Ó Fátharta, Dara Ó Conaola, Mary O’Malley, and Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola, and others

AN TAIBHDHEARC, in collaboration with Arts in Action, will host a celebration of the Aran Islands on Wednesday November 20th, in a concert featuring actor Macdara Ó Fátharta, writer Dara Ó Conaola, poet Mary O’Malley, and singer Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola.

Ó Fátharta, best known for his portrayal of Tadhg Ó Direáin in Ros na Rún, hails from Inis Meaín where he was born and grew up in Synge’s Cottage. Ahead of the Taibhdhearc show he spoke with me about the event and I began by asking whether his birthplace had any bearing on him becoming an actor.

“Yes, absolutely” he replies. “I remember, growing up, Synge was a presence in the house. In the summer Yanks would be coming in enquiring about him and my mother would be busy, busy, busy, with so many of us in the family but she’d have to sit down and talk to them. When Professor David H Greene was writing his biography of Synge he stayed with us for a week.”

Much of the writing about Synge’s time on the island has been done by people who are not islanders so how is he thought of there? “I have not heard any complaints about him like I have about other writers,” Ó Fátharta says. “I have read Synge’s The Aran Islands several times and I can’t find anything that is not accurate or authentic. He did say at that time, which was 1898 when he first visited, something like ‘This is the only community in western Europe that hasn’t changed in 300 years’. I found, growing up in the island that what he had written about in terms of that century I could still find similarities in my own day.

'I did once think about translating The Aran Islands but I gave up on the idea. I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and I don’t think it needs to be translated'

“The essence of the Aran Islands is that they are a community where 90 per cent of the people still speak Irish,” Macdara continues as he moves on to talk about Airneán Árann. “An ‘oíche airneann’ was a visiting night where stories would be told, songs sung and so on. We have artists from all three of the islands taking part in the concert. When I was growing up in Inis Meáin there wasn’t much traditional music, it was more storytelling and song.

"On the evening I’ll be reading a couple of poems pertaining to the islands by Mairtin O’Direain, and I’ll do a couple of pieces by my uncle who was a ballad maker who wrote a lot of songs about the islands. I’ll also do a bit of Synge - which I am not translating. I did once think about translating The Aran Islands but I gave up on the idea. I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and I don’t think it needs to be translated. We are all doing about 12-15 minutes of our own personal choices. It’s a taste of Aran’s tradition.”

Alongside Macdara Ó Fátharta, the full line up comprises Mary O’Malley, whose new poetry collection Gaudent Angeli has just been published by Carcanet; musicians Oisín Ó hlarnáin and Treasa Ní Mhiolláin from Inis Mór; Dara Ó Conaola, and singers Lasairfhíona Ní Chonaola and MacDara Ó Conaola, all from Inis Oírr.

Airneán Árann takes place at An Taibhdhearc on Wednesday November 20 at 8pm. Tickets are €15 from 091-562024 or


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