Saturday 12 November 2016

Battle of An Chaircir Mhór, Aran Islands.

An Infamous Battle on The Aran Islands
(Cath an Chaircir Mhór)

A boat similar to the H.M.S. Orwell.(Length 120ft and Beam 22ft. Crew 36-40)


The ancestry of Aran Islanders is believed to be a mixture of Pre-Celt, Celt, Iberian, North African, Norman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and other travellers from long ago. 

Liam O'Flaherty (1896-1984)
When the great writer Liam O'Flaherty made his last visit to the island he was born on, not long before he died, he could not resist having some fun at the expense of the Cill Éinne people by suggesting that they were all descended from the British Cromwellian garrison at Aircín castle.  

Given the fact that the old fort was once used to imprison Catholic priests, and given that Saint Éinne and his monks had made this village their base, it's probable also that the genes of long dead monks still survive, even until the present day.

 The ruined walls of Arkin Castle.
or also known as ballaí Cromwell.
As a resident of Cill Éinne has recounted with great satisfaction, a report to the British Parliament in the early 19th century expressed, "Regret that the descendants of the garrison at Arkin have lapsed into Popery." Undoubtedly, there is some truth to this. 

Evidence of a military background being mixed in with all the other bloodlines can also be found in decisions taken during the battle of an Chaircir Mhór in 1887. People from Cill Éinne and Iar Áirne, among others, confronted a force of Royal Irish Constabulary who were protecting a process server as he attempted to serve eviction notices in the villages.

On Thursday the 26th of May 1887, a Royal Navy gunboat, the H.M.S. Orwell, which used both sail and steam, landed on the two smaller islands with a Process Server from Connemara. Escorting him were about fifteen police from the Royal Irish Constabulary, under the command of 22 year old District Inspector Feely.

Tenants could have their possessions legally confiscated or, indeed, be evicted a mere six days after being served. As a result, the process server and his group received an unfriendly welcome on the two smaller islands but still managed to serve some of their legal documents. 

Illustrated London news sketch showing an armed group of men landing near Roundstone in 1886. The gunboat at anchor is probably the H.M.S. Orwell which landed police on the Aran Islands in May 1887.

At the time, the amount of tax due in Aran was excessively high. This arose because of past arrears of rent, as well as a cess (tax) for losses incurred during the first land war (1879-1882) a few years previously by, among others,  the middleman James O'Flaherty of Cill Muirbhigh.

Indeed Liam O'Flaherty's father and uncle were believed to be involved in the cliffing of  the middleman's cattle in January 1881 (i.e., they herded the poor animals off a cliff to their deaths several hundred feet below). This terrible act was greeted with mixed feelings on the Island, as some people were supporters of James while others had sympathy for the cattle. While locals believed the number of cattle killed was about twenty, James had claimed for thirty and was awarded £300.

Grave of James O'Flaherty 1952
(Pickow collection, N.U.I.G.)

James O'Flaherty was the local Justice of the Peace and, although a Catholic, was viewed by many as a "land grabber" and part of the landlord class. He is remembered for ruling like a feudal lord and his tendency to take liberties with some of the island women had earned him the nickname of "An Pocaide Bán" or the White Billy Goat. James died suddenly in October 1881 but his claims for compensation were still in force in 1887 when the Process Server arrived on the islands.

James O'Flaherty, Justice of the Peace.
He died in Oct 1881 aged 64 years

The rates and cess had not been collected for many years, as Process Servers were reluctant to venture on to the islands for fear that they might not live to venture off again. The local process server for the three Aran Islands had retired. 

Finally, a butcher from An Spidéal (Spiddal) on the mainland, declared that if he was given enough police protection, he would nail his notices to the gates of hell. 

By the time the islanders had finished with him and his police escort, he may well have come to the view that the Devil himself would have been a lot easier "servee" than the people of Árainn.

The Process server was well known to the policemen, as he had previously been charged with having poitín (moonshine) at his home in An Spidéal and was skilled at brewing and drinking the illegal brew. 

A process server being driven out in Mayo. (A. O'Kelly, London Illustrated news 1881)

As most of the  Process Servers in Ireland were local Catholics, it was a very dangerous job. In 1882 a process server and his teenage grandson had been murdered near Ballinrobe and their bodies dumped in Lough Mask. Three men were hanged in Galway jail for their killing. Many Process Servers were intimidated into resigning their positions. .

Charles Stewart  Parnell
Michael Davitt

The 1880s were years of great hunger and agitation in Ireland.  The Land League, founded in Mayo by, among others, Michael Davitt, James Daly and later Charles Stewart Parnell, had roused the people and encouraged the government to find a solution to the near slavery of the poorer tenants. Connemara and other parts of County Galway saw some very violent clashes, as did the bordering counties of Clare and Mayo

The memory of the Gorta Mór (Great Hunger) of the 1840s was still fresh and people knew that relying on charity was not going to be enough to keep their children alive. The years 1879/80 are sometimes referred to as the Gorta Beag (Little Hunger).

The 1880s were a time when the poorer people of Ireland had been roused from what historians and psychologists would call "learned helplessness". This was a bit similar to the feeling, prominent today, of the impossibility of doing anything about the huge financial conspiracy that the worldwide banking and financial elite perpetrate on mankind. 

With extended voting rights in Britain and Ireland, the last two decades of the 19th century saw a gradual transfer of political power in much of Ireland from the Landlord class to the Catholic hierarchy. The 1884 Representation of the People act had increased the electorate from 224,000 to 738,00 and the Ballot act of 1872 had introduced voter secrecy.

The Land League (1879) and the Gaelic Athletic Association (1884) were two of the organisations that arose at this time, with the intention of instilling some pride in a people who were still recovering from the great hunger. Despondency, coercion, betrayal, disorganisation, petty rivalry and alcohol abuse had ensured that the old feudal landlord system had triumphed up until this time.

On the advice of their legal counsel, The Land League had started to challenge evictions in court, and the tactic of obstructing the Process Server was part of this campaign.


The Land League carefully organised their first great Land War confrontation between tenants and the Process Server in Connemara, on the north shore of Galway Bay, at what the Freeman's Journal called "The Battle of Carraroe". 

On January 2nd,1880, a large force of 120 R.I.C police were unable to protect the local Process Server, who only managed to serve four out of a batch of 120 bills of eviction. In fairness to the local senior R.I.C. officers, they had previously appealed to the authorities on behalf of the tenants, as many  were on the verge of starvation. 

However, the eviction orders were granted by the court, and a policeman, like a soldier, is expected to follow orders. After some violent confrontations, the police were ordered to fire a volley of shots over the heads of the locals in order to intimidate them.

Relief work in An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe) 1898
As anybody who has ever played football against Connemara teams will know, attempting to intimidate can be both dangerous and counterproductive. The volley of shots, far from intimidating the locals, triggered an all out attack.

The police were routed by a combination of sticks and stones and had to retreat to the local barracks. In the process, five men and one woman were wounded by police bayonets. The people from An Spidéal (Spiddal) and Cois Fharraige were also in revolt and had blocked the road from Galway with large boulders.
Former RIC barracks in An Cheathrú Rua, which was besieged in January 1880.

 The police in An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe) had to be relieved by the Galway paddle steamer "Citie of the Tribes", which sailed to Cashla Bay with men and supplies. At the height of the incident, supporters from as far as 'Joyce Country' hurried to Carraroe while twelve crowded sailing hookers arrived to support their neighbours from other Connemara ports and indeed the Aran Islands.
Citie of the Tribes paddle steamer entering Galway harbour. She had been sent in 1880 to Casla Bay to evacuate the besieged R.I.C. garrison in An Ceathrú Rua.  (Photo N.L.I.)
After the disaster of the 1840s, many bankrupt Irish estates had been snapped up for a pittance by what we might call today "vulture funds" and they were determined to have their pound of flesh. Although this was not the case in Aran, the owners of the islands, the Digby family of Kildare, gave a free hand to their agent, Thomas Thompson of Clonskeagh Castle, grand-master of Trinity College Orange Lodge, who is still remembered in Aran folklore for his arrogance, fanatical religious beliefs and vindictive cruelty.

Clonskeagh Castle, on the banks of the river Dodder in Dublin..
Built by United Irishman Henry Jackson in 1798.
 It later became the home of the land agents, George Thompson and his son Thomas.

There were few if any tears shed on the three islands when Thomas died in 1886. What is striking about those times is how righteous the landlords (both Protestant and Catholic), agents and bailiffs felt in their actions because the law was on their side. Then, as today, the gap between what is lawful and what is right could be very wide.

From the previous few lines we hope that the reader will have an idea of the chaotic state of Ireland in the 1880s and that a famine after the bad 1879 harvest had threatened to be a repeat of the Great Hunger. The situation that the Aran Islanders found themselves in, on that lovely May morning in 1887, was pitiful. Many were only surviving on relief efforts and donations from Ireland and abroad. 

A drought the previous summer, coupled with a decline in fish catches and the price of kelp, had left the islands and especially Cill Éinne, in a bad way. Cill Éinne was almost completely dependent on fishing so hunger and death (by drowning or otherwise) were a constant threat. 

The writer, actor, jarvey, moonshiner, fisherman, seanchaí, kelper and film maker, Pat Mullen (1883-1972), records that in the late 19th century, there were twenty widows in Cill Éinne who had lost their husbands to drowning. 


The Royal Irish Constabulary was established in 1822 and disbanded after independence in 1922. It functioned like any police force in keeping the peace and investigating crime. The need for a well organised force had become apparent when faction fighting had raged in many parts of the country and this force, along with the Catholic church was credited with ending the worst of these murderous skirmishes.

19th Century R.I.C.with fixed bayonets

The force was active during the 'tithe war' of the 1830s when mainly Catholics but also Presbyterians, Methodists and others objected to having to pay a 10% agricultural tax towards the upkeep of the established Episcopalian church. The force was responsible for the massacre of  a number of protestors and some of their own were killed in reprisal.  

An important role was to suppress political revolutionary organisations and the term "Royal" had been awarded for their efforts in suppressing the failed Fenian uprising of 1867.

Unlike the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police and British County Police, the R.I.C. was an armed force and was modeled on the European  gendarme type of force popular in those times. 
 For this reason there was always an uneasy relationship with the people when unpopular measures had to be enforced. 

The most unpopular of these was the escorting of process servers and in providing protection to agents, bailiffs and "rogies" on eviction duties. "Rogies", were the low life, usually from nearby towns, hired to do the dirty work of seizing goods and stock or tumbling the homes of the evicted.

At the time of the Land War of the 1880s, the rank and file and junior officer corps of the R.I.C. was made up of about 80% Catholic men.

However, at about this time the records show that about 80% of the County Inspectors were Protestant.

19th Century R.I.C. officer

Between 1881 and 1911 the proportion of senior officers was 77% Episcopalian, 19% Catholic, 3% Presbyterian and 1% Methodist.

The bloody uprisings in 1798 of mainly Catholics in the South East and Presbyterians in the North, combined with a French invasion at Killala, had sent shock waves through the British establishment.

Fears of another French invasion, were still fresh and the danger of having a large body of armed Catholic men under the command of a large Catholic Senior Officer corps, resulted in this blatant discrimination.

 Successive British governments were never sure of the loyalty of the force and were wary of it being influenced by nationalist ideas or by Rome. As can be seen, Catholics and indeed Dissenters were greatly under represented in the senior ranks.


When the people of Árainn saw the H.M.S. Orwell drop anchor in Cill Éinne bay on the evening of May 26th 1887 they would have known what was coming. Word of the process server's visits to the smaller islands would have reached them and it seems they were well prepared. 

Although the newspaper reports of the incident do not mention the local priest, Fr. Michael O'Donohue, it's likely that he and others had a part in organising the resistance. Michael was a master publicist and his hand can be seen in many island stories from those times. 

In November 1879, the arrival of a radical curate from Ballyconneely, Fr D.W. Fahey, would result in the founding of the land league on the island. Fr Fahey had caused much trouble for the authorities in Connemara, both civil and clerical and his transfer from Errismore (Ballyconneely) was resisted by the locals who barricaded the local church and refused entry to his replacement. 

The H.M.S. Orwell was well known to the islanders, as in May of 1886 they had welcomed it to Cill Rónáin when it carried 155 tons of meal as part of a relief effort. The Orwell was used for many different tasks. 

Two Lieutenant-Commanders operated the HMS Orwell during those years. One was was Edward Law who served on this ship between July 1884 and August 1887. Edward Law lived in Salthill and died in 1912 at Brinkwater Lodge, which stood on the grounds of the Leisureland complex. 
The grave in Galway of Lieutenant Commander Law
of the HMS Orwell and his wife Elizabeth Stopford

The Lieutenant Commander in charge the day it arrived in Cill Rónáin in May 1887, was Richard Bingham (1847-1924) who would go on to have a very distinguished career in the Royal Navy. 

Richard was the son of George Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan, who is infamous in Mayo for his cruelty and evictions during An Gorta Mór in the 1840s. George was also involved in the ill conceived and disastrous charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean war. 
George Charles Bingham 1800-1888 3rd Earl Lucan. 
His son Richard commanded the HMS Orwell
on the trip to the islands in May 1887

Lieutenant-Commander Richard Bingham was also great granduncle to the vanishing Lord Lucan, whose estate had claim to vast numbers of ground rents in Mayo. 

Later in 1887, the HMS Orwell was used to convey eight prisoners from Ballyvaughan to Galway after the killing of Head Constable Gerald Whelehan near Lisdoonvarna. It was also used as a fisheries protection vessel against poaching Frenchmen and keeping watch for American dynamite smuggling. 

According to newspaper reports, fifteen policemen disembarked and spent the night at the barracks which today serves as the post office for the island. They were joined  by the five island based police officers.
Cill Rónáin post office in the 1930s.
Formerly a police barracks (Fr Browne collection)

 The process server and the 22 year old District inspector, Frank Feely, remained on board the Orwell, which lay at anchor. They attempted to sneak ashore at 6 A.M the next morning but were met by a hail of stones and the process server had to wait in the bay until a large body of police arrived to protect him. 

It seems that the whole island, from Iar Áirne to Bun Gabhla had come together to resist the serving of the processes. One stone thrower, Seán Ó Direáin (Dirrane), was arrested. In 1887 the New pier in Cill Rónáin, Céibh Ganley, was very tidal and was only about a quarter the length that it is today.

The process server then attempted to serve his notices around the village but was impeded by further stone throwing. When the police headed west, the islanders took to the fields and continued to harass their progress by a continuous barrage of stones.

 Using the fields that border the road was a great move as it gave the islanders a huge advantage. Even today, islanders have an instinctive knowledge of stone walls and can pick out, at a glance, the quickest and safest way to cross.

The stone walls of Árainn

Taking to the fields in pursuit was a useless task for the police as crossing stone walls, wearing big boots and holding a loaded gun was to risk shooting either oneself or a comrade. After about two miles of harassment, the process server and his escort, abandoned their task and returned to Cill Rónáin where another stone thrower, Stiofán Ó Direáin (Dirrane), was arrested. 

While the Dirranes seem to have been very good at confronting the enemy, they were perhaps not quite so good at evading capture.

Later in the afternoon, when the locals had dispersed, it was decided to proceed to Cill Éinne and Iar Áirne where little resistance was expected. 

Pat Mullen greets a regular visitor from Magherafelt Co. Derry, Peter Bryson, during the summer of 1958.
In the background is the old R.I.C. police barracks.


Pat Mullen of "Man of Aran" fame gives a good account of what happened next. As the police lined up in formation outside the barracks and across from her little thatched house, Pat's mother, Mary Costello, decided to take action. Her sympathy for the people who faced eviction in Cill Éinne, goaded a very gentle woman into throwing a stone in the direction of the policemen. Luckily she missed and it smashed on the wall of the barracks. 

Mary herself had a close relative who had served as a Sergeant in the R.I.C. so she must have been greatly angered to have acted in this way. Her attack was ignored and the police set off for Cill Éinne. According to Pat, many of the Cill Rónáin people made a short cut  ahead of the police in order to assist their Cill Éinne neighbours.

When we mentioned this fact to an islander some years ago, instead of commenting on their loyalty and solidarity, he was less than kind in speculating that the Cill Rónáin crowd would hate to miss a good fight.

Evidence that the Cill Éinne people may have an innate military ability can be gleaned from where they decided to make their stand against the oncoming police.
A view of Cill Rónáin on the left and Cill Éinne in the distance. In between is the Caircir Mór.
(Photo from Irish Air Corps)

The boundary of Cill Éinne village is at the top of a steep hill, An Chaircir Mhór, which is both narrow and twisting. A causeway had just been built there which resulted in there being a steep drop of over 12 feet or more on both sides of the road.

The steep sides of An Chaircir Mhór.
No side walls in 1887.

This then was the narrow, steep hill the police would have to climb if they wished to get to Cill Éinne. Their progress was halted by a group of about 500 people. The police then had to endure a hail of stones thrown by the Cill Éinne men who were being re-supplied by the women and older children. 

Like their neighbours across the seas in West Clare and Connemara, the stone throwers of the Aran Islands had the great comfort of not having to worry about ever running out of ammunition.
Robert Welch photo of Cill Éinne village in the 1890s (James Hardiman Library N.U.I.G.)

Arkin Castle and the village of Cill Éinne long ago

 Men who spent their time rowing currachs, hauling lines or working a fork or spade had arms well suited to firing stones great distances. Proof of the athleticism of the locals is the fact that just a few years later, the first gold medal awarded at the first modern Olympics in 1896 went to James Brendan Connolly, the son of Cill Éinne emigrants. James was competing for the United States.

Triple jumper, James Brendan Connolly. First gold medalist (U.S.A.) at first modern Olympics, 1896.

There is a small amount of difference in accounts of what happened next but as Pat Mullen's is the most dramatic, we will go with that.
Perhaps there was work to be done at home or perhaps they wanted to go and check on how the younger children and the infirm were doing back in the village, but the Cill Éinne women appear to have lost patience.

It was at this stage that they deployed the classic military maneuver, the counter attack.

 Pushing past their men folk, hair streaming behind, with loud curses and threatening screams they launched themselves at the process server and the policemen. The process server would have known also, that Cill Éinne being a fishing village, it’s womenfolk were experts at wielding a filleting knife.

Like many of his police escort, the Process server was a native Irish speaker so he would have understood exactly what the women were planning to do when they got a hold of him. 

In the circumstances he did what most sensible men would have done, he started running.
His desire to avoid further pain and suffering would have quickened his step. Sadly for him, the desire to inflict further pain and suffering did the same for his pursuers. 

A view from the top of An Chaircir Mhór

At the famous battle of Aughrim in 1691, the Dutch Williamite gunners concentrated their fire on the leader of the Jacobite army, the French general Charles Chalmont, better known as the Marquis de St Ruth.

 Mounted on a white horse, the brave St Ruth was decapitated by chain shot and the battle was lost. This, rather than the Boyne, was the decisive victory of the Orange over the Green.

 History is complex enough without dwelling on the fact that the Protestant guns of the Williamite army may well have been paid for by the Pope, who was at the time allied with Protestant William against Catholic Louis XIV of France.(The Sun King)

Battle of Aughrim (1691)

The Cill Éinne people now seem to have concentrated their fire on the hapless process server and the honour of felling him went to a man known locally as "an Dreóilín" (The Wren). As a reward for his strong arm and good aim, a song was afterwards composed in his honour.

Tháinaig Kelly ag cur cíosa
Ar mhuintir Árainn Mhór
Ach bhuail An Dreóilín mullán eibhir air
Ag gabhail sios An Chaircir Mhór. ( Words collected by Antoine Powell)

Kelly came to put the rents
On the people of Árainn Mhór
But An Dreóilín hit him with a granite mouler
Going down An Chaircir Mhór

The police now had to pick up the semi conscious process server and try and make their way back towards Cill Rónáin. They were harried all the way and when they got to the shore had to fire their rifles in the air to signal the anchored H.M.S. Orwell to send boats to evacuate them.

 It's hard not to think of the great slaughter that took place after the battle of Clontarf in 1014 as the Vikings who were not allied to Brian Boru, were killed in their hundreds as they made for their boats at anchor at low tide in Dublin Bay. As luck would have it, and luckily for both islanders and invaders, nobody was killed at the battle of An Chaircir Mhór.

There must have been great celebrations as the islanders heard the anchor chains rattle and great cheering as they watched the Orwell slide past the lighthouse at Oileán na Tuí and disappear back to Galway past Ceann Boirne (Black Head) in the distance.

Straw Island or Oileán an Tuí

More than 125 years later and the Irish Naval ship L.E. Ciara, at anchor in Cill Éinne Bay with Oileán na Tuí and it’s lighthouse, in the background. 

If this were a fairy tale we would now have reached the line "And they all lived happily ever after".
Alas, it's not and they didn't.

Although the resistance in 1887 did result in a large amount of the money owed being reduced, the 1890s once more saw distress and evictions on the islands as the people suffered under what Liam O'Flaherty called "The lash of hunger". 

Tom O'Flaherty 1890-1936  (Amhráin Árann & Bhailiúchán Béaloideas Árann)

Liam's older brother, the writer Tom O'Flaherty, gives an account of the distress he endured as a four year old when clinging to his mother as the family were evicted from their house in 1894. They were allowed back in again after some sort of agreement but the bitter memory stayed with him all his life.

 The only positive memories he had from that traumatic day were the help his father got from his Gort na gCapall neighbours, to hide his possessions and the kindness of the police Sergeant, who appeared ashamed of his own role in the sad affair and who gave the weeping four year old Tom, a coin.
Cartoonist Thomas Fitzpatrick's famous depiction of the 1894 evictions (N.L.I.)
Later, in November 1887, the police and another agent met with a similar stony reception when they went to Inishbofin and Inish Shark at the western end of County Galway and left empty handed. On that occasion an old woman died after being knocked down during a baton charge.

John Synge also gave an account of an eviction in June 1898, on the middle island, Inis Meáin, where the heroes were two impounded pigs. To the delighted cheers of the islanders, the pigs escaped and managed to tumble a few of the police who were trying to recapture them. As in Árainn and other parts of Ireland, there seems to have always been a local who was prepared to assist the bailiff in identifying livestock and people.

John Millington Synge (1871-1909)
The enduring memory of that eviction on the middle island is of a woman cursing the day she gave birth to a son who had assisted the agent and bailiffs. 
Members of Royal Irish Constabulary
at Inis Meáin eviction. (Synge 1898 photo)

Irish women had been encouraged to take a more active role during the first Land War of the 1880s. Much of this encouragement came from Anna and Fanny Parnell, sisters of Charles Stewart Parnell. Anna's fiery speeches and fearless advocacy on behalf of evicted tenants was responsible for the violent involvement of many women during evictions. She was much more radical than her brother Charles and was an outstanding organiser and orator. In many ways she was the Bernadette Devlin of her age.

Anna Parnell (1852-1911)

Taking over the running of the land league when the leaders were jailed, Anna was afterwards sidelined for being too radical and asking questions about funds and receipts. She never again spoke to her brother Charles.

R.I.C. disrupting a meeting of the Parnell sister's Ladies Land League. 1881

On one occasion Anna stepped into the streets of Dublin and, catching hold of the reigns of the Lord Lieutenant's horse, she calmly but firmly asked him to explain why he was ordering the destruction of huts, she and her group had been providing for evicted tenants in Limerick. This bold act, coming not long after the terrible Phoenix Park murders of Ireland's top two civil servants, could have caused her great injury or worse.

A depiction of Anna Parnell's Ladies Land League huts being erected for evicted tenants in Munster

As the Lord Lieutenant was the representative of Queen Victoria, this was a grave breach of protocol and was akin to touching the Queen herself.

Queen Victoria

 It reminds us of the famous occasion in 1992 when the Australian Prime Minister put his arm around Queen Elizabeth.

Both outrages were quickly overlooked as Anna was deemed to be just a hysterical woman and Paul Keating because he was Prime Minister of a country not noted for undue respect for protocol, royal or otherwise. 

With the coming of Balfour's congested district board in 1891 and improvements in the fishing industry, the islands and particularly Cill Rónáin saw some better years. The various  British government land acts resulted in the buying of the Digby estate and the distribution of the land to the people whose ancestors had made and worked it since time immemorial.

The distribution of the land of Ireland by the various land acts has resulted today in the land in Ireland being owned by many as opposed to the ownership of so much of Britain by so few. However, both Anna Parnell and Michael Davitt seemed disappointed with the end result. 

The abuse and exploitation, before and after independence, of children, farm labourers and servant girls by large farmers and their wives, has been noted by writers like John B Keane and others. Indeed ,the infamous "Hiring Fairs" lasted well into the 20th century.

We have been told an amusing story of the "Dreólín", who fired the stone that felled the process server in 1887. Once, while working for a strong farmer on the mainland, he and his employer went to cut a field of hay. Both had a sythe and the "Dreólín" foolishly thought that they would both be cutting. Great was his surprise when the farmer sat down and waited until the "Dreóilín's" sythe was blunt before handing him a sharp one. 

As anybody who has ever worked a sythe knows, the small rest that can be gained when sharpening the blade is the only time a man can have a smoke, regain his strength or indeed ponder on the meaning of life. Needless to say, the "Dreólín" left the next day.

The memory of the tireless work of both Michael Davitt and Anna Parnell has perhaps suffered because neither died nor killed for Ireland.


Newspaper reports at the time mention that apart from the process server, Constables Burns, Burke, Murtagh and Wren received serious injuries in Árainn.

 Twenty eight year old  Patrick Murtagh from Longford, was discharged on medical grounds in 1900. This was likely caused by the head injury he received in 1887. 

Among those who were charged in connection with the affray were  the two Ó Direáins who were jailed the following June for one and two months. 
In July, Peadar Ó Flatharta was sentenced to two months in jail for his part in the violence and three others were fined £10 each, a huge sum at the time.

Newspaper reports mention the H.M.S. Orwell being involved in a minor collision with the schooner "Mountain Lass" of Cardigan at the entrance to Galway dock in July 1887. It mentions that she was returning from Arran with two prisoners, the Resident Magistrate, Mr Lyster and other officers of the court.

Our sources for the story of those days include, newspaper reports of the time, Antoine Powell's well researched "Oileáin Árann",  Tim Robinsons "Stones of Aran" Labyrinth, Pat Mullen's "Man of Aran", Michael Davitt's "Fall of feudalism in Ireland" and some word of mouth information picked up over the years. 

That we should have asked more questions when we had the chance is a great regret but we hope that any mistakes or inaccuracies we have made will be corrected by readers with relevant information.

Undoubtedly, the police must have had to endure a lot of taunts and jokes from their friends, enemies and indeed colleagues about their rout by the Cill Éinne women at An Chaircair Mhór.

In their defense, it's possible that even the great Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his Fíanna or Conchobar Mac Neasa and his Red Branch Knights, would have shivered a little if attacked by a large group of very cross Árainn women.

 Indeed, the memory of the Women of Aran in full battle charge may also have sent an odd shiver of fear through the Men of Aran. Contrary to what we have been told, it seems Hell really hath no fury like a woman  defending her home and family.

Sunrise on top of An  Chaircir Mhór. 
 (Photo Máirtín Ó Goill)

Finally, we can only hope that when the Process Server recovered from his injuries and had resigned from Process Serving, his near death experience at the hands of the Cill Éinne women, made him show some compassion to the terrified cattle, sheep, pigs and goats that passed through his hands when he resumed his butchering career.

Michael Muldoon.    November 2016