[...] Every article on these islands has an almost personal character which gives this simple life, where all art is unknown, something of the artistic beauty of medieval life ... they seem to exist as a natural link between the people and the world that is about them. (Collected Works, II, 58-59).
The simplicity and unity of the dress increased in another way the local air of beauty. The women wear red petticoats and jackets of the island wool stained with madder, to which they usually add a plaid shawl twisted round their chests and tied at the back. When it rains they throw another petticoat over their heads with the waistband round their faces, or, if they are young, they use a heavy shawl like those worn in Galway. Occasionally other wraps are worn, and during the thunderstorm I arrived in I saw several girls with mens waistcoats buttoned round their bodies. Their skirts do not come much below the knee, and show their powerful legs in the heavy indigo stockings with which they are all provided.
The men wear three colours: the natural wool, indigo, and grey flannel that is woven of alternate threads of indigo and the natural wool. In Arranmor many of the younger men have adopted the usual fishermans jersey but I have only seen one on this island. (CW, II, p.59).
The courtesy of the old woman of the house is singularly attractive, and though I could not understand much of what she said - she has no English - I could see with how much grace she motioned each visitor to a chair, or stool, according to his age, and said a few words to him until he drifted into our English conversation. (Ibid., p.59; ...).
A few of the men have a curiously full vocabulary; others know only the commonest words in English, and are driven to ingenious devices to express their meaning. Of all the subjects we can talk of war seems their favourite, and the conflict between America and Spain is causing a great deal of excitement. Nearly all the families have relations who have crossed the Atlantic, and all eat the flour and bacon that is brought from the United States, so they have a vague fear that if anything happened to America their own island would ceased to be habitable.
[...] Foreign languages are another favourite topic ...
I have seen Frenchmen, and Danes, and Germans, said one man, and there does be a power of Irish books along with them, and they reading them better than ourselves. Believe me there are few rich men in the world who are not studying the Gaelic. (Ibid., p.60.)
[the Aran Islands] where life is perhaps the most primitive that is left in Europe ... I have seen nothing so desolate (Ibid.., p.64.)
Their way of life has never been acted on by anything more artificial than the nests and burrows of the creatures that live round them, and they seem in a certain sense to approach more nearly to the finer type of our aristocracies - who are bred artificially to a natural idea - than to the labourer or citizen. (Ibid., p.66.)
Pat [Dirane] told me a story of an unfaithful wife, which I will give further down, and then broke into a moral dispute with the visitor, which caused immense delight to some young men who had come down to listen to the story. Unfortunately it was carried on so rapidly in Gaelic that I lost most of the points.
This old man usually talks in a mournful tone about his ill-health, and his death, which he feels to be approaching, yet he has occasional touches of humour that remind me of old Mourteen on the north island. To-day a grotesque twopenny doll was lying on the floor near the old woman. he picked it up and examined it as if comparing it with her. Then he held it up: is it you is after bringing that thing into the world, woman of the house? (Ibid., p.70)
[Proceeds to recount Diranes story on which is based The Shadow of the Glen, ending:] the dead man hit him a blow with the tick so that the blood out of him leapt up and hit the gallery. (Ibid., 72; for a copy of the story - see attached.)
In Inishmaan one is forced to believe in a sympathy between man and nature. (Ibid., p.75).
This grief of the keen is no personal complaint for the death of one woman over eighty years, but seems to contain the whole passionate rage that lurks somewhere in every native of the island. In this cry of pain the inner consciousness of the people seems to lay itself bare for an instant, and to reveal the mood of beings who feel their isolation in the face of a universe that wars on them with winds and seas. They are usually silent, but in the presence of death all outward show of indifference or patience is forgotten, and they shriek with pitiable despair before the horror of the fate to which they are all doomed. (Ibid., p.75).
A little beyond the grave I saw a line of old women who had recited in the keen sitting in the shadow of the wall beside the roofless shell of the church. They were still sobbing and shaken with grief, yet they were beginning to talk again of the daily trifles that veil them from the terror of the world. (Ibid., p.75.)
I cannot say too often that the supreme interest of the island lies in the strange concord that exists between the people and the impersonal limited but powerful impulses of the nature that is round them. (Note 1, p.75; cited in Thornton, 1979; and taken from a notebook entry omitted from the final text.)
The water for washing is also short, and as I walk round the edges of the sea, I often come on a girl with her petticoats rucked up round her, standing in a pool left by the tide and washing her flannels among the sea-anemones and crabs. their red bodices and white tapering legs make them as beautiful as tropical sea-birds, as they stand in a frame of seaweeds against the brink of the Atlantic. Michael, however, is a little uneasy when they are in sight, and I cannot pause to watch them. This habit of using the sea water for washing causes a good deal of the rheumatism on the island ... (Ibid., p.76.)
[Pat Diranes remedy for fairies:] Take a sharp needle, he said, and stick it under the collar of your coat, and not one of them will be able to have power on you. [Synge remarks:] Iron is a common talisman with barbarians, but in this case the idea of exquisite sharpness was probably present also, and perhaps some feeling for the sanctity of the instrument of toil, a folk-belief that is common in Brittany. The fairies are more numerous in Mayo than in any other country, though they are fond of certain districts in Galway ... (Ibid., p.80.)
They told me that an evicting party is coming to the island to-morrow morning, and gave me a long account of what they make and spend in the year, and of their trouble with the rent. ... I asked afterwards who the island belonged to.
Bedad, they said, weve always heard it belonged to Miss -, and she is dead. (Ibid., p.84).
The outrage to a tomb in China probably gives no greater shock to the Chinese than the outrage to a hearth in Inishmaan gives to the people. (Ibid., p.89.)
At the slip there was a good deal of bargaining, which ended in all the cattle being given back to their owners. It was plainly of no use to take them away, as they were worth nothing. (Ibid., p.91.)
Till this year no one on the island would consent to act as bailiff, so that it was impossible to identify the cattle of the defaulters. Now, however, a man of the name of Patrick has sold his honour, and the effort of concealment is practically futile. The falling away form the ancient loyalty of the island has caused great indignation ... [recounts a death threat nailed to the chapel] (Ibid., p.88).
He often tells me about a Connaught man who killed his father with the blow of a spade when he was in passion, and then fled to this island and threw himself on the mercy of some of the natives with whom he was said to be related. They hid him in a hole - which the old man has shown me - and kept him safe for weeks, though the police came and searched for him and he could hear their boots grinding on the stones over his head. In spite of a reward which was offered, the island was incorruptible, and after much trouble the man was safely shipped to America.
This impulse to protect the criminal is universal in the west. It seems partly due to the association between justice and the hated English jurisdiction, but more directly to the primitive feeling of these people, who are never criminals yet always capable of crime, that a man will not do wrong unless he is under the influence of a passion which is as irresponsible as a storm on the sea. If a man has killed his father, and is already sick and broken with remorse, they can see no reason why he should be dragged away and killed by the law. Such a man, they say, will be quiet all the rest of his life, and if you suggest that punishment is needed as an example, they ask, would anyone kill his father if he was able to help it? (Ibid., p.95.)
It seems absurd to apply the same laws to these people and to the criminal classes of a city. The most intelligent man on Inishmaan has often spoken to me of his contempt of the law, and of the increase of crime the police have brought to Aranmor ... In Kilronan there is a band of men paid to make out cases for themselves; the moment a blow is struck they come down and arrest the man who gave it [...] (Ibid., p.96.)
[On curragh fishing:] The men seemed excited and uneasy, and I though for a moment that we were likely to be swamped. In a little while, however, I realised the capacity of the curagh [sic] to raise its head among the waves, and the motion became strangely exhilarating. Even, I thought, if we were dropped into the blue chasm of the waves, this death, with fresh saltness in ones teeth, would be better than most deaths one is likely to meet. (Ibid., p.97.) [One of Synges island friends writes to him:] Write soon and let you write in Irish, if you dont I wont look on it. (Ibid., p.104.)