Saturday 22 October 2016

The Weekly Read: An island girl's insight into growing up on Inis Mór

Megan Roantree reveals her experience of living on Inis Mór and what makes the island unique

Megan Roantree

Published 09/07/2015 | 12:42

I was born and raised on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in Ireland which has a population of about eight hundred.

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While I have always loved being from here, it was only in my recent years after leaving for college that I began to appreciate the little things about life on a nine mile isle.

Here are a few...

1. You don't take things for granted

While there are so many things I love about the island, the lack of choice is not one of them. With one supermarket and several craft shops, there isn't much in the line of shopping.

Whether you need a new pair of shoes, a dress or even a haircut, chances are you’ll have to take a ferry for 45 minutes followed by a bus from Connemara to Galway that takes just as long.

This forces us to really make the most of our time on the mainland. Making sure to get everything you need before the return ferry at 6:30. 

Or picture this, there is something you really need that you can't buy on the island, your closest chance of getting it without getting the ferry is to put up an 'if anyone is going to town this week PM me please' Facebook status in the hope that someone you know might be able to pick it up for you.

When you get whatever it is you need, you'll be sure to appreciate it!

2. Freedom

My grandparents live in north Dublin and from a young age I remember being shocked by how little freedom my cousins had. Playing was strictly in the garden only, there were numerous locks on the door and even going across to the shop was only for the older cousins.

This couldn't be any further from life on Inis Mór. From a very young age my friends and I have spent our free time cycling down to the main village, spending a day on the beach or just hanging out, all of which are done without adults.

I had the rare luxury of independence and freedom at a very young age with the comfort of knowing people who care about you were never far away.

3. The small schools

This was a blessing in disguise, although growing up I often resented this, being from a smaller school was actually a huge benefit. With just sixty students in my secondary school between the ages of 13 and 18 it's safe to say I knew everyone very well.

This also meant that teachers could often work one on one and help anyone who was struggling academically. Students who were struggling outside of school received support beyond many teachers’ calls of duty, because of the small community and the teachers' awareness of family and personal situations.

4. Friends for life

I met one of my best friends at just one week old and we have remained as such for 20 years. The majority of my friends have been in the same class as me from playschool at the age of three right up to finishing my Leaving Cert.

Not only do you remain incredibly close with your class, but also with anyone within at least a six year age range. Being in a small school means that classes above and below you are also your friends, and remain so, long after school is over.

5. Summer

The Aran Islands is still part of Ireland of course, so it's not exactly palm trees and a blazing sun, but the summer is still an amazing time to be at home.

Summer is the time that really makes the island come alive, from groups of children spending the season swimming in the sea to the abundance of tourists who keep the place busy.

There is nowhere I would rather be on a sunny day than on my favourite beach on Inis Mór.

6. Gaeilge

This is something I have only become grateful for in recent years. Until I went to college, I had no idea just how little of the population speak fluent Irish. While neither of my parents are locals, I picked up Irish from neighbours, friends and from school.

The Aran Island Irish has its own style, its own sound and is something I am incredibly grateful to have.

7. It's a conversation starter

This was something else I didn't realise until I went to DCU. Making friends at first is mostly achieved by asking basic questions, you ask people their name, what course they are doing and where they are from. The latter is of huge interest to many people and so it comes with its own set of follow up questions.

This can be a curse sometimes, when you find yourself repeating the same spiel about how you do have internet and how you speak Irish and all the rest, to the point where sometimes it's easier just to say I am from Galway.

But most of the time, being from Aran means that I can come across as interesting even if I'm not!

8. Community

I can, and will write an article on this one all on its own, because it is truly a very special thing. The community spirit on the island is incomparable.

When tragedy strikes, which it so often sadly does, the tiny population of locals come together without a second thought. From something as small as making food or tidying up a house for a wake to supporting each other emotionally through illnesses, injuries and hardships.

This is probably the greatest thing for me about being from Inis Mór.     

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