Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Aran Islands. July, 1969.

The other thing that happened was the Americans' landing on the moon and its connection to the Irish language. In the summer of nineteen sixty nine my parents arranged for me to go to Inisheer, the smallest of the three Aran Islands, to study the Irish language. I didn't want to go. My goal had been to continue my studies in the art of loitering which could be practiced almost anywhere and didn't need any Island at all. But when I told my girlfriend of their cruel plot, she managed with her sweet smile to persuade her parents to send her to the same place. Needless to say she didn't see the need to mention that I would be going along for the ride as it were. All of a sudden I became very interested in the Irish language.
The Island had no electricity. Most of the Islanders had never been to the mainland. There wasn't a car. The only bicycle belonged to the lighthouse keeper and it was broken down. The best way to get around was on foot or on a donkey. You would see great big men in massive wool coats clutching whips in their hands and sitting side saddle on their donkeys as they galloped along the sandy pathways. They had never seen a television set, a radio or a telephone.
There was neither priest nor policeman on the island.
Well, the big boys in Dublin decided to send over a generator and a television set so that no-one would be denied the chance of a lifetime to see the Americans land on the moon.
We all convened in the school house and waited while the apparatus was set up.
And sure enough there they were; the Americans were at it again; they were walking on the moon— walking around and talking. It was easy for us city dwellers to see what was happening: We had all been exposed to modern media and tended to believe everything it dished out. Not so for these Islanders. They saw it more as a fairy tale. They were quite amused by the whole affair. It wasn't until they noticed that we the city kids were taking it perfectly seriously that they became angry. We must of had the arrogant air of city brats because one fellow grabbed me by the arm and led me outside and shouted at me in a mixture of Irish and spittle while pointing with his free hand at the moon above, "Look at that now! Look up there! There's no fucking American to be seen." It was the most Irish I had understood since getting there.