The Flahertys of Aran
No specific information could be located about the author and illustrator of this book, Agnes C. Lehman. Lehman appears to have published a number of books around this time, including Betje and Jan; a Story of Volendam set in the Netherlands (New York: Coward-McCann Inc, ) and Milly and her Village. A Story of Rhens on the Rhine (New York: Macmillan, 1931). Lehman also illustrated books written by others. This book is set on Inishmaan, one of the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. The book opens as Mary, Sheila, and Pat, siblings who live on the island, are getting ready to go to the fair on the mainland in Galway. There is great excitement as they prepare for this journey, as Sheila and Pat have not left the small island before. An interest in the customs and traditions of Ireland, and specifically those of Inishmaan, is evidenced throughout. For example, an almost anthropological interest is shown in the description of the children’s clothes and the accompanying illustrations. Accent and idiomatic expressions are emphasised in the children’s speech and sometimes feature in the narrator’s voice, which is quite unusual as the narrative voice of books aiming to provide access to such cultures often tends to distance itself from the character’s dialogue. The narrative voice remains prominent, however, and often directs the reader’s attention. When the children journey on the steamer to the mainland, the narrator advises: ‘While they are sitting so quietly on the steamer, let’s take a look round before we leave the harbour. I expect you never did hear of Inishmaan, or the Aran Islands. Even if you take out your atlas, you may have difficulty in finding them’ (13). The topography, houses, work, and people of the island are described in detail; later in the book, this depiction of life on the island is continued through the fairy, mythical, and religious stories the children hear from the storytellers. The issue of language features early in the text, when the children’s father speaks to them in ‘Gaelic’, which is written phonetically and translated in the text. Mary later points out that the signs in Galway are written in both Irish and English, and ‘she explained to them that since Southern Ireland had become Eire there had been a revival of the Gaelic language’ (33), reflecting the Constitution of Ireland which was amended in 1937. In Galway, the children visit St Nicholas’s Collegiate Church, and hear that Christopher Columbus prayed there. They also hear stories of how Saint Brendan reached America before Columbus, but these ideas are dismissed. Ireland’s complex history is referenced when the children buy a Claddagh ring and are told that Queen Victoria had a special Claddagh ring made on her visit. The issues of the present day are also alluded to in the many references to contemporary emigration to America.
Written and Illustrated by Agnes C. Lehman
Place of Publication:
London, Toronto, Bombay, Sydney
George G. Harrap and Co. Ltd
Date of Publication:
224p. ; 19cm.
Copy Specific Notes:
Ms note: This is a good book
Ireland, Inishmaan, Aran Islands, Galway, Irish language, Folklore, Religion, Myth and Legend, Representations of Nations and Nationalities, Emigration, Fair, Narrative Voice, Place, Landscape
Children’s Book Collection – DCLA, Pearse Street