Feile na gCloch – Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd September 2019 Inis Oírr

Father Ted’s Craggy Island Draw Away – Capturing a sense of place through on location sketch outs on  Inis Oírr island. 

The Plassey Shipwreck as featured in Father Ted

Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd September 2019
Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, County Galway
Cost €75

Feile na gCloch PDF Brochure including Registration and Payment Details
Féile na gCloch 2019 

Spend three days exploring Inis Oírr through sketching led by an experienced sketcher familiar with the island. Capture the magic scenery and culture of the smallest of the Aran Islands in your artists’s notebook. Experience this intimate island through drawing her castles, shipwrecks, churches, seascapes and iconic drystone walls. On location drawing tips and ideas to achieve more interesting sketchbooks using mixed media and handwritten text will be discussed at the start of each sketch out.


Thursday 19th September 3pm – 5pm
If you are arriving early, there will be an extra sketch out. Meeting point – The harbour.
Friday 20th September 10am – 4pm
Father Ted’s Craggy Island Draw Away – Capturing a sense of place through on location sketch outs on Inis Oírr.
Saturday 21st September 10am – 4pm
10am-2pm – On location sketch outs with your allocated group at locations across the Island as above.
2pm – 4pm – Join a sketch out to capture the creation of a dry stone wall with prizes for the most evocative sketches.
Sunday 22nd September 10am – 1pm
On location sketch outs with your allocated group at locations across the Island as described above. A more detailed itinerary will be handed to you on arrival.

Through on location sketch outs you will discover the rugged beauty of this jewel in the Atlantic that inspired Sean Keating, Harry Clarke and Margaret Clarke. Enjoy the creative camaraderie and be part of the exhibition of work done over the weekend.

• This long weekend is for the self-motivated sketcher who wants to enjoy a fun and sociable time 

drawing on location in an ancient landscape. All levels of experience welcome.

Join a sketch out to capture the creation of a dry stone wall.

 Attend lectures on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings by stone masons, stone carvers and the just plain stone mad to enhance your experience and understanding of the island and the festival.

• Each sketch out starts with a 30 minutes workshop with tips and inspiration from experienced sketchers. 

Your lunch will be delivered to you each day.

• Leave the island with a sketchbook full of memories.


What to Bring

Definitely sketchbooks, drawing pencils, pens, pencil sharpener, eraser. Watercolours, paint 

brushes, easel, colour pencils, oil pastels, or whichever medium / mediums you like to draw with.

Traditional Music, Arts & CraftsThis is an outdoor event. Irish weather is 

famous for offering 4 seasons in one day. Make sure to bring warm clothes, sturdy shoes and good rain gear. Inis Oírr has a lovely beach, so pack your bathers if you want to take the plunge.

The island hosts the best in traditional music, art and craft courses.

Regular music sessions and lively dances continue to lure legions of

visitors to Inis Oírr.

Payment Details

Cost €75

Payment must be received in Euro.
Cheques should be made payable to:
‘Galway County Council – Stone Wall Workshop’’

All Enquiries to:

Ms. Marie Mannion
Heritage Officer,
Forward Planning,
Áras an Chontae,
Galway County Council,
Prospect Hill, Galway
Tel: 00353 91 509198
E-mail: mmannion@galwaycoco.ie
Gráinne Smyth / Caroline Hannon
Forward Planning,
Áras an Chontae,
Galway County Council,
Prospect Hill, Galway.
Tel: 00353 91 509121/509047
Email: gsmyth@galwaycoco.ie or channon@galwaycoco.ie
Website: http://www.galway.ie

Payment of €75 registers you to take part in the sketchouts each morning, it also includes a bus to and from the sketching location, and lunch and access to all of the lectures in the evenings.
Please note that Accommodation and Travel to and from the island is not included.
Participants need to organise their own accommodation and travel arrangements. A detailed list of both can be found after this payment section in the Getting Here is Easy  and Accommodation sections  below as well as in  the following pdf brochure (see link).

Feile na gCloch PDF Brochure including Registration and Payment Details
Féile na gCloch 2019

Getting Here is Easy

Daily ferry services from Doolin and Galway. Close to the Burren, the Cliffs of Moher are clearly visible from the island. You can also take an airplane over from Galway airport.See below for more details on travel and accommodation recommendations.

Recommendations & Advice for All Participants

It is recommended that Course Participants are suitably dressed for the workshop and wear steel toe capped boots, sturdy shoes or walking boots, work gloves and dress for the weather. Sketchers should bring walking boots or shoes, warm clothes and rain gear.

Transport to Inis Oírr

Workshop participants must book their own travel to Inis Oírr. There are ferry services operating from Rossaveel, Co Galway and Doolin in Co Clare.
Ferries Sailings Phone +353(0)83 3051647

The following are their contact details:

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Women. This place is a matriarchy says Seán Keating, but how does one recognize that aspect of it? The women stay indoors and the girls… This absence of women is important enough. Only occasionally does one see a red skirt, that of an elderly woman, when the steamer comes in on Wednesday or Saturday. Occasionally a few girls of about 15 or 17 sit on the strand but only when a boat is due. A few young girls normally wander about the strand, from 5 to 7 or 10, and an odd woman may bring down an ass for turf to the pier, but the bulk of women are absent save at Mass on Sunday – August 1955.

Sean Keating

Words: Nobody’s Business – the Aran Diaries of Ernie O’Malley. Image: Sean Keating.

The first flush toilets

The iconic Plassey shipwreck is known all over the world.  On the island for the past 50 years, this blow-in has become an integral part of the community on Inis Oírr. She features in the opening credits of the popular comedy series Father Ted.

The first flush toilets

The Plassey was carrying cargo of whiskey, stained glass, and yarn when she was caught in a severe storm and struck Finnis Rock on Inis Oírr in March 1960. The crew was rescued from the ship by the Inisheer Rocket Crew. Two weeks later a second storm tossed the ship onto the rocky beach. The day the ship washed ashore was like Christmas on the island- all cargo that was salvageable was claimed. Is it true that the first flush toilets on the island were salvaged from the ship?

Mike Tobin of the Plassey crew was back as the Guest of Honour on Inis Oírr for a special night in Aras Éanna in 2010 – the 50th anniversary of the shipwreck. Mike was pleased to see some of his rescue team, including Ruairi O’Conghaile from Tigh Ruairi’s pub and guesthouse.

“About 1954 was my first time on her,” recalled Mike. “It’s kind of sad to be inside in her like this, though.  I was very found of the ‘oul Plassey, because at that stage of my young career at sea, she went to very exotic places. She was in Italy; she was in the Canary Islands, Greece, Iceland, Angora and South Africa. She went from Helsinki over to Leningrad – at that time, its St Petersburg now. We never thought she’d end up in Inis Oírr of all places… but she’s there now…”

Mike brought the Plassey to life with his stories from the night she went down.  “I remember the 8th of March, 1960 like it was yesterday”, said Mike. “We were too far to the north of our course, and closer to the island than we should have been, but we didn’t realise it in the bad night and the wind. We hit the Finnish Rock initially at 10 past 5 in the morning.”

The Plassey’s flare lit up the sky and the islanders were alerted to the danger and immediately ran to the scene with the rescue equipment.

“The first we saw of people on the island was around a quarter to 8 – daybreak, we were very happy to see them!  They had only 3 rockets [to launch the ropes for the Breeches Buoy], they fired the first 2 but the wind was so bad it took them away, and when they fired the next rocket it stuck!  Only for that, that would have went as well, because of the way the wind was blowing.”

Thanks to the islanders’ courage and bravery, the entire crew was brought to shore safely using Breeches Buoy to hoist them in, one man at a time.

“Later, at the tail end of some hurricane, the Plassey was lifted bodily from the position she was in, and shoved up there beyond the hide tide in one fell swoop,” Mike continued. “To think that she was lifted from over there, and she full of water, and pushed up there, it would tell you the force of the seas that was around here at the time.”

Mike was asked to demonstrate how to use the Breeches Buoy.  He had to step into the leggings part which is attached to a lifebuoy. “Well I tell ya, the wind was up me! You had to go over the side of the ship, at the bow, and you went straight down into the water, and you were being turned this way and that way, and then your legs were hitting close to the rocks and then you were going over and under… but that’s how we got out!”

“Were you frightened, Mike?” someone asked.  “Yes”, said Mike.  “I don’t think anyone had to wash shorts after that, I think they were all thrown away.”

Words: irelandfamilyvacations.com and www.doolin2aranferries.com. Image: JesseJames.

Inis Oírr – A Reflection, Ivan McMahon

The Aran Islands have been a source of inspiration to artists for generations. One of the first people to photograph them was John Millington Synge whose images, made around the turn of the 20th century, centred on the islanders and their daily lives. More recently, in 2007, Irish painter Sean Scully produced his exhibition and book Walls of Aran, which focused on the iconic and timeless dry stone walls that criss-cross the islands.

 Film-maker and photographer Ivan McMahon has created a series of photograph which comprise striking black and white landscapes of Inis Oírr. McMahon’s photographs are closer to the work of Scully than Synge but have their own potent and distinctive visual stamp. They might more accurately be described as rockscapes rather than landscapes as McMahon explores the tones and textures of rock formations that have been shaped and sculpted for millennia by sea, weather, and time.

McMahon has titled all his images after deities and figures from Irish mythology.  He is interested in natural, rather than man-made, structures though ‘Na Sídh’ presents a dramatic interplay between the two as hulking, fissured slabs of cliff are sandwiched between low rocky walls at the top and bottom of the image. Elsewhere, natural forms seem to echo man made ones as in ‘Dagda’ which suggests ancient castellated battlements, or perhaps the prow of a mighty stone ship projecting outward toward the sea.

The catalogue carries two resonant quotations about the work; from The Iliad there is ‘Gods are hard for mortals to recognise’ and from renowned French photographer Robert Doisneau there is ‘To suggest is to create; to describe is to destroy’.


 Inis Oírr – A Reflection (Ivan McMahon photographs) exhibition runs at the Town Hall Theatre bar in Galway throughout January 2018.

I am watching you – are you watching yourself in me?

JesseJames Inis Oirr Inisheer Zibaldone Napolenic Look Out TowerLR

It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. I am watching you – are you watching yourself in me?

Words: Lawrence Durrell, Spirit Of Place: Letters And Essays On Travel. Image: JesseJames.

The Aran Islands are all awash

From Connemara, or the Moher clifftop,

Where the land ends with a sheer drop,

You can see three stepping stones out of Europe.

Anchored like hulls at the dim horizon

Against the winds’ and the waves’s explosion.

That Aran Islands are all awash.

Coastline’s furled in the foam’s white sash.

The clouds melt over them like slush.

And on Galway Bay, between shore and pier,

The ferry plunges to Inis Oírr.

Elizabeth Rivers Stranger in Aran

Words: Seamus Heaney The Evening Land (adapted). Image: Elizabeth Rivers, Stranger in Aran (1946).



A new stock of porter

A new stock of porter was brought in this morning to the little public house underneath my room and I could hear in the intervals of our talk that a number of men had come in to treat some neighbours from the middle island, and singing many songs, some of them in English of the kind I have given, but most of them in Irish. A little later when the party broke downstairs, my old men got nervous about the fairies – they live some distance away – and set off across the sand hills – JM Synge, The Aran Islands (1906).

A ghost from Christmas Past

RTÉ  released a magical seasonal treasure from the Archives. The short film was first broadcast as a segment on the programme ‘Davis at Large’ in 1984. Filmed on the smallest of the Gaeltacht Aran Islands, Inis Oírr, it features Saintí’s visit to the island’s children at the local airstrip. Among the children to speak on camera is local singer MacDara Ó Conaola (then 6 years of age).

Notably, the film was the directorial debut of Declan Lowney who went on to direct Moone Boy, Alan Partridge Alpha Papa and Father Ted. The opening titles of this ground breaking satirical comedy feature an aerial view of Inis Oírr and the Plassy ship wreck on the so-called fictional Craggy Island.

Watch the footage of ‘Davis at Large’ 1984 on the RTE Archive at 

Listen to resident Inis Oírr sean nós singer MacDara Ó Conaola recalling Santa’s visit to Inis Oírr in 1984 in an interview with Ryan Tubridy at 

Ghost of Christmas Past