Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann

Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann

The folklore of Árainn collected by islanders

This digital repository features the folklore of Árainn, the largest of the three Aran Islands. Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann (the Folklore of Árainn Collection) is the only major collection of the island's folklore ever to have been collected by islanders themselves. Amid the array of collections of Árainn folklore created since the nineteenth century, it is remarkable that a collection made by islanders and for islanders should emerge. This collection contains a wealth of speech, sayings, and traditions that has since passed from local memory.

In recent years, those seeking to access Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann have been supported on an ad hoc basis by islanders volunteering to help; for instance, information and photographs were supplied to the University of Galway exhibition on the island poet Máirtín Ó Direáin. With the present initiative, Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann is being placed on a more permanent and more sustainable footing. As a stand-alone website hosted on the parent website dú, users can engage with a specially designed resource showcasing Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann. This new platform generates access to the collection not only for the people of Árainn near and far but also for people interested in folklore, history, traditions, and culture. The collection can now serve scholars, artists, and the public more easily and in an appropriate manner.

This online resource shares a selection of material from the original collection, a selection specially curated for this website. This new initiative by Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann helps us to preserve and cultivate our island's heritage through making it available in the digital environment upon which our youth now rely. By highlighting folklore that does not occur in other archives, we are also enhancing the reputation of the heritage of Árainn.

Bairbre Uí Chonaill and Mary Tim Uí Iarnáin charting placenames in Bun Gabhla, Árainn.

Women at work: Bairbre Uí Chonaill and Mary Tim Uí Iarnáin charting placenames in Bun Gabhla, Árainn. Photographer: Neil Warner. BBÁ.

Those who have digital devices, computers or smartphones, anywhere in the world now have sustainable access to an attractive, bilingual resource for the folklore of Árainn. Hosted online alongside the riches of the National Folklore Collection, Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann is guaranteed discoverability and recognition as a repository of national and international significance.

History of the Collection

In 1994, a FÁS training scheme brought together a group of women that adopted the name Mná Fiontracha (Enterprising Women). We observed that a wealth of island folklore had remained uncollected and that we ourselves would be well capable of attempting to collect it. We named our initiative Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann and launched it on 23 October 2000 in Fearann an Choirce in Árainn.

We recorded various islanders as well as community occasions. We took new photographs and scanned old ones to produce digital surrogates. We created maps identifying local placenames. We generated and collected paper material too, including publications, relating to the heritage of Árainn.

Our initial efforts in the realm of publishing included a 2002 booklet of prayers, Paidreacha, collected from elderly islanders, a booklet of stories relating to Christmas long ago titled An Nollaig Mar a Bhí, and a 2003 calendar. In September 2003 we published the book Árainn: Cosáin an tSaoil featuring maps naming roads, wells, hills, and owners of dwellings in each one of the fourteen settlements in Árainn. Shortly after, in 2004 we published Ár nOileán: Tuile 's Trá, a book featuring a wealth of photographs along with various articles on the history and folklore of the island. This publication was supported by a 2004 publication scheme grant from the Heritage Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Department of Community and Gaeltacht Affairs, the community organisation Cumas Teo., and Galway County Council.

Both Mná Fiontracha and Bailiúchán Béaloideas Árann have won a variety of awards. In 2003, Galway County Heritage Office awarded them Gradam Oidhreachta Cheantar Chonamara (the Connemara Region Heritage Award) funded by Bord Gáis. In 2005, with the support of Colmcille, Mná Fiontracha visited the Inner Hebrides in Scotland to investigate a range of initiatives relating to the folklore and heritage of those islands.

Máire and Áine Pheaits Bheairtlín, recording an interview in the classroom of the now closed Scoil an Cheathrar Álainn in Fearann an Choirce, Árann.

The Ní Iarnáin sisters, Máire and Áine Pheaits Bheairtlín, recording an interview in the classroom of the now closed Scoil an Cheathrar Álainn in Fearann an Choirce, Árann. Courtesy of Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann.

A New Life for the Collection

Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann is committed to seeing our island community have its own dedicated archive established on the island. In the meantime, we are embracing the power of digital technology to ensure the life and future of the collection. Here, in partnership with Gaois, Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge at DCU, we offer a digital resource for this unique heritage collection, a resource that is freely available on an internationally recognised platform, dú The National Folklore Collection has committed to the long-term preservation needs of the original material.

From the very beginning, our methodology has been guided by professional advice from folklorists, archivists, and scholars. We migrated digital files from old hard drives and we preserved paper material, photographs, and maps to support the digital material and prepare for its development. We embarked on data input and the revision of metadata; digital indexing; preparing metadata for ingest; parsing and data-cleaning; and editing and organising material for the online resource. We also prepared and designed this website in partnership with the team at Gaois, Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge, DCU. Continual research has ensured the accurate contextualization of this community collection.

When Bailiúchán Béaloidis Árann was founded, it had two primary objectives: to preserve our island folklore for future generations of islanders; and that the island's folklore would be accessible on the island itself. Our digital methodology enables us to combine these two objectives to our satisfaction and delight. Anywhere in the world, the people of Árainn can easily access their own heritage, and such cultural riches can also impact the huge numbers of tourists visiting Árainn each year. In placing our heritage on an international stage, this new resource inspires our community and strengthens efforts to celebrate and cultivate our culture.