UET's The Cripple of Inishmaan

Dramaturgy, updates, production notes, and everything you need to know for life on the Aran Islands.



Hi all - Please make sure you see the entire film - SECRET OF ROAN INISH.  It’s in Dropbox.  Thanks!

RS Lank


CH__ __CH. What’s missing? U R!

In 1926, 92.6% of the Irish population were active and practicing Catholics regular in their duties and obligations.  These included popular devotions such as holy beads, medals, pictures and scapulars.  Merely 60 years before the action of Cripple, these were eagerly embraced after adoption from the contient along with other devotions such as rosaries, blessed altars, vespers, jubilees, shrines, pilgrimages, devotions to the Sacred Heart, and novenas.  At this time, local “Catholic” practices were eradicated or reformed to attain uniformity with Roman Catholic practices.

One explanation for the endurance and popularity of the Catholic Church in Ireland is the similar characteristics of the two - at least as interpreted by the Irish.  They sympathized with the English persecution of Catholic priests during the 17th century while the mass of Irish rural poor likened their supernatural beliefs to Catholic mysticism.  The Church was also attractive to the poor as a provider of opportunities for social advancement: the national church made bishops of priests who were from the whole of society.  Thus becoming a mere priest meant the possibility of future power for peasants despite any initial access to education, influence or affluence .

Catholicism was inescapable in Ireland.  Even Slippy Helen sings in the church choir, loner Babbybobby is unwilling confronted with a Bible, and thinker Billy is lectured the virtues of St. Mary.


Family Matters

Familism, the valuing of family over one’s individual or other social needs, was firmly in place in rural Ireland during the span of Billy Claven’s young life.  This system as it existed in the Irish countryside was extremely patriarchal: the father oversaw all buying and selling of goods and financing.  This was so ensconced that even adult sons were to stay at home when father sold produce in town.  Young sons were cared for only by mother until they had received their first communion at age 7.  At this influential age, boys were adopted into the boys’ club consisting of their father and older brothers, while girls continued learning household skills from their mother until they were offered marriage - typically with the help of a matchmaker who was responsive to the economic needs of the engaged families.

A generational gap was becoming apparent at this time.  Following the 1926 School Compulsory Act (children ages 6-14 required in school), the younger generation was increasingly more likely to be literate than their parents.  This divide was not only intellectual, but also physical:  jobs for rural craftsmen and trademen were fast declining with mass industrialization.  Unlike other European countries, the Irish artisans were unable to put their technical skills to use in the factory and were forced to emigrate to find work.  

Meanwhile the elderly were particularly ruled by traditions.  When an aging couple retired, they moved their belongings from the kitchen, the center of the Irish rural household, to a back room.  This room contained various religious paraphernalia and heirlooms, cultivating a sacred space for the couple’s final years.  However, the intense patriarchy was shown to be preserved as the old retired father still claimed the honorable chair nearest the fire.

Despite the quaint nuclear family presented in Man of Aran (actually composed of locals from disparate families chosen for camera-compatible looks), the characters in the Inishmaan of the play hardly come from wholesome mom-dad-3.5 kids-sheepdog family units; rather each comes from a dysfunctional and/or broken upbringing, lacking proper parents and guidance.


Glossary of Unseen Characters

Jim Finnegan p. 7, 19, 41, 43, 52 59

Jim Finnegan’s daugther p. 7, 19, 41, 43, 52 59

Ray Darcy p. 8, 9, 42

Jack Ellery p. 8, 18, 33, 38, 42, 51, 63

Patty Brennan p. 8, 18, 33, 38, 42, 51, 63

Colman King p. 10

Egg-man p. 6, 11, 14, 42, 51, 66

Aunty Mary p. 13, 57

Farther Barratt p. 14

Poteen-Larry p. 24

Annie p. 27, 28

Donal p. 30, 33

Billy’s Mammy and Daddy: p. 12, 17, 18, 19, 35, 40, 41, 58, 60, 63, 64, 69


Map o’ Ireland

Map o' Ireland

Kerry, county: color-solid olive, specialty-earless sheep

Antrim, county: color-magenta, specialty-green teethed girls

Leenane, village: color-teal, specialty-German fellas (Connemara is a region)

Rosmuck, village: color-teal, speciality-French dentists

Dublin, city: color-seafoam, specialty-coloured fellas and storytellers (second only to JPM)

Lettermore, island just north of Arans: color-teal, specialty-Bible tossing

If the news of earless sheep and and the occasional foreigner in places as far away as Leenane and Dublin is headline news, then surely Inishmaan lacks much in excitement. Besides cat/geese feuds, did ye hear?


Priests, Sex, and Marriage

The brief mention of Priest molestation in the Church might come off as a joke, but it actually might have been fairly common. In the 19th Century Priests were fairly feared, as it was believed they had powers to curse you—and Hell was a huge deal in Irish faith—but by the 20th Century Priests were much more known for molestation. Though the Church only recognizes very few such acts, there are many similar accounts and stories leading to the reputation Irish Priests held throughout Europe during the 20th Century.

While Priests may or may not have been using their powers to abuse, they were also known for being the most radical of all Catholic Priests. They were “deeply critical of the official church” and did not follow many of the practices and laws set out by the Church (Eagelton 89).

Their criticism of the Church was not usually religious in nature, instead it was mostly political. As far as religion, Priests and people in Ireland were known for a tenacious attachment to religion in many aspects of their life. Their variance from the Church instead manifested in acts of defiance surrounding treatment of women, poverty, and sex.

A couple of Irish Priests even made a name for themselves at this time for fighting for the use of contraceptives. Sex was still a very hushed, taboo topic, but early contraceptive sales and the statistics on Irish abortions abroad suggest it was happening a lot—and often outside of marriage. So maybe Jim Finnegan’s daughter sleeps around, but hey, so does everyone else…

It’s entirely possible that much of this extramarital sex was caused by the extremely late marriage ages. People were marrying less and later, the opposite of trends in most other European countries. 75% of men under 35 were unmarried, alongside 55% of women. These high rates made Ireland have the highest percent of unmarried people in the world in the 1930’s. Even more shocking is that 24% of women under 50 were unmarried, so many women were marrying after they already passed their childbearing years. Because of the decline in marriage starting in the 1890’s and rising through WWII, birth rates declined. That, alongside massive emigrations, meant populations were actually shrinking. So you don’t like the people on the Island? That sucks, because new ones aren’t coming anytime soon.


Facts and Figures

Keep in mind:

The population of Inishmaan was only about 250 in the 1930’s, which is half the size of Shanklin Theatre.

Inishmaan is the middle of the three Aran Islands in both size, name, and location. It is only about 1.5 miles wide (think UE to Roberts Stadium) by 2.5 miles long (think UE to the Mall or the Riverfront). 

Scene 1 is mid to late afternoon.

Scene 2 is mid morning the next day.

Scene 3 is mid to late evening.

Keep checking the glossary for terms in your scenes!

Permalink Irish painting of Inishmaan sunset by Barry Looney.