As 2013 draws to a close, it’s hard to forget the memories that we made during our visit to Inis Meàin in Jan-June this year. It is an experience we will never forget. When I read Elisabeth’s blog post this morning, An claí briste (The broken wall), it reminded me again that the stones of Inis Meàin are a quiet and strong part of the island’s identity. It’s not really possible not to be affected by them. You see them every day when you live there, they define the various fields, roads, houses and buildings, they screen you from the wind, they are movable, despite their heaviness.
On our first day on the island, back in June 2012, when we came to visit for the first time, the scene before us of rocks, rocks, rocks was breathtaking. Little did we know on that day that we’d be back for a further six months the following year. Our short 2 day visit in 2012 set us up for an adventure in 2013 that we are so glad we made.
Firstly, we were fascinated by the way the people and animals of the island used the stones … for herding and housing cows … stones were removed from walls to allow the cows to move from one field to the next.
The stones provide shelter from the wind for the animals.
The stones of Inis Meàin have been used for centuries to mark the death of family and friends’ gravestones and to build the churches, including both flat gravestones and the more recent upright crosses and gravestones. When we first visited the churchyards of Inis Meàin, we found the experience very moving. When we visited the graves after we had been on the island for a few months, they looked different because we came to know many of the people on the island whose families were buried in these cemeteries. The family names on the stones became recognisable.
We also came to appreciate the stones just for their presence. They are with you every day on the island, as company, as shelter and as a constant reminder of the limestone beneath our feet. They change colour at various stages of the day, whether they are wet or dry.
The stones of Inis Meàin are definitely a lovely part of our memories of living on the island. We’re looking forward to returning to the island one day to refresh our memories.
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