“Wonderful Western Islanders” is available to watch on the IFI Player.

“Wonderful Western Islanders,” which is available to watch for free on the IFI Player, depicts the lives of the inhabitants of Aran Mór, one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Co Galway, in 1924.

This short film made about ten years before Flaherty’s epic Man of Aran, is probably the earliest surviving film of the islands. It presents a multi-faceted portrait of island life showing locals going about their daily routines: cattle are tied to a curragh and rowed out to a waiting steamship; islanders are photographed by visitors to the island; island men participate in the game of stone-throwing (“ag caitheamh cloch nirt”).

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A breathtaking sequence shows 4 island men roped together and scaling a rugged cliff face. These men were known as cliffmen and may have been trying to catch birds or steal their eggs. While elders are busy battling the elements and rural life, some children express delight at the visiting camera.

This film is part of The Irish Independence Film Collection – The Early Irish Free State which explores facets of Irish society after the War of Independence and up to the birth of the Irish Republic.

To watch more historic Irish footage, visit the IFI Player, the Irish Film Institute’s virtual viewing room that provides audiences around the globe free, instant access to Irish heritage preserved in the IFI Irish Film Archive. Irish Culture from the last century is reflected through documentaries, animation, adverts, amateur footage, feature films, and much more. You can also download the IFI Player Apps for free on iPhone, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.

The video below is published with thanks to the Irish Film Institute (IFI). You can find all IrishCentral articles and videos from the IFI here.

* Originally published in 2020. Updated in 2023.