Arranmore / Árainn Mhór (pop. 600) lies 5 km/3 miles off the coast of the port of Burtonport, County Donegal and can be reached by the ferry which operates from Burtonport daily.
At seven square miles in size, the island is the biggest of the Donegal islands and the second biggest inhabited island of Ireland.
Before the Flight of the Earls at the start of the C17th, the island was controlled by the O’Donnell Clan (of Donegal Castle) and was known as Ára Uí Dhomhnaill which means in English “O’Donnell’s Aran”.
During the C17th Plantation of Ulster in the the island was granted to Lord Conyngham as was much of west Donegal at that time. It was during his ownership of the island, a place he never once visited it must be noted, many of the people of the island were forced to leave their homes starving as they were because of the Irish Famine. Many died on the island, many in the poorhouse in Glenites and many aboard ships to America and Canada.
Many of the islanders who managed the journey of emigration ended up on Beaver Island with whom Arranmore is now twinned.
Arranmore Island is twinned with Beaver Island, USA. At Lough Thoir on Arranmore there is a Memorial erected commemorating the connection with Arranmore and Beaver Island
At the roadside opposite the Memorial there is a beautiful hand made stone Marian Shrine commemorating the Arranmore people who left the island to emigrate. The sign beside the Marian Shrine reads:
“Emigration has been part of life for the people of Arranmore Island for hundreds of years. Many who made the journey across the Atlantic settled on Beaver Island in the Great Lakes of the U.S.A. Of the 881 residents in 1880, there were 141 Gallaghers, 123 Boyles, and 90 O’Donnells recorded in the Census. Strong links are retained today between the people of the two islands.
The memorial at this site commemorates these links”
Nearby is a rather amusing sign which points out to the Atlantic and informs the reader that Beaver Island is 2750.