In true Adam ruins everything style it is time to address some facts about Aran Sweaters that should be known. Nothing that is going to be written here lessens the brilliance of an Aran sweater or the ingenuity of the ladies that knitted them, by hand, for the fishermen folk of the islands. However there is a danger that the reality may well become separated from the truth and in this day and age we need to reinforce that more than ever.
Exit the plane in Dublin International and you will be assaulted by the many shops selling images and cultural icons of modern Ireland. Amongst the Shamrocks, Leprechauns and Guinness you will find the Aran Sweater, a typical piece of Irish clothing. However, this item of clothing, as beautiful and skillful as they are, are not a part of ancient Irish history as they might be portrayed. They still represent an essential part of its late 19th Century and Early 20th Century history but Ireland prides, and sells, itself on its past.
The fisherman sweaters are called Geansaí in Irish. This gives us a clue as to the origin of the seaters themselves. The word Geansai or gansey translates as Guernsey. This one of the Channel Islands located in the English Channel. In the late 19th Century the Islands passed on the skills of knitting, under order from the British Government to reduce poverty, to the Aran Islanders so that it would help their economy and provide a protective piece of clothing for the men who went out onto the sea. Some lovely examples are available from Shamrock Gift.