Darrell Figgis first visited Achill in 1912. After acquiring land from the Mission Estate in 1913 he and his wife Millie, built a cottage and made the island his writing retreat. He was already a published writer having made a name for himself in artistic circles in both Dublin and London.
At the time of his arrival there was a group of people central to the cultural life of the island. These people were Francis Power (An Paroach), Claud Chavasse, Eva O’Flaherty, Anita McMahon, Paul Henry and Emily, the founding members of Scoil Acla. Figgis naturally gravitated towards the group and can be credited with the part he played in formation of the summer school.
At the time the political situation was heating up and some of the Scoil Acla members were getting involved. Emily, Anita McMahon and Eva O’Flaherty, were all members of the newly formed Cumann na mBan (The Irishwomen’s Council). Claud Chavasse was heavily involved in Nationalist circles as were the students that attended Scoil Acla such as Margot and Cesca Trench and Diarmuid Coffey. Figgis was naturally drawn in too.
November 1913 saw the formation The Irish Volunteers, which Figgis joined and was appointed to drill the Achill Battalion. He used to drill them on the beach and is still talked about to this day. Local ledgend tells of him spending a lot of time in Annagh (a remote area on the west coast of Achill), where he drew inspiration from particularly for his poetry but, it was also an ideal place to hide arms.
John Twin McNamara, Achill historian
Edward King, Achill
Chenevix Trench, Frances Georgiana, and Hilary Pyle. Cesca’s Diary, 1913-1916: Where Art and Nationalism Meet. Dublin: Woodfield Press, 2005.