Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man

I was in Dublin last night in the headquarters of Foras na Gaeilge for the relaunch of An Leabhar Mór, a collection of poetry in Irish and Scots Gaelic and original art work. The book has been billed as a modern Book of Kells and I consider myself very fortunate to have a poem in it. An Leabhar Mór has been out of print for two years but is now published in a new edition by O’Brien Press in Ireland. The Republic’s Minister of the Gaeltacht, Éamon Ó Cuív, did the honours saying that it would make a “bronntanas deas Nollag” (a nice Christmas present). (First mention of Christmas on El Blogador, I think.)

Ó Cuív also made some very interesting observations about developing the links between Irish and Scots Gaelic. He has just returned from a tour of Scotland and the Isle of Man. Indeed, his grandfather, Éamon de Valera, sent a team of folklorists to Man in 1948 to record the last native speakers of Manx. Those records are regarded as being one of the most important collections of Manx and it is surely very fitting that Ó Cuív had the opportunity to commemorate his grandfather’s very far-sighted decision.

Ó Cuív spoke about the common linguistic bonds between Irish and Scots Gaelic and his hopes that those links would be strengthened through the work of Iomairt Cholm Cille (The Colm Cille Iniative) which is now part of the cross-border body, Foras na Gaeilge. It remains to be seen how that hope is realised. Foras na Gaeilge have enough problems trying to promote Irish in Ireland.

Speaking of Irish, there are two Irish-language events worth mentioning. The Imram literature festival has just started in Dublin. Next Tuesday (23rd Sept), in the Winding Stair Bookshop, Lower Ormond Quay, at 6.30pm, a young group of writers will be reading their work. It is always heartening to see young people writing Irish the old fashioned way in this Internet age. I know some of the writers as contributors to the Irish columns in the Irish Times and if their creative work is half as good as their journalism, it should make for a good night. (A full list of Imram events is available at The festival runs until 30rd September.)

Talking of writers – though an established one this time – Doctor Fionntán de Brún from the University of Ulster will be giving a talk in Irish entitled: “1908 agus Bunú Scoil Éanna” (1908 and the founding of St Enda’s) on Friday 26th September at 7pm in the William Conor Lecture Theatre, University of Ulster, York Street, Belfast.

This from the publicity leaflet: “September 1908 saw the initiation of an educational project whose consequences are still recognised throughout Irish society. St Enda’s was founded with the aim of providing a bilingual education for boys but equally set out to reject the type of schooling that cared little for the development of the individual. As the founder of St Enda’s, Pádraig Pearse’s vision prevailed in the mission and ethos of the school. He was not alone in his endeavours, however, as many leading figures in the Irish intelligentsia were to visit the school as part-time lecturers, among them W.B. Yeats, Douglas Hyde, Alice Stopford Green, Alice Milligan, Standish O’Grady and Kuno Meyer. As Irish-medium education enjoys unprecedented success throughout Ireland it is indeed time to reflect on the founding of St Enda’s in this centenary year.”

De Brún is one of the language’s best up and coming intellectuals. He has written a very fine study of the writer, Seosamh Mac Grianna, Seosamh Mac Grianna: an Mhéin Rúin (An Clóchomhar) and published a collection of short stories. I also had the pleasure of hearing him deliver a great lecture at the John Hewitt International Summer School a number of years ago.

The lecture will be followed by an Oíche Airneáil in the The Edge, May’s Meadow, Laganbank Road, Belfast at 9pm and will feature Seán Mac Corraidh, Róise Nic Corraidh, Cathy Potter, Nan Tom Taimín and Meaití Joe Shéamuis. Believe me that is as fine a collection of traditional musicians and singers that you could hope to get anywhere.

Both events will be in Irish. But do not be put off if you are not as fluent as you would like: gabh sa tseans/take a chance and develop (or redevelop) your own link with the language.
(Pictured at An Leabhar Mór: mise mé féin (left); artist Robert Ballagh and poet Gabriel Rosenstock)


Reg said...


My flatmates have been to the Winding Stair restaurant (I presume it is beside/above the bookshop) and have raved about the food there.

I suggest grab a bite.

pol said...

I have eaten there. The food is first class.