Celtic Illumination, part 106, Flashback dha, an Ghaeltacht
Forgive me, but once again I saw something the other day that I wanted to share with you, the Illuminati. I know you all desperately want to learn about the life and times of the world’s leading Master Candle Maker, The Chief of The Clan O Neill and the true King of Ireland. Whether you want to learn so that you can improve your own lives, or torture your children, to ensure they turn out like me, I don’t know, but if we are going to undertake this journey then let us not leave one stone unturned.
I briefly alluded to the Gaeltacht, part 21, George Bernard Shaw, Debrett’s and the Gaeltacht, now I would like to tell you a little more about it. The Gaeltacht is not just a place you send your children to so that they can be punished. Many people of my generation talk about being sent away to areas of Ireland where they were not allowed to speak English. The local shops would not serve you unless you spoke in Irish. You lived with a local family and they wouldn’t communicate with you unless you spoke Irish. In fact it was quiet a rudimentary method of trying to get us to speak Irish, by not speaking anything else.
I attended numerous Gaeltachts. Most were in Donegal. Normally three or four boys would lodge with a local family. The Gaeltacht School would be centred in a local village, with the village hall acting as the focal point. Every morning we would wander in, mixing with other groups and meeting boys, and girls, from all over the North. We had little free time. We would study the Irish language, through poetry and literature, we would learn songs and in the evenings, dance.
For young fellows like myself, who had been released from the all-male environment of Violent Hell, it was a fantastic experience and we fell in love with a different young girl on a daily basis. Every evening we would have the ceilidh beaga, the small ceilidh. The music would be provided by one fellow on an accordion and one on a fiddle. During these sessions we would learn the various steps associated with different dances. On the Saturday evening we would have the ceilidh mor, the big ceilidh, this would see the addition of a drummer to the local orchestra. Here we would stomp our way through the dances we had learned, and to tell you the truth, it was fun.
Most of the evenings were the same and it was great sport dancing away the evening and then wandering home, dreaming of the love of your life, for that day. Many of us were budding young smokers, so great care was taken in learning pronunciation of the phrases associated with buying cigarettes. The more linguistically adventurous would actually try to buy beer.
One summer we had a wizard of an idea. We decided to send the Dean at Violent Hell a postcard. On that postcard we wrote every conceivable swear word that we could think of. We posted it to him, thinking that the man would be going out of his head wondering who could have sent him this vile and repulsive thing. Of course we were so clever we knew nothing at all about postmarks. On our return to Violent Hell we were shocked and embarrassed to have the Dean thank us for our card. Perhaps our first introduction to sarcasm.
A new type of Gaeltacht opened and I was sent to the priory at Benburb. I actually think that this was an attempt to modernise the Gaeltacht and in a way I suppose it was successful. It was an environment in which I was comfortable; however unlike the Donegal Gaeltachts we were given a certain amount of freedom. I remember a reporter from the Belfast Telegraph came down to write a report on the venture. We were all formed up in a group for the standard photograph. I was holding a basketball and someone behind asked me to throw it to them. I did. I had misgauged either my strength or the distance he was away from me, or both, for the ball sailed through the large kitchen window and showered the monk, who was peeling the potatoes for that evening meal, with glass. I was a popular boy that day.
My most memorable days would have been when I was on my own, I know, I know, surrounded by gaggles of gorgeous, giggling, young girls and I was content to stand on my own. I wasn’t weird or anything, I didn’t stand in the quadrangle and read a breviary. I stood in the Blackwater River fishing. It was perfect. I felt so at home just standing in that river surrounded by all the trees and wildlife.
There was a connection that I wouldn’t realise until much later in life. Some of the Illuminati will be saying ‘ah yes, he’s standing in the river, and on mountain rescue he spent so much time in rivers, that must be the connection.’
Well no, I’m sorry but that is not the connection. Benburb is not a town, nor a village; in fact it is a hamlet. However it has a castle which I was drawn to and where I felt quite comfortable, climbing the ruined turrets and sitting on the top, looking out over the surrounding countryside. Little did I know that I was in Country Tyrone, O Neill country. Little did I know that Benburb Castle was the site where Owen Roe O Neil had won an impressive victory for Ireland at the battle of Benburb in 1646. My ancestors were reaching out to me and drawing me back to my country, my county, my castle.
So when I saw this video I knew that I would just have to share it with you. In this day and age there is a great resurgence in learning the Irish language and there would appear to be someone with a bit of sense organising the Gaeltachts so that they should produce many more children who take an interest in their own language. When I first saw the video attached to this blog, not only did I think that the lead singer had a fantastic voice, but that the back room people were doing a wonderful job. The British put a lot of time and effort into trying to wipe out the Irish way of life, but the Irish are a stubborn lot and only trust their own. So before listening to people who are happy to say that Irish is a dead language, and what’s the point of learning it sure don’t we all speak English, I would refer to one of our own, Padraig Pearse who said, ‘Tír gan teanga tír gan anam.’ A country without a language, is a country without a soul.