A Wet Day - 12th Nov. 1949


A Wet Day: Text Version

12th November 1949


From time to time I have referred in this column to An Club Leabhar, the Gaelic Book Club. Members of the Club subscribe £1 annually, for which they receive, during the ensuing twelve months, newly published Irish books to the value of 25 shillings. The Club has just completed its first year of existence, with a membership of slightly over 1,100. During the year members received the following books:- "An Teach nar Togadh" (Maire); "An Braon Broghach" (Martin O Cadhain); "Or na hAitinne" (Tomas Bairead): "Mo Dhuthaigh Fhiain" (Sean Mac Giollarnath); "An Bealach chun a' Bhearnais" (Tarlach O hUid). Eleven hundred copies of each of these new books went to the Club members. Undoubtedly, further copies were purchased in the book shops by non-Club members. So was history made. Never before did the sales of books in Irish – apart from school texts – reach so high a figure, and all the credit for this welcome change must go to An Club Leabhar.


At last, writers in Irish have found a public. The author whose book, because of its outstanding merit, is selected by the Club, knows that he is no longer a voice crying in the wilderness. Publishers, always reluctant to accept books in Irish for publication are now willing to do so, in the hope that they may be selected by the Book Club. I think it would be no exaggeration to say that the foundation of An Club Leabhar was one of the very best things ever done for the revival of Irish. It is something that all who desire the welfare of our national language should be proud of, something that should give them hope. Not a few internationally famous Irish authors, whose medium is English, are capable of writing in Irish, and might have written in that language if An Club Leabhar had been in existence earlier to assure them of a public. If Frank O'Connor, Liam O'Flaherty and Sean O Faolain had made Irish their medium the language might not be so neglected to-day.


If we fail the Club Leabhar now we may be striking Irish its blow. Last year the Club had 1,100 members; this year it seeks 2,000. Is it not sad to relate, however, that in Limerick City and County it could muster but a bare forty members! Why, I thought, every friend of the Irish language would have gladly hastened to become a member. What of this year? The Club is now enrolling members for its second year. Are you going to fail it again? Remember, if you do, you may never again get an opportunity of doing so much for the language you profess to love. I am appealing to you, as I never appealed before, to join An Club Leabhar. A Ghaeilgeoiri Luimnighe, na teip ar an nGaeilg an turas so!


Prove to all that Limerick has more than forty people interested in the welfare of Irish literature. Send your subscription of £1 to-day to:- Runnai, An Club Leabhar, 29 Sr. O Conaill, Ioch, Baile Atha Cliath. Or, if you wish, send your subscription to me and I will forward it for you. Make your cheques or P.O.s payable to An Club Leabhar. I shall look forward to hearing from you, a chara na teangan; and shall let you all know later how the appeal I have made to-day has been answered.


This has been a wet day, with shower chasing shower, so swiftly, that in the end they caught up with one another and gave us an evening's rain. At first a weakly sun made feeble attempts to shine, but its efforts were short-lived, for from the West, rising up out of the inexhaustible trough of the far-off Atlantic, came grey moisture-laden clouds, quenching the light of day, devouring distant hill-tops, and sharp sleety arrows at all mortals who happened to be abroad; icy arrows that stung ears and nose and eyes, that broke on the window panes, that shot leaves of gold and green and brown off the trees. The Winter invasion had begun; his advance guards were fighting their way forward, coldly, fiercely, relentlessly; and the bright standards of autumn were falling in the dust.


A wet day completely damps the spirit. Only at the end of a long destructive period of drought does anybody welcome it. But a wet Sunday is the last straw. You set out for Mass muffled and covered like an Arctic explorer. You have to peel off all this onion-like covering before you go into the Church, and wind it round you again when you come out. You arrive home cold, wet and miserable, at war with the world. For the rest of the day you can do nothing but sit inside and listen to the sighing wind, or look out the window at the grey weeping skies that, as someone with the imagination of a poet once said, "like hooded friars, tell their beads in drops of rain." The depressing monotony is broken only when a sudden gust rattles the window panes or stirs suddenly among the bushes.


Months of work can be brought to nought by a wet day. The Feis so long in preparation, the hurling match, the races, the carnival, the rural concert, they can overcome almost any obstacle – except a rainy day. Even one wet day can destroy our dearest plans. After all, forty wet days once destroyed the world. That thought, alone, can give us comfort, as we sit each in his or her own family Ark, while the rain pours down outside; for was it not promised that we shall not perish again that way? Have we not seen the seven-hued seal on the eternal parchment of the sky, to remind us of an ancient Covenant between God and man?


Cad e an rud is mo a chireann bron orainn nuair a leighmid stair na hEireann? Easaontas. Easaontas Gael ba chuis le teacht na nGall an chead la riamh; easaontas bas chuis leis an mi-adh is deannai dar bhain dar dtir – an cogadh Cathach cathartha. Ta cuspoir uasal romhainn le baint amach; taimid ar aon intinn fe sin. Ach ni bhainfimid amach e gan comhoirbriu agus aontas. Cuimnighmis gur tabhachtai an cuspoir atha romhainn na dream are bith agus na duine ar bith. Na biodh se ar chumas aon duine a radh indiu an rud a dubhairt file eigin 250 bliain o shoin:

"Is ann do chonnaic me an campa Gaelach,

An dream bocht silte nar chuir le n-a cheile."


From many sources recently, I have heard generous tributes paid to the work of Seadairi na Saoirse in Limerick. The Seadairi are afire with enthusiasm and sincerity. These young people of a young organisation have flung down the challenge to cynics and scoffers; have spoken Irish, and Irish only, at their many public meetings, have organized Irish classes, have founded a monthly paper –- "An Dord." Each member of the Seadairi has agreed to make a personal sacrifice for the language. Quite a number of people from scattered parts -– including one from the U.S.A. –- having seen references to the Seadairi in these notes, have written to me for information about them. On next Saturday, November 12th, they are having a flag day. I think they are worthy of your support.


Where in Limerick did Irish longest as the spoken tongue of the people? In the coming weeks I hope to show you, by quoting extracts from accounts received from readers who took part in a recent competition.

Domhnall de Gras, of Garrydoolis, Pallasgreen collected 260 Irish words in everyday use in conversation in his native district, and when forwarding them wrote: "The following is a list of Irish words which are still used in conversation in this district. I often heard my father say that in his young days, if any old neighbour called in, the old people would carry on their conversation in Irish, so that the young people wouldn't know what they were saying. He died, aged 73, in March, 1919.


M. J. Moloney, of Fedamore, sent me 200 Irish words still used there. He wrote: "I can trace no Irish speakers here. The only thing I could discover is that two old men (dead 20 years) used always say their prayers in Irish."

Further news of Irish in Fedamore came from P. J. Lynch, Ballynagarde, Ballyneety. In his letter he says: "When I was a boy I knew three old women who lived at Arywee, Fedamore. Their names were Mrs. Harty, Mrs. Roche and Mrs. Hickey. They lived within a hundred yards of one another, and when they wanted to have their chat in company with the younger generation, not one word of English would they speak. I remember the late Seoirse Clancy, our murdered Mayor, when at home on holidays, coming to them and speaking and learning their Irish. As far as I know their pronunciation of some words was different to his. They were delighted when he came amongst them and never tired of praising him. By the way, they were illiterate, and lived to the age of 84 or 86 years. They are gone home since about 1915.


From Hospital Maire Ni Laoghaire sent 250 Irish words current in the district, and said: "Bhi Gaeilg ag mo shean athair a's mo shean mhathair. Fuaireadar bas nuair a bhios og." ("My grand-father and grand-mother had Irish –- they died when I was young.")

You will read many accounts like these from many parts of the county in the weeks to come, D.V., as we tell the story of Limerick's vanished Gaeltacht. And if your district is not mentioned, and if you could tell us something about it, please send on whatever information you have

(To be continued).


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