I kinda hated Irish in school, I mean, who the hell didn’t? It was only going to be of any use to anyone if you were going to end up being a teacher or work in a government office or county council.
A few months ago, I was channel surfing and skimmed through BBC Alba. As I was speeding through, some familiar words stopped me in my tracks. I read the subtitles to fill in the blanks in what was a really strange experience. I knew the majority words they spoke, there was nothing over the top, except that some words were pronounced differently. I was now watching a ‘Learn Gaelic in easy steps’ kinda show.
This is all the weirder as it happened in South East London, where I’ve been living. I set up a series record with all good intentions of watching and getting into the Scots gaelic but as with lots of things, good intentions, not enough time or willingness to sit and learn another dialect of our native tongue.
My Irish is pretty dire, the last time I spoke Irish, I think, was on DCUfm during Seachtain na Gaeilge. I remember Eddie Caffrey on LMFM always introducing the Green Scene in Irish and remembered his words ‘Failte go dti an clár, An Radharc Glas’. I thought I should give it a go and see how it went. Not too bad I think. There were no complaints anyway.
That was probably 2010 I’d say.
Little did I think, that, by some strange occurrence, I would be speaking Irish, albeit broken pigeon Irish, in an office, in a media company in Westminster, London, on a daily basis. Yup, you heard it, táim ag caint as Gaeilge gach lá i Londain.
When I started working here, there were two of us Irish here on a daily basis. There’s now a few more Irish, from both sides of the border. Three of us definitely learned Irish in school.
One of our colleagues loves language. Rob studied the classics and it’s actually kinda fascinating to hear him speak about the origins of words, language, where it all came from. All this started by Rob asking how to say hello.
I have to mention Starra here. Starra is pretty fluent in the auld tongue. As Rob was asking ‘how do you say…’ we started using Irish words, cupla focail nuair a muid ag caint.
It was partly to wind Rob up to as he hadn’t a clue what we were saying. I ran out of Irish words on numerous occasions only to swap the words I was missing with French words from my vocab. If I seriously fecked up, Starra would very politely tell me the correct word or phrase to use and off we go again with our little club as caint as Gaeilge.
This has been going on a few weeks now, but Rob is leaving today. We’ll have no one to act as an inbetween. When he comes with a little ‘Irish poem Starra told me’ and it’s ‘Leigh anois go curamch ar do scruidphapeir… ‘ I burst out laughing and send a line or two back as he finds out what each means.
We’re using Irish in a way that was never used in school, having a laugh. Jeez, can you imagine poor Peig Sayers and her beloved tea leaved stuffed pipe chatting in Westminster. It’s a long way from a wind swept island off the coast of Kerry.
If we had to learn Irish in school in a more relaxed fun way, sure we’d be speaking it all the time. Instead, it’s hammered in that this is something you have to know, automatically hitting the rebel button in every teenage brain.
We’re having a laugh, trying to tell each other what we did the night before and all the ska of course, as Gaeilge. This is how our language could grow.
Now! Who’s going to get Ros na Run on London Live?
*apologies for lack of fadas and spelling mistakes.. I am trying!
Image of Peig from here