The Irish Language in Carlow Town since 1970            Click here for Irish version

Many people have endeavoured to promote the Irish language in Carlow since the first Glór na nGael committee was established in the town in 1970.

According to the minutes recorded by the secretary, Pádraig P. Ó Drisceoil, ‘Glór na nGael was established in Carlow when Father Tomás Ó Fiaich spoke about the aims and objectives of the competition at a public meeting which was convened in the Royal Hotel on the 27th of April 1970. It was attended by two hundred people, both young and old’. The minutes also provide a description of the spirit and fervour of the committee and the speed with which it did its utmost to win a prize-which it succeeded in doing when Carlow was presented with a Certificate of High Commendation in the National Glór na nGael Competition, 1970.

1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILE Since then many people,hundreds doubtless,year after year have been connected to some extent with the world of the Irish language here in Carlow Town. Sometimes very successfully, sometimes sadly not so.

Moving swiftly along to the year of 1979 and interest in the Irish language in Carlow was very evidently low and the efforts of Irish speakers to impress the ordinary public were largely ineffective. A small group of enthusiasts came together to mount a new attempt for the cause. Among those enthusiasts were Father Caomhín Ó Néill, Deirdre Mhic Bhranáin, Séamas Mac Páirc, Pádraigh Ó Snodaigh and Bríde de Róiste. The vision was to build respect for the Irish language, art and culture generally among the ordinary local people, young and old. It was evident to all that the general attitude to the Irish language in Carlow during the seventies was of a boring school subject that was useless, unimportant and had no function outside the classroom.

It was clear also that it was not worthwhile organising academic occasions and events through Irish as they would not appeal to the general public. It was decided instead to construct a pathway to bilingualism and open the back door to the Irish language in Carlow.

Éigse Cheatharlach ‘79

A weekend of events was organised which would encourage those with very little Irish rather than target the small group of Irish speakers. And thus Éigse Cheatharlach was founded in April 1979. There was an art and craft exhibition, a wine and cheese party, a céilí, a walk, a poetry reading, an outdoor concert, a cultural parade and Father Pádraig Ó Fiannachta on a lorry on the Athy Road to officially open, Éigse ’79! 1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILE

It was an immediate hit with crowds coming out to all the Éigse events from Friday to Sunday. An Irish atmosphere with a new spirit and a positive attidude towards the language could be sensed throughout the town during the whole weekend. For the first time there was a festival in Carlow and, better still, it was organised by Irish speakers. Support for the Éigse festival came from every level of society-the local authorities, local newspaper The Carlow Nationalist, hotels, business people, the schools, the church and the local people. Unconditional generous support for the festival with the strange name - the most common question was “What does Éigse mean?” That was a significant change from the question that had previously been on everyone’s lips-“What use is Irish? Why have it at all?”

Naíonra, Gaelscoil agus Gaelcholáiste

It was evident that a new era was dawning in Carlow in relation to the Irish language. The Glór na nGael committee decided to seize the opportunity and concentrate on the teaching of Irish to young children. That was to begin teaching Irish in a simple, natural way that was fun and enjoyable. Contact was established with the pre-school movement called Comhchoiste Réamhscolaíochta. People such as Aingeal Ó Buachalla, Helen Ó Murchú and Máire Uí Ainín from the Comhchoiste visited and the first Naíonra pre-school was established in Carlow, under the aegis of the Comhchoiste Réamhscolaíochta, in 1980. Our loyal friend, Treasa Uí Thuathail, who passed away on St. Patrick’s Day 1997, was in charge of the pre-school.1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILE

Shortly afterwards, the parents of the children in the Naíonra agreed with the members of the committee that there was an urgent necessity for the establishment of a primary school in Carlow or the effect of the pre-school would be lost. Following a very short campaign, and with the help of the renowned broadcaster, Mícheál O Muircheartaigh , and the County Manager, Mícheál Ó Buadhaigh, Gaelscoil Eoghain Uí Thuairisc was established in September 1982. Throughout its first year, Gaelscoil Cheatharlach consisted of twenty junior infants and teacher/principal Bríde de Róiste . The school grew and developed at an incredible rate with extra pupils, additional teachers and more prefabricated classrooms added year after year. At present 480 pupils, twenty teachers and principal Aingeal Uí Dhálaigh are housed in the fabulous state-of-the-art permanent building which opened in December, 2006 in Ashgrove.

1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILEAs natural as the life of the pupil goes from stage to stage, the Glór na nGael committee quickly realized that the vision for Carlow was incomplete without the choice of second level education through Irish. With the support of Carlow VEC (Vocational Education Committee), CEO Aibhistín de Bhaldraithe and later Sean Ó Caoimh , as well as the assistance of, M.J. Nolan T.D. and the vision of Mary O’Rourke T.D. who was Minister for Education at the time Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach was established on the 1st of September,1990. A small beginning true with just a dozen students, a handful of part time teachers and principal Caitlín Mhic Cárthaigh . Since then Gaelcholaiste Ceatharlach, with a standard of education second to none, has grown to 310 students, a staff of twenty and housed in a beautiful modern building which opened at Askea in November, 2006.

So there were, are and will be fluent speakers for the next generation provided by Naíonra Ceatharlach, Gaelscoil Ceatharlach and Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach.

Irish in the Community

Education is not enough however and, side by side with the development of Irish medium schools, it was also understood that there was a pressing need for the creation of facilities for social life, pastimes and entertainment events to cater for the pupils, their parents, and-most importantly-for those amongst the ordinary public who had no connection with any school. With the assistance of local post-primary Irish teachers, Déaglán Ó Bric, Seán Ó Ceallaigh and Siobhán Uí Roibeárd , Glór na nGael decided to establish a club for the teenagers of the town where they could enjoy each other’s company through the medium of Irish. Déagóirí na Dolmaine was founded, with and for teenagers, and they had great get togethers every Friday and Saturday night. Who would have thought there would be a membership of 200 in the club, and a waiting list. And why? Well, those were the days when there were no part-time jobs for teenagers and they were yet not attracted to the disco or alcohol. Instead Déagóirí na Dolmaine gave the boys and girls an opportunity to meet each other, play board games, prepare sketches and plays for the stage, swing each other during céilí dances such as the Walls of Limerick and Siege of Ennis and go on trips as far away as Connemara. Didn’t they have the life! Wasn’t it worth their while speaking Irish!1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILE

Parents too were very happy because they trusted those in charge of the youth club. The teenagers were enjoying a safe and healthy social life while having the opportunity to improve their Irish. Those were the days alright!

Thirty years ago there was little traditional music heard in Carlow and so it was decided to form a branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann and start up an informal session every Monday night in the Oaklands Hotel . Good traditional musicians were motivated to come out and play in public. Believe it or not, the same session still continues every Monday night in the same hotel which is now known as Ostán Seven Oaks . With informal sessions starting up in many pubs, thanks to some new teachers to town including Dave Sheridan, Seán Ó Loingsigh and Paudge Begley, a weekly Céilí in the Carlow Lodge Hotel organised by Mícheal Mac Eochaidh, along with top class concerts made possible by Andy Whitmore and featuring bands such as Hothouse Flowers, Dé Danann, Altan, Na Casadaigh, Stockton’s Wing and plenty of others, thus sharing the best of Irish music with the local community.1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILE

Support and good will came from each and every section of the community-the business sector, the church, local authorities, teachers and schools. Suddenly the Irish language and everything connected to it had a central position in Carlow-a garrison town that had once been inside the area of the Pale.

And there was national recognition too, not once but twice, in 1982 and again in 1995 when Carlow Town was judged overall winner in the Glór na nGael Competition for the promotion of Irish in the community. What a thrill it was to welcome An tUachtarán Patrick Hillary on the first occasion and An tUachtarán Mary Robinson on the second occasion to present the Awards to Baile Cheatharlach. Who in their wildest dreams would have believed back in 1970, when An tAthair Tomás Ó Fiach spoke at the inaugural meeting of Glór na nGael in the Royal Hotel, that this could be achieved?

There is no doubt but things are looking up as far as the language and all things Irish are concerned in Carlow Town at present. Perhaps it’s easy enough to start off an event but it’s another day’s work entirely to firmly establish all aspects of a movement building on each step and developing from year to year to ensure it has a future and not just some fleeting novelty. Thus it is with An Ghaeilge in Carlow.

While the community may not be as fluent in spoken Irish as one would wish it is nevertheless evident that there is tremendous interest in the language. Recognition of the importance of the language and of Irish culture in general is recognised by clubs, organisations and amongst all sectors of the community.

Local media including The Carlow People, Carlow Nationalist and Kclr96fm, recognises the place of Irish in the community. Promotion and reporting of Irish events and activities is generous while an Irish Colume is published weekly in The Nationalist and a programme through Irish entitled Tobar an Cheantair is broadcast every Wednesday night on the local radio station Kclr96fm. Local authorities and the business sector also support the promotion of Irish in Carlow while Gaeilge Le Chéile , the monthly informal social gatherings ‘as Gaeilge’ in Reddys of Carlow , are extremely popular.

Glór Cheatharlach 2008

Recognition by Foras na Gaeilge of Irish 1982 TÚS NA GAELSCOILEin Carlow through generous funding since 2008 of Glór Cheatharlach enabling the appointment of a full time Irish Development Officer and rental of a public office in the Carlow Gateway Business Centre, Athy Road, has been a great boost. The appointment of Emma Whitmore in April 2008 as Carlow’s first Irish Officer and her achievements to date, in cooperation with Glór Cheatharlach’s dynamic Board of Management, are phenomenal.

Attendance at night classes, organised in association with Gaelchultúr and Emma Whitmorecatering for all levels from absolute beginners to advanced classes, is tremendous while a Diploma Course in Irish is offered by University of Ireland, Galway at Carlow College. Summer Colleges, Summer Camps and Mini-Camps through Irish as well as Irish Week, Éigse Week, Féile an Fhómhair/Autumn Festival and Dreoilín Cheatharlach/Wrenboys all ensure a full programme of Irish and cultural events throughout the year.

Yes friends,it’s obvious that An Ghaeilge could have a healthy future in Carlow Town. Together let’s ensure it does!