Lainnir a' Bhauirn: The Gleaming Water : Essays on Modern Gaelic Literature

By Emma Dymock; Wilson McLeod | Go to book overview

12
Mother-tongue, father-tongue

Gréagóir Ó Dúill

What I propose to do in this paper is to explain my part in the creation of a new collection of previously unpublished poetry in Scottish Gaelic with face-to-face translations into Irish — Dealbh Athar by Crìsdean MacIlleBhàin (2009).

Firstly, some background. My Irish is learned, as is Crìsdean’s, rather than native. Growing up in Northern Ireland, I had almost no Irish at home, and none at all at the primary school. When I went to secondary school I had the choice of one language of Irish, French and Greek. I chose Irish, largely for reasons of cultural nationalism. That year, a minor IRA campaign began, and — at ten years old — I wanted to stress an Irishness that did not involve violence. My parents, who were from Dublin, and had themselves learned Irish at school, were supportive of my choice, and throughout my teens they somehow found the money to send me to Gaeltacht summer colleges conducted through Irish in the vernacularspeaking areas of Donegal. The fact that Irish is not my maternal language, that I came to it in adolescence, means that I have evolved a deliberate and perhaps wrongheaded loyalty to it, and think that my always weaker grip on it, always liable to slip, has to be guarded consciously and developed unceasingly. My Irish requires constant attention in ways different to the attention I give my English.

I grew up on the Antrim coast, the individual houses of the AyrshireGalloway coast visible on a good day. The dialect of Irish to which I was exposed at school and in the Gaeltacht summer colleges I attended was that of Ulster, the closest to the Gaelic of Scotland in terms of rhythm, cadence, pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax. Irish has been standardised since the middle of the twentieth century in order to deal with the requirements

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