This autumn, our Oifigear Cultair Ghàidhlig Àdhamh Ó Broin ventured west to Ireland as part of CHARTS development of existing Argyll and Ireland Gaelic connections.
Àdhamh Ireland Trip Diary
Gaeltacht Bhéil Feirste
Arriving by ferry in Larne, I went South to West Belfast and the Gaeltacht there, visiting An Cultarlann for a coffee and a look around their bookshop, where everyone was willing to speak Gaelic, a fantastic experience I would recommend for any Gaelic speaker visiting Belfast. While there, I bumped into Domhall MacNèill from Comann na Gàidhlig, who was also heading for the same conference I was in Country Derry.
Canúintí na Gaeilge
That night, I stayed with a friend Ciaran Dunbar in Hilltown, County Down. Ciaran and I were able to have a terrific pan-Gaelic chat about dialect, culture and place names before attending a local traditional music session in the evening. This set my creative juices flowing, and I began thinking about how we could include Ciaran in future knowledge exchanges and dialect-based projects.
The next day, I began my journey to An Càrn in the Sperrins Mountains, an outstanding centre for Gaelic language and culture that includes a primary school, café, shop and conference space. Maolcholaim from Foras na Gaeilge suggested that I come to a series of talks given by Gaelic promotion organisations that were happening that day. This turned out to be enlightening and allowed me to meet people from all across Ulster and hear them speak about what was happening in their communities. I couldn’t resist joining in and speaking about CHARTS and how I am assisting Maolcholaim and others with plans to extend the current Slighe Chaluim Chille (pilgrimage trail) into Argyll.
In the evening, having checked into incredibly comfortable accommodation nearby, I was informed that a fireside event was happening that evening. The event centred on a talk about tunes left in the Sperrins Mountains area in the 18th century and a performance by Aoibheann Ní Dhoibhlin, who played the discussed tunes on a replica harp from the era. The harp created a beautiful and unusual sound which I imagined being played at a concert in Argyll! In my element with the warmth of the fire and the music in the air, I decided I would finish the evening by dishing out a few Scottish Gaelic songs (with one or two from Argyll).
Goistidh na Gàidhlig
The following evening, after a day of relaxation, family history research and walking, I was invited to dinner in Maghera by a friend, Séamus Mac con Midhe, an expert on Gaelic language and culture. Séamus would not hear of me paying the bill and went to settle the bill, only to be told that it had been settled! By who? A stranger who seemingly thoroughly enjoyed hearing our Gaelic spoken loud and proud in the restaurant!
Well, to whoever you are: go raibh míle maith agat!
That same night, I was invited by Maolcholaim to attend a talk and performance in Kilwaughter Village Hall, County Antrim, which once again included local tunes performed by the very same harpist, as well as Gaelic poetry from the area read by Ciaran Ó Maitiú and excerpts in Ulster-Scots by local author Angeline King from her latest book. Afterwards, there was tea, coffee and a helpful discussion, and I collected many contacts for future Gaelic exchanges.
Before I set off on my travels back West, Séamus kindly invited me to attend my first-ever hurling match. Despite not being familiar with the rules, I picked them up quickly and hugely enjoyed the experience, witnessing the SHC final played out between the victorious Slaughtneil and Kevin Lynch’s at Owenbeg.
Taigh-tasgaidh Thìr Chonail
After a lovely drive via Derry City, I arrived at my room in Letterkenny. The next morning I met with Bernadette O’Rourke and Judith McCarthy at Donegal County Museum to work through the ins and outs of borrowing their St Columba Exhibition for a tour of Argyll. The discussion went without a hitch, and CHARTS are now looking forward to welcoming the installation in 2023!
Turas ar Gaeltacht
That afternoon, the final meeting of my trip fell through. After wondering if I would be at a loose end, local pal Gearoid Mac Maghnuis saved me. Gearoid went miles out of his way until late in the evening to show me around the West Coast of County Donegal, relaying the history, dialectical differences and place names of the area as we went, allowing me to develop a deeper sense of what was happening in terms of Gaelic and the arts on the West Coast.
Thun a’ bhàta
Most of my last day was spent travelling across to the ferry in Larne, which allowed me time to reflect on my trip as I traversed the stunning Sperrins Mountains. I was able to squeeze in some Gaelic before departing at a conversation circle in Letterkenny before stopping again at An Cultarlann in Belfast on the way to catch my ferry back to Scotland.
This was a tremendous trip with much to mull over, and it has allowed me to think about how CHARTS could develop future collaborations. I believe a series of fringe events could successfully be set up around a tour of the St Columba exhibition, showcasing the cultural relationship across the Straits of Moyle, which in real terms is that of a single Gaelic people and language, separated only by the proclivities of history.
Another idea would be a project involving the replica of the ancient harp as played by Aoibheann, which was a particularly stimulating piece and could serve as a centre point for a series of pan-Gaelic concerts at Argyll venues.
If you enjoyed reading and would like to get in touch with me and discuss any of these projects or any aspect of my trip, please drop me an email at email@example.com
Gach beannachd air an àm,
Supported by CHARTS, Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Argyll and Bute Counci and Foras na Gaeilge