A drop of Irish: Calling to the bar is for warriors with a lot of bottle

    Dan Brennan, second from right, with, from left, fellow linguists Mary Fitzpatrick, Christina Warner and Lucy Ryan

    By Jimmy Rhatigan

    Pic: Martin Doheny

    IT STARTED out as what the lads and lassies might call a Siopa Beag Caint.

    It took pride in being classified as a Pop Up Gaeltacht, no poor relation of the real thing, but an exact flavour of how native speakers get their message across.

    Once you spoke as Gaeilge, you were assured of a bualadh bos and lots of encouragement.

    You were certain to get a nod or a wink or perhaps a grin as wide as our elegant River Nore at John’s Bridge in the city..

    A local group of aficionados of our native tongue, some with fluent Irish, others with decent speaking ability and some who would thrive under the banner of rookies became a band of brothers and sisters in Irish.

    At first the local men and women determined to promote spoken Irish met up at sporadic meetings, some planned, others that simply happened at a local pub or the Home Rule Club, John’s Quay.

    Dia is Muire Dhíbh was a familiar opening line. Slán agus beannacht was so often uttered after a few rounds of porter, a cappuccino or jugs of tap water.

    The cúpla focail Gaeilge quickly grew to a lán focail. And the spark for a new movement, language volunteers, leaders too, was lit at the Education Centre, Callan Road where múinteoirí, present and retired, gave their services free.

    The latter passed on the vernacular to willing warriors who in their own school days at Kilkenny CBS, St Kieran’s College or Presentation Convent didn’t pay enough attention to Irish teacher.

    Dan Brennan, a former CBS lad, is the leader of the pack. With his worthy crew of literati and others of note, he talks Irish to beat the band from 8pm to 10.30pm gach Dé Luain.

    Someone’s brainchild deemed that one night should become five in a row, Monday to Thursday inclusive, with a seisiún ceól on Dé hAoine.

    Fire and a smidgen of Gaeilge in their bellies

    Fellows as Gaeilge, Eoghan O’Neill, Michael Casey and Frank Marshall

    Pic: Martin Doheny

    Dates for your diary are November 12 to 16. The marathon talk-in will be at the Home Rule and the message is that beidh fáilte roimh chách.

    The somewhat regular Monday night attendance is eight hardy souls. Sometimes there are four only loyal chatters.

    There is no agenda, whatever topic crops up gets an airing.

    The meetings are never held behind closed doors. The motto is transparency at an open house céad míle fáilte in the bar.

    People have joined spontaneously. And Dan assures that everyone is warmly welcomed no matter what level of Irish they have.

    Only rule is that they must be able to speak a bit of Irish, not with any great fluency but with a good dollop of passion and  pride.

    It is certainly not an elitist group, it is stressed.  Everybody helps everybody else.

    The Education Centre  will again be the focus next February to coincide with Seachtain na Gaeilge.

    A repeat of last year’s  course will help people to improve their Irish.

    “ Most people cannot afford to go to the Gaeltachht. So we decided to bring the Gaeltacht to them,” Dan Brennan told The Reporter.

    “Our aim is to attract more enthusiasts, to make the group bigger so that we will have more consistent numbers on Monday nights.

    “Not everyone can go every Monday, that’s understandable, many have work and family commitments.

    “But like the hurling club with a strong squad, we can be assured of a full team if we can muster more  people with fire and a smidgen of Gaeilge in their bellies.

    “We are happy with the way our project is going. But there is no use resting on our laurels. We must strive to improve all the time.”

    The Gaelgoirí have no leanings towards being legal eagles.

    But they are always proud to be called to bar to progress their cúpla focail.