The Irish Boycott

Christmas Miscellany 2010

The preservation and the teaching of the Irish language has often provoked a passionate defence, no more so than on the island of Tawin. At the beginning of the last century a fierce row erupted when local people felt that Irish was not being taught in their local school, and took matters into their own hands. Children were kept away from the school, and money was raised to have them taught separately in their own language. It became a cause celibre attracting the support of such nationalist figures as Roger Casement. The story has been well told by Nollaig Mac Congáil in the current issue of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society (Volume 62 ) which I will come back to next year.

Meanwhile the fever that the row created boiled over, with Irish language supporters criticising all and sundry. This irate letter appeared in the Tuam Herald in January 1909, and takes a swipe at Galway university:

To the Editor of the Tuam Herald:

Is it not a shame and an insult, that while the tongues of Pagan Greece and Rome, and Modern Pagan France will be honoured in the new University intended for the Catholics of Ireland, that the National Language of Ireland which, under God, saved Ireland for the Catholic Church, is to be treated as if it were the language of some wretched tribe inhabiting a West African swamp! Yet, if rumour be but true, this is how a majority of Senators intend treating our National tongue in the new University.

Men and women of North Galway, have you no pride and spirit left, to resent this injury! Have you become like unto a much-belaboured ass, to which an additional blow is a matter of small concern. Evidently so, in the opinion of those wise and learned Senators, who in their wisdom intend providing you with foreign thistles to eat, instead of succulent Irish grass...

Latin, Greek and Yiddish, Saxon, French and Finnish - All are taught here but Irish Gaelic

The Tuam Herald (30/1/1909 )

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