Irish language

Missing out on hiking boots and the destruction of the Bank Buildings

PRIMARK INFERNO: The shell of the Bank Buildings in Belfast after a huge fire which started on the roof gutted the whole building, a tragedy for staff, customers and investors alike
Robert McMillen

Go mbeannaí Dia daoibh and a big hello to faithful fans and newbies, you are all welcome to the Bluffer’s Guide to Irish.

Well, the Bluffer had a splendid week, thanks for asking.

He has been building up the kilometres in preparation for a walking trip to Tír na mBascach - the Basque Country/Euskal Herria later this month so bíonn sé ag siúl - he walks a rake of km every day.

He was very sásta leis féin - pleased with himself when he walked from Belfast city centre to IKEA at Holywood Exchange, thinking he was Moses seeing the tír tairngire - the promised land when the big blue building appeared in front of him.

However, a check on the google maps showed he had just walked 5.5 miles when he thought he has just led the Israelites out of Egypt.

Then he went into Decathlon to buy a pair of bróga siúlóireachta - hiking boots but no purchases were made - níor cheannaigh sé a dhath - because he had to be back at work to do an agallamh - an interview for Raidió na Gaeltachta about an tine mhór - the big fire in the Bank Buildings and the Primark store it has been home to since 1979.

As happens nowadays, the Bluffer first got word of the awful events from twitter.

He was in the Falls library at the time and decided to walk it down the Shankill Road - that would be an ecumenical matter - and was shocked to see an toit - the smoke rising into the sky.

By the time he got to Royal Avenue, ba léir an lomscrios - the utter ruin was obvious as the building became a caor thine - an inferno.

Tógadh Foirgnimh na Baince - The Bank Buildings were built in 1785, so it was around when na hÉireannaigh Aontaithe - the United Irishmen were planning to unite Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter; when Henry Joy McCracken went hiding from the Redcoats in Kelly’s Cellars just up the street; it lived through an Gorta Mór - the Great Famine, an Chéad Chogadh Domhanda - the First World War; the 1941 Blitz and all the ructions that the city has endured over 233 years.

That night, there was a weird atmosphere in the city centre, with people gathering round to stare at the lovely old building now in ruins.

The brón - sorrow in the air mixed with the smoke as people looked on, partly in grief at the destruction and partly in fear that they would never be able to get a snazzy £2 T-shirt ever again.

We were more used to seeing fires like this in the factories in Bangladesh and India where the clothes are made rather than in a retail palace like the Bank Buildings.

It’s looking unceasingly likely that the building’s structure will be saved and the £30-million síniúchán - extension seems to have escaped the damage.

However, let’s not forget that the fire was a human tragedy, with the possibility of many job losses.

It’s September already and Primark staff will have a worrying time before the Christmas juggernaut hits us all.

Another of Belfast’s oldest buildings could have been wiped off the face of our cityscape.

We have little enough left in the city centre that has the architectural gravitas of the Bank Buildings so its loss would be enormous on so many levels, so we all wish it a speedy recovery.


Tír na mBascach (cheer na maskakh) - the Basque Country

bíonn sé ag siúl (beean shay eg shooil) - he walks 

sásta leis féin (saasta lesh hane) - pleased with himself 

tír tairngire (cheer tarangera) - the promised land

bróga siúlóireachta (brawga shooiloreakhta) - hiking boots

níor cheannaigh sé a dhath (neer kyanee shay a gah) - he didn’t buy anything 

agallamh (agaloo) - an interview 

an tine mhór (un chinyee wore) - the big fire

an toit (un tutch) - the smoke 

ba léir an lomscrios (ba layr un lumscriss) - the utter ruin was obvious

caor thine (keer hinyee) - an inferno

tógadh Foirgnimh na Baince (tawgoo firignyiv na bynka ) - The Bank Buildings were built

na hÉireannaigh Aontaithe (ne herenee aynteeha) - the United Irishmen 

an Gorta Mór (un gorta more) - the Great Famine

an Chéad Chogadh Domhanda (un cayd khugoo dowanda) - the First World War

brón (brone) - sorrow

síniúchán (sheenyookhaan) - extension

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