Irish language

The Bluffer goes down memory lane to re-visit the Gaeltacht

TUG OF LOVE: There is always something going on during trip to a summer college in the Gaeltacht - and surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscape in the country
Robert McMillen

GO mbeannaí Dia duit, it’s another Bluffer’s Guide to Irish.

Tonight sees the start of a sraith - a series on BBC2 NI called Tír na nÓg - the land of the young.

In Irish mythology, Tír na nÓg was a place where people never grew old and it’s an apt title for series about na daoine óga - young people who  spent three weeks at a coláiste samhraidh - a summer  colleges in the Gaeltacht, the remaining majority Irish-speaking communities in the west of Ireland.

The Bluffer has fond memories of his own trips to the Gaeltacht – in Mín an Chladaigh and in Rann na Feirste. 

On his first trip, because he and a classmate, John Hartigan, had missed the official transport, ghlac sé an traein - he took the train from York Street station to Derry and then léim sé ar an bhus - he jumped on the (Lough Swilly) bus which took him and John to north-west Donegal.

Getting off the bus, ag dul ó sholas dó - as it was getting dark, the first thing that hit him was boladh na móna - the smell of turf and the cottages speckled around the countryside. It was completely alien for these déagóirí - teenagers from the backstreets of Belfast but welcoming at the same time.

We met up with the rest of our city slicker classmates on the house that was to be home for the next three weeks.

Two or three bunk beds filled each bedroom, beilte - meals were, er, spartan but the craic was 90.

One of the novelties for the Bluffer, of course was the presence of cailíní - girls.

The Bluffer óg was by nature, ciotach - awkward, faiteach - shy and tostach - taciturn - attributes which of course turned him into a real babe magnet!

However, the Bluffer was more interested in learning Irish than courtin’ after the céilí mór!

For many, a trip to the Gaeltacht is their first experience of neamhspleáchas - independence or even saoirse - freedom away from their parents.

However, they are ably looked after by the bean a’ tí - literally, the woman of the house who become parents, agony aunts, cooks, spiritual guides, fashion advisors, etc, etc to dozens of youngsters. 

The hardy band of cinnirí - leaders also became our trusted guardian angels.

For us, it was walks along country roads to the college, ag bréagadh cailíní/gasúraí - chatting up girls/boys, being crap at na damhsaí céilí - céilí dancing.   

An bhliain ina dhiaidh sin - the following year,  he managed to get a scoláireacht - a scholarship from Gael Linn which enabled him to spend two months in Rann na Feirste, Donegal’s literary Mecca.

He stayed in the home of Micí Sheáin Néill, a famous seanchaí - storyteller of an area rich in song and story.

It was August 1969 and elsewhere riots were blazing on the streets of Derry and Belfast while, above our heads, Neil Armstrong was about to walk on the moon while in Rann na Feirste, we innocently played, away from the horror of the former and the promise of the latter. 

Tír na nÓg starts tonight on BBC2 NI at 10pm.


sraith (sryh) - a series 

Tír na nÓg (cheer na nawg) - the land of the young

na daoine óga (ne deenee awga) - young people

coláiste samhraidh (colaashta saowree) - a summer  colleges

ghlac sé an traein (glac shay un trayn) - he took the train 

léim sé ar an bhus (laym shay er un wuss) - he jumped on the bus

ag dul ó sholas dó (ag gul o huliss daw) - as it was getting dark

boladh na móna (boloo na mona) - the smell of turf

déagóirí (jaygoree) - teenagers

beilte (byltcha) - meals

cailíní (caleenee) - girls

ciotach (kitakh) - awkward

faiteach (fwiychakh) - shy

tostach (tostakh) - taciturn

neamhspleáchas (nyaowsplaakhiss) - independence or even

saoirse (seersha) - freedom

An bhliain ina dhiaidh sin (un vleean ina yay shin) - the following year

scoláireacht (scolarakht) - a scholarship

ag bréagadh cailíní/gasúraí (eg braygoo caleenee/gasooree) - chatting up girls/boys

na damhsaí céilí - céilí dancing (ne daowsee caylee)

seanchaí (shanakhee) - storyteller 

cinnirí (kineree) - leaders

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