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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Carlow - The Provincial Leader

In A Gaelic Revival


 (Portion of this article was published in the Nationalist & Leinster Times in August 1983. We now publish the full text of that article.) Michael Purcell

Carlow's promotion of the Irish language only recently received national recognition through winning the Glor na nGael trophy last year -but efforts to promote the language and Irish culture in general stretch back to the last century. In this article I attempt to trace those efforts initiated by two priests. Father Murphy and Fr. Edward O'Leary who had presided over Irish language classes in the Old Catholic Institute many years before the formation of a Gaelic League Branch in Carlow.

It was the aforementioned Father Murphy (later Monsignor Murphy P.P., Kildare) who acted as chairman of a lecture in the Town Hall on 13th March, 1898. The lecture was entitled "The Tongue of the Gael." and was delivered to a large public audience by Maynooth's Professor of Irish, Father Mickey M.R.I.A. It is interesting to note in the light of our Glor na nGael victory that during the course of this lecture Father Mickey stated "outside of Dublin the Gaelic League has scarcely made any impression on the province of Leinster, maybe this meeting is a symbol of better things to come. Perhaps it is not too much to hope that when the history of the revival movement comes to be written Carlow will be singled out for the proud pre-eminence of having been the cradle for the revival of the movement in the provinces."

Following Father Mickey's lecture Paul A. Brown Solicitor proposed four resolutions for adoption by the meeting, the second of these resolutions was as follows to show our approval of the Gaelic League, we hereby establish a branch in Carlow and promise to support the origin of the Gaelic League.

Mr. Brown said that anyone in the Hall having one drop of Irish blood flowing in their veins could not fail to feel that it was a national shame that the "cold chain of silence" had been allowed to hang so long around their native tongues, continuing Mr. Brown said that even now they could see the rosy dawn of Ireland's second springtide for, like the harp of the "Minstrel Boy," Its tones were made for the brave and free and never flourished in slavery.

Mr. William Byrne, Solicitor and Dr. Ryan seconded the resolutions, Mr. Byrne stated that, "as a candidate in the recent local elections the only pledge I was asked to sign was one undertaking to forward the interests of the Irish language and indeed it is the only pledge I would sign."

In reply to a vote of thanks proposed by John Hammond M.P, Father Hickey said that the enemies of the Irish language could be divided into two classes - the positive and the negative. On the positive side most of the enemies were dead except Doctors Mahaffy, Glynne and Atkinson. But the negative enemies were not by any means dead., amongst this class he counted the people who did not do all that they could do to advance the interests of the Irish language, concluding Father Hickey asked the people to subscribe to the fund which had started to help keep the language along the Atlantic seacoast.

Just six days after this lecture the Carlow branch of the Gaelic League held its first meeting in the Boardroom of the Town Hall on Sunday, 19th March. The officers elected were:-President Rev. J. Cullen ADM, Vice-President, Father Lalor, Carlow College, Treasurer, M. Governey, Sees., Michael O'Hanrahan and John Doyle. Among others who attended this meeting were W. MacNevin (Val Vousden), Thomas Little, William Ellis, E.T. Muhall Solicitor, W. Hade, J. Cummins, W. Hickson.

Subscriptions were fixed at between one shilling and five shillings. Canvassers were appointed for various districts. The branch immediately set about reactivating the Irish language classes. A sub-committee was set up and held a meeting in the Commercial Club, on this committee was M. Hanrahan, H. Hanrahan, J. Doyle, T. Lillis, T. Coyle, J. Brennan, E. Brennan, W. Allen and P. McDonald. Mr. J. Doyle was elected chairman and made a vigorous speech in which he referred in glowing terms to "the Movement, at present going on for the revival of the Irish language."

The class nights were fixed for Mondays and Thursdays and the hours of study from 7.30 p.m. to 9 p.m. They were to be held temporarily in the Commercial Club. People who wished to attend were to give their names to Michael Hanrahan, Tullow Street, Michael O'Hanrahan then concluded the meeting with this statement: "This is a movement which deserves the support of every Irishman and woman regardless of creed or politics or nation should guard its language more than its territories tis a surer barrier and a more important frontier, than fortress or river."

A report on those classes a few weeks later May '99 reads - "the average attendance numbers about ten, all boys ranging in ages from nine to fifteen years, the pupils are advancing rapidly.

A deputation .was appointed to interview the Christian Brothers regarding their attitude towards the language. A vote of thanks was passed to the Workmans Club for erecting the name of the Club in Irish over the main entrance and also for their enthusiastic support. Fr. Cullen, who proposed the vote of thanks, said that the Workmans Club was among the first public buildings in the provinces to erect their name in Irish and added "that with the workingmen of Carlow behind us we cannot fail."

Michael O'Hanrahan presented the meeting with 2-2-0 (two pounds, two shillings) collected from the Workmans members, he informed the meeting that he was now a member of the Workmans Committee and that he intended to get a pledge of support from the Club.

This pledge was given in January, 1900 when a resolution by O'Hanrahan was passed to the effect, "that Carlow Workmans Club would pledge them-selves by every means in their power to forward the interests of the Gaelic League."

Marie Comerford who died on December 15 1982 aged 92.

A former prison-mate of Esther Purcell, Marie knew all the leading figures of the War of Independence and the Civil War, or, "Counter Revolution", as she called it. Her book "The First Dail", is indispensible to historians.

Following research for an article in last year's Carloviana this pledge came to light and was renewed by the Work-mans at a special Irish night held in the Club on October, 29th, 1982. The Club has also undertaken to re-erect the name "Cumann bhfear oibre Cheatharlach." over the door.

Although the Workmans was founded only a few weeks before the Gaelic League branch was formed, no time had been lost in getting the Club off the ground, the Gaelic League got much support from that quarter. In later years Club Chairman Thomas Little was league secretary.

In a written note Mr. Little provides us with a personal insight into one of those early Irish adult classes that he attended. "I attended the Irish classes in the Institute on Sunday last, 19th February, 1899 and spent a very enjoyable two hours. There was a good attendance. Johney Kavanagh recited, "Michael Dwyer," and "The dialogue between the Welshman and the Irishman," and then sang, "God Save Ireland," in Irish. Harry O'Hanrahan sang "The Croppy Boy," in English. Michael O'Hanrahan gave some readings and finished up the night by singing "The Memory of the Dead," in Irish. So ends Tommy Little's note, the rest as they say is history.

Source: Carloviana 1983. Vol 2. No. 31 p.6 & 7.


Marie Comerford

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