Canberra has had a small but strong community of Irish speakers for over two decades but has enjoyed a particular increase in involvement and interest in recent years. In 2015 the Canberra Irish Language Association (CILA) was founded, with the goal of further encouraging this trend and providing the Gaeilgeoirí in the region with ways to improve and utilise the language.
Canberra has seen over 20 new learners in the short time since its opening and the involvement of Irish speakers who aren’t class attendees with other Canberran Irish events and has also risen. In the first half of the year CILA offered an intensive course taught by Dr Pamela O’Neil, principal of the Australian School of Celtic Learning in Sydney, and in spring a similar intensive was taught by Marc O Conaill who teaches regularly in Adelaide.
In the second half of 2018 they started a creative writing project. This project is a compilation of written works produced originally by the students or translated by them. The compilation was open to every student and contributions provided came from a mixture of very new learners to near fluent speakers of the language and reflected the range and the enthusiasm present in the Irish speaking community in Canberra. There was no theme and the resulting book is an exciting mixture of jokes, laments, love poetry, war poetry, political statements, memoirs, songs and proverbs.
Some of the items produced for the creative writing book were worked on in class, but many were made independently. The project not only provided an opportunity for the students to put their knowledge of the Irish language to practical use but also revealed how much more capable many of them were than they had previously thought. Here are some extracts
Mo chroí i ndaigh le Daniel Agnew
Gruaig dhonn choirníneach
Mo bhrón ó huair go huair
Ach istigh tá mo chroí bhrónach
Caoineadh go dtí ag gáire
A chara, ó fhuar go nua
She was my Heart
Curly, brown hair/ My sorrow from time to time/But inside my heart it’s sad
Weeping continues until laughing/My friend, from cold to new/
Ag cúrsáil le Paul Collins
Ag báigh i mbia blasta
Ag labhairt teanga na ndaoine
As Bislama ‘Nem blong mi Pol, tankyu tumas’
As Fhraincis ‘J’ m appelle Paul, merci beaucoup’
As Hiondúise ‘Mera nam Paul hai, bahut dharnyvard’
As Fidsíoch ‘Na yacaqu o Paul, bula vinaka’
Agus as Gaeilge ‘Pól is ainm dom, go raibh míle maith agat’
Drowning in good food/ Talking the language of the people/In Bislama ‘My name is Paul, thank you very much/ In French ‘My name is Paul, thank you very much’/ In Hindi ‘My name is Paul, thank you very much’/ In Fijian ‘My name is Paul, thank you very much’/And in Irish ‘My name is Paul, thank you very much’
Here is an extract from my own efforts:
An t-Earrach is Teo
Mo bhuíochas go deo leat as do chairdeas,
Agus do dhíograis don saol.
Mo bhuíochas go deo leat as do fhoighne,
Agus do chuid ama.
Mo bhuíochas go deo leat as do cineáltas,
Agus do cneastacht.
Mo bhuíochas go deo leat as do grá,
Agus do gáirí idir póga.
Mo bhuíochas go deo leat as do chairdeas
Nua, glan, agus te.
The Warmest Spring
My thanks forever for your friendship,/And your enthusiasm for life./My thanks forever for your patience,/And for your time./My thanks forever for your kindness,/And your honesty./My thanks forever for your love,/And your laughter between kisses./My thanks forever for your friendship/ New, pure and warm.
Canberra Irish Language Association / Cumann Gaeilge Canberra