Sunburnt Irish A-Z

By Dymphna Lonergan

For a scholarly bibliography of the Irish language in Australia, this is a lovely looking book. Gaeilge Ghriandóite (Sunburnt Irish Language) is the title, and although four people are credited, the ‘look’, I suggest, is Val Noone’s. When I opened the package and regarded the cover, I felt the same excitement as I used to feel when a copy of the magazine Táin would arrive in the post in the noughties.

The colour cover image of Gaeilge Ghriandóite is a photo of Forest Creek, Muskerry, Victoria at Christmas time. The inside front and back covers are arrayed with photos representing the Irish language thriving on Australian soil, from the Eureka story written in Irish to the various daonscoileanna (Irish language immersion weekends) in Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney; 20th-century Australian politicians; and images of Irish language enthusiasts and promoters from the nineteenth century through to 2019.

There is a startling image on page 50 of the 1994 St Patrick’s Parade in Sydney with a vintage double-decker bus sporting bunting with writing in the Gaelic script. The splashes of colour on the back cover page are juxtapositioned with black & white photos, neatly summing up the message that this language has had a home in Australia for hundreds of years.

back cover image from a design by Vincent Hearns

Gaeilge Ghriandóite A-Z is the work of four Melbourne scholars: Greg Byrnes, Robert Lindsay, Val Noone, and Colin Ryan. It is published by Mary Doyle & Val Noone. The intriguing image of kangaroos at sunset/sunrise on the back cover (‘Ceangarúnna Ceilteacha’) is by Vincent Hearns who was born in Victoria, and who learned Irish as a young man, joining a branch of Conradh na Gaeilge in Melbourne in 1921. He was an artist, an engineer, and a linguist. He used his Celtic style of art in designing a memorial scroll for the University of Melbourne in honour of students who had died during military service in World War 1. In the entry under ‘H’ in Gaeilge Ghriandóite, it states that he was a retiring person, without recognition during his lifetime for his contribution to Irish. You can read more about his honour roll, however, at

It is in reading about this man, that I wish that Gaeilge Ghriandóite had included an English language translation. I’m not sure if this book is in Irish only as a point of principle or simply a matter of limited resources. I understand the former, but Gaeilge Ghriandóite is a book about Australian history. I’m sure that scholars of Australian cultural history, history, literature, music, dancing, and the arts would appreciate learning about Australians whose stories are largely untold in broader histories. Gaeilge Ghriandóite is finding them through their connection with the Irish language, but their stories deserve a wider promotion.

Gaeilge Ghriandóite A go Z a hAon (part one) is the full title of this book. It is 105 pages including a publications list: books, journal articles, and websites; and a list of Irish words for Australian English words that will be of great help to writers in Irish as well as speakers e.g. a mhic ó for ‘mate’, and tá sé i gceart for ‘she’ll be right’. The promise of a part two is satisfying. Congratulations to all for this initiative and for bringing it to publication especially under Covid19 restrictions. Obair den scoth!

The book can be ordered below

Dymphna Lonergan

Dymphna Lonergan is a member of the Tinteán editorial collective.