Warping the minds of the young

I was at a bookshop in town yesterday, spending more than I should have. There were a few boxes of books in the shop which came from the estate of the late Terry de Valera (son of the former president). It was a very esoteric and interesting collection. From here I picked up “Irish at Home” by Máire Ní Cheallacháin, a 1922 reprint of a book originally written at the height of the War of Independence in 1921. Among the book’s grammar, sample phrases, and so on, we have a sample conversation in Irish, the English version of which is as follows:


BRIGID: Is it in the city you were?

MARY: Yes.

B: Anything strange going on?

M: I did not see anything but I believe there was a “raid” being made by the military in O’Connell Street about twelve o’clock.

B: I wonder [I do not know] if they found anything?

M: I hear that some man was arrested and that he was brought as a prisoner to the Castle but I did not hear who he was.

B: Do you know that an ambush took place in Camden Street last night?

M: No! What time?

B: Just after we clearing off [out of it] according to what I hear.

M: We were in luck so. And was anyone killed?

B: One man was killed on the street and others who were passing by got wounded. It is said that one bomb was sent into the very centre of the lorry and it is not known how many of them were killed or wounded. Two or three of them began to fire shots all around them, in any case and off with them then like a whirlwind.

M: Was there any hostage in the lorry with them?

B: I do not know that [That is a thing I do not know].

M: And was it black and tans or soldiers who were there?

B: Black and tans, I believe.

M: Listen! that is a stop-press being called out. I wonder what has happened now?

B: Well, the Lord knows! Go out and get one.

[She goes out and gets one.]

M: Another spy shot in Cork.

B: I read in today’s paper that there is a detective missing in Galway and it is thought that it is what he has been carried off to an unknown destination.

M: Did you notice in this evening’s paper that there is to be a change in the Curfew again? We’ll have until ten [o’clock] now.

B: That is good as it was mischief when we had to be in at eight. It was upsetting everyone. The dinner is ready now and you had better have it [eat it] before you commence any thing else.

M: Very well. I won’t find any fault with that as I have my appetite I promise you.

[They go into the kitchen.]

Well, at least those raids and ambushes didn’t spoil their appetites. As someone said to me, if only this had been on the school syllabus, rather than Peig, we’d have a nation of native speakers by now.


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