I arrived in Dublin after Nelson’s Pillar had been reduced to rubble, but before Buntus Cainte had been replaced as a preferred method of teaching schoolchildren to speak Irish.
Truth to tell, I was first introduced to the Irish language whilst at Primary School in Northern Ireland. A confusing time — when my best friend, and next-door-neighbour went to one school and I to another because he was Protestant and I was Catholic. Also the reason why my Father could work in some Belfast hospitals, but not others.
Anyway, the nuns at my primary school were tasked to ‘introduce’ me to the language before I moved South. That was interesting. The written script they taught me was unrecognised when I moved to Dublin, and my pronunciation deemed ‘unusual’.
I’ve probably not mentioned that I was sent to a Catholic Spanish school in Dublin (to this day I can pray as fluently in Spanish as English) and set about ensuring that I failed my Irish exams as a mark of rebellion. Not possible. Inter (GCSE) and Leaving (A Level) Cert exams came and went — and I passed both. My Irish was not bad enough to fail ; but not good enough to allow me to work for RTE as a broadcaster (you had to have a pretty good grasp of the lingo, which I did not).
Didn’t help that I lived next door to a family who were entirely fluent — they spent their summers at Ring in the heart of the Gaeltacht (where it was rumoured just one word spoken in English was enough for you to be banished). The younger son, Ronan, would go on to compose the music for Michael Flatley’s stage shows, and much more besides.
And they also introduced me to the Feis Ceoil, and the wonderful sound of the bodhran.
By the time I reached University ( note — I couldn’t have attended Trinity College as a Catholic a decade earlier without special dispensation from the Archbishop ), the music scene had so changed — the Dandelion Market was alive on Stephen’s Green, Captain America’s had opened in Grafton Street and Thin Lizzy and U2 were now my influences. Not forgetting the Virgin Prunes. But that’s another post…..