Irish Immersion!

We traversed the Dingle Peninsula on the way to our week-long ‘Irish Immersion’ course. Our route included the Conor Pass (above) – possibly Ireland’s highest mountain pass with a summit of 456m: not to be missed, as the views from it are spectacular in all directions. Do be careful, though, as it’s included in the list of ‘the World’s most dangerous roads’. That’s because in places it is only a winding single track, with the way almost tunnelled out of steep rock faces: don’t try it in a bus!

Once over the pass, however, it’s plain sailing and sunshine all the way down to Dingle itself, a busy waterside town (which sells the best ice-creams!),  where we stayed while we were on our course. Here’s the view from Coastline House, our very well-appointed B + B:

So why would I want to learn the Irish language? And how easy is it? The answer to the second question is: it’s fiendishly difficult – especially for an ear that’s been attuned to English for a lifetime! But – here I am in my eighth decade, an Irish citizen and a permanent resident of West Cork – so what would be more natural (and good for the ageing brain) than being able to communicate in the native tongue? Finola, of course, learnt Irish right through her schooldays (it’s been compulsory since the founding of the Irish State) and can hold her own in conversation, but she wants to improve her knowledge and took a course at a higher level: I was in the raw beginners’ class, together with our good friends Amanda and Peter Clarke, with whom we enjoyed great craic in our free time.

The western part of the Dingle Peninsula is a Gaeltacht area: that means it is a place where Irish is the dominant language; all street signs, traffic signs etc are in Irish only; anyone in shops, businesses etc is likely to speak in Irish, and there are a number of schools where teaching is all in Irish. Our courses were based in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (in English it would be known as Ballyferriter) – to the west of Dingle town (which is, in Irish, An Daingean). You can tell from many of the photographs in this post how stunningly beautiful the landscape is in this part of Ireland. The upper picture above shows the very fine school building of Coláistí Chorca Dhuibhne, which hosts all the Irish classes. The ones for adults are run by the Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhneyou can find all the details here if you’ve a mind to give it a try yourself.

It’s a different world in the Gaeltacht areas: can you guess what the sign above is saying?

You ought to know, also, that the Gaeltacht area here is known as Corca Dhuibhne, which translates literally as ‘the seed or tribe of Duibhne’ and derives from the clan who anciently lived in this part of County Kerry. Try saying ‘Corca Dhuibhne‘ . . . How did you get on? This is what I should have heard:

Above – streetscapes in the lively village of Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (Ballyferriter). Note the signage in the upper picture. The lower picture will be self-explanatory to Star Wars fans: the film series is set “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” – Fadó Fadó is the Irish way of beginning a fairy-tale, meaning literally “long long ago….”. And – just to confuse you (and me) – Ar an mBualtín means “in Ballyferriter”! I know – I just told you that the town is Baile an Fheirtéaraigh in Irish, but the townland is known as an mBuiltín, which is in fact another way of describing a “booley” which, you will no doubt remember from my post here, is the place where cattle are taken up to the hill pastures in the summer. So, all things Irish are often not straightforward. Just to explain a connection: parts of the latest Star Wars episodes have been filmed on the promontories above Ballyferriter – a great ‘selling point’ for the local tourism industry!

Green roads lead to the hillside pastures which dominate the Dingle Peninsula

Our course was taxing, and I have the greatest admiration for our múinteoir (teacher), Caitríona Ní Chathail – a wonderful lady of infinite patience, and great enthusiasm for the language which she shared with us throughout the six days. We were allowed some treats – Caitríona took us out on a walk and introduced to us some of the history of the area (kindly, she spoke bilingually); on one evening we were given a talk on archaeology by Isabel Bennet, the very knowledgable curator of the museum in Baile an Fheirtéaraighand on the final evening we combined our various talents to give a concert to all the students, Oíche Airneáin – literally a “night of visiting”, and we each had to introduce ourselves in Irish!

Upper – Caitríona’s history walk around the locality; lower – my contribution to the Oíche Airneáin was some tunes played with Christy Martin on hammered dulcimer. Christy, a fellow student, is a professional travelling musician from California

How do I feel after the course? Exhilarated by the experience of having concentrated for a week on one fundamental aspect of Irish culture, but daunted by the very long path upon which I have embarked – and uncertain as to how to make sure to build on that grounding. One thing that impressed me above all is the obvious passion that the people of Baile an Fheirtéaraigh and Coláistí Chorca Dhuibhne have for their particular Gaeltacht: Caitríona made sure that we realised that the Irish which she taught us is specific to Corca Dhuibhne: each of the Gaeltacht areas has its own dialect, although – whichever version of Irish you learn – you will be understood by speakers from the other areas.

Traditions and stories are abundant in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht: upper picture – the Wren is hunted on the Peninsula at Stephen’s Day (26 December), and I caught a glimpse of some ‘straws’ hanging behind a door: part of the costumes worn by one of four ‘Wran’ groups who keep the tradition alive in Dingle. Lower picture – two of many gullauns (standing stones) dating from ancient times and which remain in the landscape of the Peninsula: the backdrop is Mount Brandon, named after the 5th century saint – Brendan – who discovered America long before Christopher Columbus!

I was pleased to be presented with a certificate by Caitríona at the end of the course! We all had one, and mine will serve as a reminder of the intensive week. Hopefully, it will also serve as an incentive to delve further into the mysteries of Gaeilge. I am already determined to revisit the wonders of Corca Dhuibhne as soon as possible!

It’s Been Five Years! Finola’s Favourite Posts

I can hardly believe it – we’ve been doing this for five years now and we’re nowhere near running out of ideas for posts. And have you read Robert’s post? Imagine being called a 21st Century Robert LLoyd Praeger! Thrilled. But in fact as I dip into Praeger again I recognise in us the same impulse he had – to wander the land and discover all that it has to offer.

Amazing what you stumble across in the countryside, like this holy well and its offerings

One of the wonderful things about blogging like this is how much you LEARN every day, about Ireland, our neighbours, the ground we walk upon, the history and archaeology to be discovered around every corner, the wisdom of country people, the humour and expressiveness of Irish speech, the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. So where on earth to begin?

Our interest in archaeological sites led us to hike to the highest point on Cape Clear Island to see the sparse remains of a neolithic passage grave – and what a spectacular view there was from it, towards Sherkin Island and all the way down the coast of West Cork

Like many, I sat in churches as a child unaware of the architectural splendours around me. One of the delights of returning as an adult is discovering Irish stained glass, really seeing it for the first time. Harry Clarke, of course, is always a favourite, but I have been thrilled to discover other artists too: Richard King, George Walsh, the artisans of the Tower of Glass. There will be lots more posts about stained glass in the future as I unearth more treasure.

A recent discovery, George Walsh windows in a rural church in West Cork. This is his rendering of the Archangel Michael defeating the devil as a dragon

Going back to my roots as an archaeologist has been an extraordinary journey – so much has changed, so much has not. I started out in archaeology in the 70’s, although life got in the way of that career eventually. It was a small profession then: it exploded in the 80s and 90s with the advent of huge building projects, then contracted again when the recession hit.

I love the quiet little sites you find when you least expect them – this is a wedge tomb in the middle of a field. It has cupmarks all over one of the capstones

I have gone back to researching prehistoric rock art and finding that, while some excellent work has been done in this field over the last 40 years, there is a lot of scope still for an independent researcher to contribute to our appreciation of this little-known aspect of Irish prehistory. Along with our exhibitions, I’ve written several posts (not all of them happy) on this topic, and we are currently working on a paper for the Journal of the Bantry Historical and Archaeological Society on a special group of rock art panels at Ballybane.

Castlemehigan, one of our favourite rock art sites, with views right back over the Mizen Peninsula to Mount Gabriel

When I studied at UCC under Professor O’Kelly the emphasis was firmly on prehistory and we spent little time on medieval structures (or later ones, heaven forbid!). But when you are free to pursue whatever tickles your fancy, you find yourself wandering down a variety of rabbit holes. I became fascinated with Romanesque ecclesiastical architecture and with the tower houses (we just call them castles) that dot the countryside around here and the later iteration of the Big House – fortified manors. Visiting these intriguing ruins all over West Cork (and Ireland) has given me a whole new appreciation for how we lived and what we believed in the past.

This is the ruined romanesque church of Aghadoe in Killarney. It’s got this lovely doorway, but what makes it particularly meaningful for me is that my great-grandparents are buried in the graveyard it stands in

Ross Castle in Killarney against an evening sky

Living in West Cork is great FUN – there is always something to do and a new adventure around the corner. Many of the adventures we’ve had have been shared with our friends and fellow bloggers Amanda and Peter Clarke (Holy Wells of Cork and Hikelines). Visiting holy wells has introduced us to parts of Cork we might never have seen, to obscure saints with fascinating backstories and to folk practices that endure in the deep countryside. Walking the Sheep’s Head (my lead photograph, top of page), in all seasons, reminds us that you don’t have to go far to be immersed in jaw-dropping scenery and reminders of our ancient and more recent history.

The holy well of St Teskin, an East Cork saint

Lest you think that this is all sounding a bit academic, the posts that have been most fun to write were the ones on how we speak around here (and how you, too, can learn the basics of West Cork lingo), the ones in which I lamented my encounters with Irish bureaucracy, especially when it came to my driver’s license!

I still haven’t calmed down about the driver’s license – what they put me through, when I could have been driving THIS!

And I loved doing the posts about the tradition of painting our houses in arresting colours. With the colourful houses series, I feel a bit like a chronicler of a vanishing tradition – each time I look for one of my favourite pink or lime creations it seems to have been repainted a ‘tasteful’ variant on beige. Long live those brilliant colours – we would be poorer without them!

The town of Dingle is proudly keeping alive the tradition of painting each building a vibrant colour. – it’s a feast for the eyes

Finally, one of my greatest joys in the last couple of years has been to go for a walk with my camera and photograph the abundant wildflowers of West Cork. From someone who barely knew a daffodil from a daisy, I have developed a passion for the natural glories I see in the hedges, fields and yes, waste grounds, around me.

Just a typical roadside verge in West Cork

We adore West Cork, but we are also fearful for it as we see the pressures farmers face to make their land more and more productive. Inevitably, this means bringing in a rock breaker and turning the field into a mono-culture grass carpet. What we lose in this process – we humans, the bees and insects we depend on, the birds, and our heritage – is incalculable.

This tiny raised bog is home to some very interesting flowers, including the carnivorous Sundew

Here’s to many more adventures!

With friends like Susan Byron of Ireland’s Hidden Gems, or with my favourite travelling companion and blogging buddy, Robert!

The Best of Five

It’s been five years! That’s a long time to have kept up a journal, with original pieces appearing every week – usually two, each of us writing a post. It keeps us busy: 464 posts to date. We thought we should do a review of the posts which have been most popular: viewed by the most people. These are not necessarily the ones we would consider to be our own favourites: we’ll let you know what we feel our ‘finest hour’ has been next week – while you are all preparing the Christmas lunch!

We never quite understood the all-time popularity of Beyond Leap, Beyond the Law, my post which was simply a collection of photos taken at the West Cork village’s 2015 Scarecrow Festival – with a little bit of history about the place added in. It was certainly a wonderful display of the imagination of the people of Leap. Have a look at the post: just one or two photographs don’t do it justice.

Up next is Finola’s piece from 2016 – Outposts of Empire. This was a much more scholarly article, and involved a lot of research. As you must know, we never pass a church or a burial ground without a full investigation: they provide a wealth of local history. Finola became fascinated by the memorials – mainly military – which appear in Protestant churches around the country. This led her down the path of her own ancestors, many of whom served in the Irish regiments of the British forces. She found this wonderful photo from around 1900 of her Brabazon forebears. Her grandmother Marie is in the centre of the back row, while her great grandfather John Edward Brabazon, who had served in India and Afghanistan, wears a military medal. The two younger men are Finola’s great uncles Michael and James, and they are wearing the uniform of the Royal Hibernian Military School.

Finola’s series on ‘how to speak like a West Cork person’ was a winner, the most popular being her fifth episode: How Are You Keeping? Here is a link to all of them. They make amusing reading, but at the same time they give a lot of insights as to how the Irish language has coloured the way English is spoken here. And here is Finola’s great picture from that post: two Skibbereen gentlemen who might well be asking how are you keeping?

Archaeology comes next, with my account of a most eccentric decorated chambered cairn within the Boyne Valley complex: Fourknocks – the Little Giant. I was particularly taken with the adventure of visiting this tomb, from the first moment of having to collect the key from a farm a mile away in order to let ourselves in, to the experience of being inside with the door shut behind us: total darkness at first, but gradually becoming aware of the remarkable 5,000 year-old zigzag carvings on the rock surfaces within.

I’m pleased that the fifth most popular post of all time is also the one I most enjoyed writing: Aweigh in Kerry. This was all about a very unusual piece of architecture which we found while travelling in Kerry – a house shaped like a ship, sitting in the sand dunes on the shoreline of Ballycarnahan townland, facing a most spectacular view across to Derrynane, the home of ‘Ireland’s Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell. I was an architect in a former life, and I would have welcomed a commission such as this. It was built in the early 1950s.

Sixth and last in this little review is a post from Finola (happily, we had three each in this list of the top most popular posts!): Castle Haven. Such an account of a place in magical West Cork – which typically offers everything anyone could want in beautiful landscape, village architecture, archaeology, history, literary heritage, art and the omnipresent Atlantic coastline – is exactly what we aspired to for the foundation stone of Roaringwater Journal when we set out, in 2012 on this happy, continuing journey.

 

How Are You Keeping?

Mind yourself, now

That’s how people greet each other in West Cork. Lovely, isn’t it? And when we say goodbye we always add Mind yourself. Mind yourself – it’s like being told to be careful, to look after yourself, and not to forget to take time to have a cup of tea and a nice sit down occasionally, all rolled up in one.

Directions 1

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post on how to speak like you’re Irish (scroll to the end to see a list of the previous posts) but I’ve been keeping notes all along, so here is my latest primer so that you can feel like you’re getting the hang of West Cork Speak.

Besides my own images, I’m illustrating this post with cards from Conker Tree Studio. Justyna, from Poland but now living in Ireland, has designed a line of cards and magnets with directions and phrases that she has come to, er, appreciate in the everyday talk around her. Look out for her cards anywhere you go in Ireland, or buy them online.

Directions 4

Directions 3Sure it is!

Sure can be used on its own, but it’s more usually heard in combination with other words in phrases that convey an endless variety of responses useful in almost every circumstance. Take Ah, sure, j’know – use it to express sympathy, along with an exquisite understanding of the circumstances being related. Ah, sure, look is similar although it’s pronounced with a more world-weary air and perhaps without the underlying implied slight cynicism of Ah sure j’know.

Sure, we can't complain

Ceramics by Stefanie Dinkelbach, at Etain Hickey Collections (or here)

The auld arthritis is killing me but isn’t it a grand day?  Sure, we can’t complain. 

I bought it off a farmer and it runs great. But I just discovered it has no seat belts. Ah sure, what harm. 

I paid my water bill, like an eejit, and now I hear the lads who didn’t pay won’t get penalised.  Ah sure, j’know. 

I was hoping to get the silage cut today but would you look at the rain, ’tis coming down in sheets. Ah sure, look.   

Sure aren't we all having a grand time?

Sure, aren’t we all having a grand time?

Don’t be bold!

Around children, it’s good to tune in to the specialised vocabulary adults use for their behaviour. Being bold has nothing to do with bravery – to be bold is to misbehave. If a child is being annoyingly but not nastily bold, he might be just acting the maggot. Or she might be a bit giddy. In any case, the proper response of any right-thinking adult in the vicinity is to give out to them. Giving out means rebuking or reprimanding. The other thing adults like to do with children (and other adults) is to put manners on them. This is a very handy phrase that can be used in all kinds of ways.

No acting the maggot

Nobody’s acting the maggot here!

Sinead, stop acting the maggot. Ah, Mammy, don’t be always giving out to me.

The eldest was put into Miss O’Brien’s class this year.   She’s strict out – that’ll put manners on him.

In the stocks

That’ll put manners on him (Elizabeth Fort, Cork City)

Assent and agreement.

Perhaps because it’s considered bad form to say no (even if that’s what you mean) we have developed a plethora of ways to say yes. No bother is a universal favourite, but perfect has lately been making significant inroads. Y’know yerself, however, is the ultimate form of both eliciting and delivering concurrence.

I think the clutch has gone but I need it desperately for tomorrow.  No bother.

I’ll have the Full Irish, but no meat, extra mushrooms, gluten-free toast, a large cappuccino…no wait, I’ve changed my mind, add the black pudding back in and change the cappuccino to a soya latte. Perfect!

Breakfast at Budd's

The full Irish at Budds of Ballydehob – all local ingredients

They’ll all be down for Christmas, there’ll be nine of them including the grandchildren all wanting mince pies and home made scones and mountains of mashed potatoes, but y’know yerself, like…

How are you? Ah sure, y’know yourself.

So now – off you go and do a biteen of practice. You know yourself, like, that it’ll take a while before you can make a good fisht of it, like Justyna from Poland. But if you don’t get around to it, no bother. Life is busy, in fairness. Mind yerself, now.

Ah sure, all in their own time

This is the fifth in a series. Previous posts:

West Cork Speak: Lessons 1 and 2

West Cork Speak: Lessons 3 and 4

West Cork Speak: Lessons 5 to 7

You’re Grand

Skibb men

How are ye keeping?

You’re Grand

Tis a grand horse

‘Tis a grand horse

My very first lesson in how to speak like you’re from West Cork featured the many ways in which we use the word grand. (Skip to the end to see links to previous posts on West Cork Speak.) It seems, though, that I really didn’t do it justice, as it turns out that You’re Grand is, in fact, a phrase that sums up an entire philosophy and way of life. To understand this better, I highly recommend the comedian Tara Flynn’s book You’re Grand: The Irishwoman’s Secret Guide to Life.

You're Grand

Tara tells us:

no matter how bad things get, sooner or later everything will be Grand. Even when it won’t. In fact, especially then. Simply asserting that “You’re Grand” puts you in a state of mind that instantly makes you feel better… 

She goes through the variations: Grand Out, Grand Altogether, Grahnd, That’s Grand, and Graaaand, so that you can use each one with confidence, and offers a lesson in connecting with your Inner Grandness.

At the bar

Isn’t it a grand ould bar?

As you know, as a returned Irish person who spent 40 years in Canada before deciding to live in West Cork, I take very seriously my duty towards any of who you are planning to visit Ireland, to prepare you for the culture you will encounter here. First and foremost, it’s a culture of TALK, of relating to others and making them feel welcomed, helped and listened to. So what follows are the top ten essential instructions from Tara and from me that will help you understand what it is to be an Irish woman and how, at the end of the day, you’ll be Grand.

1.  If you agree with something or you’re willing to at least put up with it, the proper phrase is Grand Job.

Ah sure, feck it. I'll start the diet again tomorrow.

Ah sure, feck it, I’ll start the diet again tomorrow

2. A most useful expression is Ah sure, feck it. You’ve just embarked on a strict diet and your friend invites you to tea and produces fresh scones. Ah sure, feck it, you might as well have one.

3. ‘Tis far from X you were reared. This will indicate to your listener that you, along with the country, has grown in incredible sophistication since the Ould Days (see 7 below). For X substitute, for example, cappuccinos, fancy cheeses, hair straighteners, salad, cell phones, avocados, skinny jeans, holidays in Thailand.

'Tis far from induction hobs you were reared

‘Tis far from induction hobs you were reared

4. Try not to lose the run of yourself. In other words, don’t get carried away. You might do this by asking if they have a wine menu in a country pub, or by spending more than €10 on a handbag, or by having too many drinks and leading the singing at a session.

Put in an offer on this place? Ah now, don't be losing the run of yourself

Put in an offer on this place? Ah now, don’t be losing the run of yourself

5. Use the word the instead of my in front of nouns. You will go to get the hair done. You’ll just drop in to see the Mammy. Tara paints this picture of bus travel: The Irish women who make the best use of the bus are the little old ladies with the free travel. They put on the good dress and the good coat and meet their friends down the back of the bus and go on an outing. (Tara also has a great piece of advice on transportation: Don’t hitchhike, it’s too dangerous. You will inevitably be picked up by a chatty driver who will take you an hour out of your way in case you miss out on a single detail of their life story.)

Ah sure aren't they only gorgeous?

Ah sure aren’t they only gorgeous?

6. Weddings are a fixture of Irish life (along with First Communions, which is the other time in your life when you get to wear a bridal outfit). If it’s yourself that’s getting married, Tara has one important piece of wisdom to impart: Invite EVERYONE…It’s not your day, it’s theirs.

7. Add the word OLD (pronounced ould) before nouns. Time to get th’ould hair done. Enough of your ould blather, now. Would you be after singin’ me an ould song?

Come here to me now...hoooo might Your People be?

Come here to me now…hoooo might your people be?

8. Learn how to interrogate strangers to get the maximum information out of them.  We’re interested, not nosy and we need to establish who your people are. Funeral teas may consist almost entirely of establishing the genealogy of the deceased to the most distant of connections so we can be categorical about who is encompassed by his people. If you’re a visitor, looking for your roots, expect an inquisition. We’d be failing in our duty to our neighbours if we couldn’t recount your life history to them in graphic detail, followed by an hour of enjoyable speculation on who your people might have been. (Interestingly, in West Cork, this will result in the exact knowledge of who your relatives are to many removes, but also, and equally importantly, who you are NOT related to, despite any similarity of name or location. Time after time we have inquired of somebody with an unusual last name whether they are related to someone else of the same name, only to be told that there is no relationship that can be established. There is, however, one huge exception to this. It seems that everyone of the last name of Collins is related to Michael Collins.)

My People

My People

9. If someone you know has bought a new car (or a house or an extra-nice new suit) the proper greeting is well wear.

10. But most of all, learn how to make a grand cup of tea. There are few things that a grand cup of tea and a little sit down won’t make better.

I’ve only just skimmed the surface of Tara’s book for you. I laughed until the tears ran down my cheeks. I will leave you with an excerpt from her disquisition on salads.

Yes, Sir, we do call that a salad

Yes, Sir, we do call that a salad

For the longest time Irish women NEVER had salad at home. You wouldn’t even think of it. You got salads in hotels, usually at funerals: already in the throes of grief, you’d be given salad. On that grim funereal plate would invariably be:

  • one hard-boiled egg
  • some sad ham
  • beetroot out of a jar
  • one really, really limp leaf of lettuce.

Just the one – you wouldn’t insult people by giving them too much lettuce to deal with at such a sad time.

This “salad” is the main reason why Irish vegetarians still sometimes have to explain to relatives that ham isn’t a vegetable.

Irish women do eat more salad these days. But we make sure to have it with chips. For balance.

Only in Ireland? Chips with pizza

Only in Ireland? Chips with pizza

Go buy the book, then curl up with a grand cupán tae, and plan your trip.

To read more about how to speak like the Irish, see these posts:

West Cork Speak: Lessons 1 and 2

West Cork Speak: Lessons 3 and 4

West Cork Speak: Lessons 5 to 7

West Cork Speak: Lessons 5 to 7. And PRIZES!

Here comes himself at the head of the parade

Here comes himself at the head of the parade

Time for the next lesson in how to sound like you’re from West Cork! In Lessons 1 and 2 we covered like and grand, now and so – versatile words that will take you a long way in any conversation around here. Then in Lessons 3 and 4 we looked at how you would frame your sentences in the conditional tense, and how to use the pronouns ye, and himself, herself and yourself. I hope you have been practising, in preparation for your visit. You ARE coming, right? Good – well so, you would need to be moving along to the next important steps in your language development. And to help you see where you’re coming, I will illustrate these lessons with pictures of the St Patrick’s Day parade last Monday in Ballydehob.

Vintage tractors galore

Vintage tractors galore

Lesson 5: In Fairness

Nothing distinguishes the West Cork denizen like the phrase in fairness. Occasionally rendered as in fairness, like or even to be fair, it is tacked on to the end of sentences with total abandon, whether it matches with the sense of what’s been said or not. If you meet someone on your walk, don’t be surprised to hear him say “’Tis a grand evening, in fairness like.” It’s as if it’s important to give God His due – He’s sent us lots of storms lately and endless days of rain, but sure, He’s doing His best to make it up to us now, isn’t He?

Sometimes you are left wondering about what’s not being said. If you hear “She’s a terrific dancer, in fairness,” you might wonder if there’s another part to the sentence, that has been left out – “even though she can’t sing,” maybe. But no, it’s probably just been added for some kind of emphasis, or to round out the sentence in some way. So go ahead, just drop it in here and there, and you’ll be grand.

Going to the creamery

Going to the creamery

Lesson 6: Modifiers

Nobody in West Cork is very happy – no, we are happy out. And why wouldn’t we be, living in this beautiful place? We might also, if we have a lot to do, be busy out. If we badly need a pint, we might be thirsty out.

If using out as a modifier doesn’t trip off your tongue, try altogether instead. Or entirely.

We saw a good movie the other night. “It was great fun altogether.”

A recent story in The Examiner tells of a local hero, a student who found a toddler wandering late at night and made sure he was safe. Since the story is told mostly in dialogue, it’s an excellent example of Irish speech.

And the student, I think you will find yourself saying, “Wasn’t he a fine lad entirely?”

Don't they look happy out?

Don’t they look happy out?

Lesson 7: The diminutive

In Irish, the diminutive is formed by putting –ín (pronounced een) at the end of a word. We tell people that we live down a boreen (Irish word for road is a bothar, pronounced bo-her, and a bothairín is a small road). I’ve written about the children’s graveyards here: a cillín, pronounced killeen, actually means a small cill or church.

Some West Cork people routinely add -een to the end of a word to convey a sense of its size. Our landscaper asked if he should put the tools in our shedeen. Our neighbour, when I asked him about a certain piece of land said it was “nothing but a fieldeen.” You may well be asked by a waitress if you’d like a biteen more coffee.

Isn't that a grand careen?

Isn’t that a grand careen?

Now so – there you are! I think you might be ready to put all of that into practice.

Announcing our second ever COMPETITION (the first one was about place names). Your task, Dear Reader, is to construct a short conversation between two individuals. They are driving in opposite directions, but meeting on the boreen they roll down their windows to pass the time of day. The big topic of the moment is the St Patrick’s Day parade in the village and this, therefore, is the subject of their conversation. Reconstruct the chat, using what you’ve learned in the seven lessons so far, and your own imagination. An astute panel of judge will pick the winners and excellent prizes will be dispatched. Actually, prize-eens, in fairness. Good luck!

'Tis a lovely float, in fairness, like

‘Tis a lovely float, in fairness, like