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Foreigners put a new accent on Cœpla focail

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

by Judy Murpny

Australian born Ariel Killick didn’t study Irish at national or secondary school, nor did she do a primary university degree in the language. Despite that, she now works as a translator here in Ireland, mostly translating English documents into Irish.

But any observation that this self-taught Irish speaker would put us natives to shame with her fluency in our ‘mother tongue’ is met with a swift rejoinder.

“Don’t say that! It’s not my intention to put anyone to shame.”

Ariel, who is also an accomplished street performer, is featuring in a new 15-part series on Raidió na Gaeltachta entitled Ar an gCoigríoch (In Foreign Parts) which can be heard every Saturday morning at 10 am.

The series features interviews with 15 foreigners, from Hungary to Japan, from Australia to Wales to Germany, who have made Ireland their home, and who will be speaking about their experience of living here. Some have lived here for 40 years; others are relative newcomers but all share a passion for Ireland and our history and culture, and all speak fluent Irish.

Ariel’s interview is being broadcast this Saturday, March 13 and it promises to be a cracker. The straight-talking Australian observes that she has learned enough during her 10 years in Ireland “not to be bothered saying what I really think”, but she’s so direct that anybody listening to her will get the picture.

In reality, Ariel has a huge grá for Ireland and has immersed herself in the cultural life of her adopted country, as well as in the more prosaic world of translation.

At present, she’s completing a Masters degree in Legal and Legislative Translation at NUIG’s Acadamh Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in Carraroe. In addition, she’s moving her belongings from Dublin to Galway City as she prepares to move here permanently, having been temporarily based in Carraroe for the past few months. She’s learning how to drive and she’s busy preparing a group of fire-eating stilt-walkers for a street spectacle at Dingle’s Féile na Bealtaine in May.

She’s under pressure, she says honestly, but you sense that this is a woman who can handle pressure.

Her ancestry is a mix of Irish, Scottish and English and she grew up in a mixed race area of Sydney, so she was aware of multiculturalism and heritage from a very young age.

In the 1990s there was a lot of discussion about Aboriginal rights in Australia, while there was also talk about the country becoming a republic.

Ariel was very politically aware and the notion of being part of a republic drew her to her Irish rather than Scottish ancestry. In her final year at school, she decided to learn the language, joining a speaking group in Sydney. Within nine months she had sat the 1996 Leaving Cert Pass and Honours papers. An Irish friend, who was fluent in the language, corrected them for her and she excelled. She applied for a scholarship to study the language, but failed in that bid . . . even now, she can’t believe she had the temerity to apply for it. But, she adds, here she is 13 years later, studying for her MA in NUIG.

She spent a brief time in university in Sydney in the mid 1900s where she studied musical composition for a period, before moving to Ireland in 1998 where she worked on a current affairs programme for Dublin’s Raidió na Life – she had previously worked in Australia for state broadcaster SBS, researching and producing Irish language programmes.

Ariel returned to Australia after four months, but came back here in 2000. She enhanced her qualifications with a post-grad course in Irish and Applied Translation at GMIT in 2003 and became an Irish citizen last year, which, she says, was as much to do with practical as emotional reasons – as a non-Eu citizen she needed a permit to work here.


Her list of qualifications includes a post-graduate diploma in Community Arts from the National College of Art and design, and in addition to her translation work, she also has a career as a street performer. During a lean period in translation work, after she arrived here a friend told her she’d make money face painting on stilts.

Sounds mad, but it worked.

She did a course and worked at it, and then did some birthday party clowning around Dublin. The rest is history. She trained in fire eating, which she now combines with stilt-walking. She also ran an Irish language stilt-walking street performance troupe in 2000, which received a state grant and created high drama at festivals all over the country.

Involvement in the arts is vital for her, she says.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Henshaw and McSharry set to field for Irish Wolfhounds in clash with England Saxons

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

CONNACHT’S rising stars Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry look set to named in the starting xv for the Ireland Wolfhounds who face the England Saxons in Galway this weekend when the team is announced later today (Thursday).

Robbie Henshaw is the only out-and-out full-back that was named Tuesday in the 23-man squad that will take on the English at the Sportsground this Friday (7.45pm).

Connacht’s centre McSharry and Ulster’s Darren Cave are the only two specialist centres named in the 23 man squad, which would also suggest the two youngsters are in line for a starting place.

Former Connacht out-half, Ian Keatley, Leinster’s second out-half Ian Madigan and Ulster’s number 10 Paddy Jackson and winger Andrew Trimble, although not specialist full-backs or centres, can all slot into the 12, 13 and 15 jerseys, however you’d expect the Irish management will hand debuts to Henshaw and McSharry given that they’ll be playing on their home turf.

Aged 19, Henshaw was still playing Schools Cup rugby last season. The Athlone born Connacht Academy back burst onto the scene at the beginning of the season when he filled the number 15 position for injured captain Gavin Duffy.

The Marist College and former Ireland U19 representative was so assured under the high ball, so impressive on the counter-attack and astute with the boot, that he retained the full-back position when Duffy returned from injury.

Connacht coach Eric Elwood should be commended for giving the young Buccaneers clubman a chance to shine and Henshaw has grasped that opportunity with both hands, lighting up the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup campaigns for the Westerners this season.

Henshaw has played in all 19 of Connacht’s games this season and his man-of-the-match display last weekend in the Heineken Cup against Zebre caught the eye of Irish attack coach, Les Kiss.

“We’re really excited about his development. He had to step into the breach when Connacht lost Gavin Duffy, and he was playing 13 earlier in the year. When he had to put his hand up for that, he’s done an exceptional job,” Kiss said.

The 22-year-old McSharry was desperately unlucky to miss out on Declan Kidney’s Ireland squad for the autumn internationals and the Dubliner will relish the opportunity this Friday night to show-off his speed, turn of foot, deft hands and finishing prowess that has been a mark of this season, in particular, with Connacht.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Drinks battle brewing as kettle sales go off the boil

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

You’d have thought there might have been three certainties in Irish life – death, taxes and the cup of tea – but it now seems that our post-tiger sophistication in endangering the consumption of the nation’s second favourite beverage.

Because with all of our new-fangled coffee machines, percolators, cappuccino and expresso makers, sales of the humble kettle are falling faster than our hopes of a write-off on the promissory note.

And even when we do make tea, we don’t need a tea pot – it’s all tea bags these days because nobody wants a mouthful of tea leaves, unless they’re planning to have their fortune told.

Sales of kettles are in decline as consumers opt for fancy coffee makers, hot water dispensers and other methods to make their beverages – at least that’s the case in the UK and there’s no reason to think it’s any different here.

And it’s only seems like yesterday when, if the hearth was the heart of every home, the kettle that hung over the inglenook fireplace or whistled gently on the range, was the soul.

You’d see groups gathered in bogs, footing turf and then breaking off to boil the battered old kettle for a well-earned break.

The first thing that happened when you dropped into someone’s home was the host saying: “Hold on until I stick on the kettle.”

When the prodigal son arrived home for the Christmas, first item on the agenda was a cup of tea; when bad news was delivered, the pain was eased with a cuppa; last thing at night was tea with a biscuit.

The arrival of electric kettles meant there was no longer an eternal search for matches to light the gas; we even had little electric coils that would boil water into tea in our cup if you were mean enough or unlucky enough to be making tea for one.

We went away on sun holidays, armed with an ocean of lotion and a suitcase full of Denny’s sausages and Barry’s Tea. Spanish tea just wasn’t the same and there was nothing like a nice brew to lift the sagging spirits.

We even coped with the arrival of coffee because for a long time it was just Maxwell House or Nescafe granules which might have seemed like the height of sophistication – but they still required a kettle.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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