That’s “Galway” in Irish (don’t call it Gaelic, you’ll get your head bitten off). In my Imagining Modern Ireland class (a title that makes the Irish kids laugh), we’re talking a lot about the revival of the Irish language at the end of the nineteenth century. It’s really interesting stuff, considering the majority of the class is American from Irish background.
Today the professor asked for a show of hands as to what parts our ancestors hailed from. He said, “Hands up high, no need to be ashamed, you’re at home after all.” Like our family from around Galway, the worst poverty was in the West and so that’s where most of the immigrants came from at the turn of the century.
That period, directly after the Famine, is also when Irish was at its lowest point in history with the fewest number of speakers. Or at least people admitting to speak it–it was sort of taboo, a mark of poverty. And so now we’re reading works that came from the revival period afterward. It’s fascinating stuff, especially when our teacher tried to convince us that the Irish language had made contributions to the English language. All he could come up with were the words whiskey, galore, and kabosh. Very significant contributions, I’d say.
We also talked about stereotypes, and how the Irish constructed such an image (Irish-speaking, Catholic, traditional, and rural) to separate themselves from the English (English-speaking, Protestant, progressive, urban). We talked about how that stereotype has been carried over and is held in contempt now, how many young Irish people resent the fact that Ireland is thought of as rural and “backward.” He also mentioned the alcoholic image, explaining that “when they go abroad, most Irishmen are very sensitive of this…during the day.”
At night, I’m falling asleep to either the chirping of birds or the rain. I don’t know why Irish birds sing at 4 a.m., but if the birds aren’t chirping, then it’s raining. Sometimes both. It’s a strange but comforting thing to fall asleep to.