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Abstract: This paper examines the Irish language revival in America in the post-Famine decades in its composition, extent, activities and achievements. The history of the revival has barely been tapped. Thus, this contribution is based heavily on primary sources, most especially An Gaodhal. This bilingual journal ran from the 1880s to the early 1900s and was the national organ of the language societies throughout the United States. It acted as co-ordinator and unifier for the geographically split movement and as such was crucial to its development. The revival offers many important insights into the mentality of Irish emigrants and is an essential subject in the study of the Irish in America. The ethos underlining the movement and the intellectual justification offered by its protagonists will be analysed. Finally, the reasons for the success of the movement in the short-term and ultimate inability to achieve its long-term objectives will be explored in an attempt more fully to understand the Irish-American experience.
Keywords: Irish, revival, emigrants, Irish-Americans, language societies, An Gaodhal.
Chronicon 2 (1998) 6: 1-34
INTRODUCTION 1. The Irish language has been overlooked in the history of Irish-American emigrants. Little independent research has been conducted on the fate of the language in America, despite the evidence of population studies which show that a large number of emigrants were Irish speakers.2 We know nothing of what happened to these emigrants once they reached American shores. That the language did not survive among second generation Irish is clear. However, the extent of usage amongst emigrants, the attitudes towards the language, the degree of readiness amongst emigrants to abandon the language, and their primary reasons for doing so, are undocumented. The census materials for the last century are incomplete and offer us no information on the fate of the language. However, there are a number of primary sources that indicate that Irish did survive as an underground language amongst emigrants and in the public form of a nation-wide revival. Personal journals, letters, columns in Irish-American newspapers, and a bilingual journal, all bear witness to this continuity. Contemporary accounts give us an insight into the hidden world of the native Irish speaker and the revivalist. This paper examines the history of the language in the Irish-American experience.
HISTORIOGRAPHY 2. In spite of the millions of Irish emigrants to the US, there is little documented history of the Irish language. When Irish is mentioned, its significance is minimised. Additionally, it is often stressed that the Irish had a distinct advantage over other emigrant groups since they spoke English. The Irish Language in the United States, edited by T. W. Idhe, is a pioneering and invaluable work and the majority of the references cited below are taken from its various articles. However, apart from this study, there is little secondary material on the subject and the remaining works mentioned offered only minor and fleeting references to Irish. This compelled the author to rely on primary sources, which revealed a wealth of information.
3. A selection of the relevant literature demonstrates the dearth of material on the place of Irish in the American experience. Fishman made no reference to Irish as one of the languages of the colonies in his study of Language Loyalty in the US. H. Kloss referred to `foreign language minorities (to which the Irish do not belong)'. O'Brian and W. F. Adams made only minor references to Irish-speaking communities and disregarded their importance in Irish-American history. G. McWiney criticised historians of the South for ignoring the Celtic influences of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, yet he made practically no reference to Irish. E. Hutson asserted that of the nineteenth-century emigrants, `the Irish were practically all English-speaking'. With regard to Irish emigrants, T. McAvoy dismissed their influence on America, stating, `It can hardly be said that they brought with them much of their Irish cultural tradition'.3 Similarly, N. Glazer and D. P. Moynihan remarked that `the peasants who poured into America brought little by way of an Irish culture'.4 The lack of scholarship on the Irish language suggests that emigrants abandoned Irish immediately on arrival. However, this picture denies the evidence to the contrary, oversimplifies and distorts the differing rates of language changeover and obscures the revival.
GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION OF IMMIGRANTS 4. In the decades prior to the Famine, many emigrants had come from English-speaking or bilingual areas in eastern and central Ireland. From the Famine onwards, however, they were drawn predominantly from the west and Munster. These remote, rural areas were the strongholds of Gaelic culture. Munster and Connaught, where in 1841 a majority of the inhabitants spoke Irish, contributed at least 50% of Famine emigrants. We cannot know exactly how many emigrants from each county were Irish speakers. If half of those from Munster and Connaught and only 5% of the remainder were Irish- speakers, then, perhaps a third of all Famine emigrants spoke Irish.5
5. Post-Famine emigration continued to follow the pattern established during the Famine, with a large proportion of emigrants coming from the poorest sections of the west. As late as 1891, Irish was still a living language in ten counties, where it was spoken by 10% to 60% of the population. From 1856 to 1880, 44% of emigrants came from these ten counties, and from 1881 to 1890, the proportion was 55%. Between 1881 and 1910, almost a quarter of all emigrants came from counties with a high proportion of Irish speakers, that is, 40% or more as of 1891.6 Therefore, it is clear that Irish speakers came to the US in great numbers in the post-Famine period.
EVIDENCE OF CONTINUED USE OF IRISH IN THE U.S. 6. Irish did not establish itself in the United States as an ethnic language. However, there are indications that Irish did not completely disappear but was driven underground. Numerous contemporary reports bear witness to the continued use of Irish in families and neighbourhoods. Accounts of pockets of Irish speakers, newspaper reports, publications in Irish, letters, private journals and descriptions of clerics ministering in Irish, all prove that it was still very much alive amongst some emigrants.
7. It is worth noting a few choice examples which clearly illustrate that Irish did feature in the American experience. In 1852, the Irish-born politician David Nagle of New York urged his party leaders to canvass Irish voters only through `men who understand the Irish language and speak it fluently, as it is the language best understood and most applicable to touch the feelings of the Irish heart, and it is held in reverence by the great mass of the Catholics located in the eastern and midwestern states'.7 There are a number of reports of priests ministering to their parishioners in Irish. The church as an institution did not promote or endorse the Irish language. However, the instances of individual priests using the language shows that certain Irish- American communities needed a priest who could hear confession in their native tongue. No doubt these emigrants had some English to find work, but it seems that their confidence in the language was not enough for them to use it when they wanted to present themselves before their God. Then, it was Irish that they turned to.
8. A contemporary writer, I. D. Rupp, reported that within Irish communities in Schuylkil and Carbon counties, Pennsylvania, `the greater proportion are Catholics and have priests officiating in the Irish language, which is spoken by many of the labouring classes'.8 John Neumann, bishop of Philadelphia from 1851 to 1860, a German linguist, found it necessary to learn Irish in order to be able to communicate with his parishioners.9 Bishop John England of Charleston (died 1842), a native of Cork, had a high regard for the language and believed it to be the right of native speakers to be ministered to in Irish wherever possible. In a letter to O'Connell, he wrote, `Shall it be imputed as a crime to the Irish peasant that he preferred the tongue of his forefathers to the tongue of his oppressors'.10 In 1851, the Clare- born missionary Andrew Talty, having worked with western Virginian construction workers, urged the head of his training college in Dublin to `prevail on every [priest] coming to this Country to learn some Irish and retain carefully all of it they possess'.11
THE IRISH REVIVAL 9. In the second half of the nineteenth century, strenuous efforts were made to preserve the language, as is verified by contemporary media coverage and literary tracts. J. D. Beunker and N. C. Burckel, and R. W. Lubomyr and A. T. Wynar make no mention of Irish in their compilation of ethnic newspapers and periodicals.12 However, there are sections in Irish in many of the Irish-American newspapers from the 1850s on, when the first waves of post-Famine emigrants began to arrive. The Irish American began the first major publishing of Irish in its language column in 1857.13 The American Celt (St. Louis), The Citizen (Chicago) and the Irish Echo (Boston), were also running numerous articles in Irish from the 1860s. Celtic departments were founded in most big Irish-American newspapers by the 1880s.14 In 1888, one journal gave a list of 44 newspapers nation-wide which were involved in promoting Irish.15
10. The academic world began to take notice of these developments. There was a great upsurge of interest in Celtic studies, with a department devoted to the subject established at the Catholic University of Washington DC in 1895. Prominent national academics such as the linguist F. L. O. Roehrig of Cornell and Dr. T. J. Shahan of the Catholic University thoroughly involved themselves in the language movement. Treatises such as Let us save the Irish Language, delivered by Dr. Shahan in 1894, became common. In 1853, Patrick Tierney, a Cavan man, founded the first Irish language society in the US.16 In 1861 a branch of the Ossian Society was founded in New York which published manuscripts in Irish. The revival truly got underway with the arrival of the Galway-born Mícheál Ó Lócháin, `Pioneer of the Irish language movement in America'. Ó Lócháin was active in promoting Irish from his arrival in 1870, founding and editing a prominent revivalist journal until his death in 1894.
11. Ó Lócháin encouraged emigrants to found societies which would preserve and stimulate Irish.17 There was a tremendous response to Ó Lócháin's plea and within a short time a number of classes were organised. The first Philo-Celtic society was started in Boston in 1873.18 It was dedicated to promoting Ireland's language, literature and music. Soon afterwards, similar societies began to appear all over the country, and by the end of the century they were to be found in every town with a sizeable Irish community. Between 1874 and 1886, fifty six clubs were formed.19 The societies were independent of each other, although they kept in constant communication through correspondence and An Gaodhal, the national organ for all the societies. We do not know how widespread the appeal of this movement was, or who it reached, or how deeply it influenced the Irish-American community. Although this paper attempts to address the main issues involved, there is a great need for extensive research on the questions it presents.
12. All the societies had the same basic aim, to promote the language. The Brooklyn society's constitution stated that `This society shall have for its object the preservation and extension of the Irish as a spoken language'.20 As well as giving Irish lessons, many societies taught Irish dancing, music and poetry to their members. They were also involved in educating people in the history of Ireland and gave lectures on various events considered central to an understanding of the past.
13. The language movement in America was composed of native Irish-speaking emigrants and English-speaking language enthusiasts. The language teachers were usually native speakers, but sometimes also were students who had reached a fluency in Irish. In the Brooklyn society in 1894, Ó Lócháin tells us, `Our teachers are our graduates'.21 However, `The Providence school has two of the best practical teachers of Irish in the country, Messrs. Henehan and O'Caseynatural speakers of the language'.22
14. The actual extent of language competence amongst Philo-Celts is another area of uncertainty. In reporting on the Brooklyn AGM, Ó Lócháin notes that there was difficulty in choosing suitable candidates for official positions, `as it has been a rule of the society that no one should be elected to them except those having a conversational knowledge of the Irish language'.23 This implies that few of the Brooklyn Philo- Celts were native speakers. On the other hand, the Philadelphia society, which was founded in June 1884 by three native speakers, conducted all its business in Irish.24 Reports from the New York society also indicate that Irish was the main language employed. The description of the 1884 annual festival reveals that very little English was used throughout.25 Thus, it seems that the composition of the society determined the amount of Irish spoken. In some societies there was a majority of learners, whereas in others the greater proportion of members were native speakers and so Irish was the medium used.
15. The societies seem to have attracted people of all ages. In many editions of An Gaodhal, Ó Lócháin tells us that several members of the Brooklyn society were bringing their children along to the meetings. The secretary of the Philadelphia society, John Robinson, wrote that it was comprised of `nearly eighty members, from children of seven to old men, all either reading or conversing in the language of their forefathers'.26 We do not know the social backgrounds of the society members. Tomás O'Neill Ruiséal declared in the Dublin Journal that the people involved in the language schools in America were all the poorest emigrants from Ireland. Ó Lócháin refuted this by arguing that these people didn't join Irish groups because they were afraid that their neighbours would recognise them: `Ní thiocfaidh siad seo in aice na sgola Gaedilge le faitchios go n-aithnochadh a gcomhursanadh cia h-shiad'.27 It is unclear exactly why such emigrants would be ashamed to be seen at such gatherings. Is it because of their poverty? Or were they embarrassed ultimately by the language movement? Were those who attempted to learn the language treated as objects of scorn by some in the emigrant community? Were native speakers ridiculed for their efforts to promote what was considered by some a doomed language? If the latter is the case, this suggests a polarisation of views regarding the language. It suggests that the community was split with attitudes ranging from contempt, to indifference, to devout commitment.
16. The language movement in America was closely involved with similar developments in Ireland. American workers contributed moral and financial support towards the revival in Ireland. In fact, the American revival predated the Irish equivalent and outlived it. The former had begun in earnest in the 1870s, whereas the latter did not begin to take root till the late 1880s. In 1883, the Freeman's Journal claimed that the Irish in America were more interested in the language than those left in Ireland: `As far as their language is concerned our countrymen in America are far in advance of the Irish at home'.28 While mass public interest in the language in Ireland largely fell off after the striking events in the struggle for independence in the 1910s, the revival in America lasted into the early 1930s.
THE GAEL / AN GAODHAL 17. The bilingual monthly journal An Gaodhal (1881-1904), established by Ó Lócháin, was centrally important to the revival. It gave writers a chance to publish in Irish and acted as a unifying organ for activists nationwide. It was sixteen pages long on average, with roughly the same number of articles in Irish as English. It was dedicated to `the preservation and cultivation of the Irish language and the autonomy of the Irish nation'. It improved its circulation steadily, with `1,000 copies issued monthly for the first year, after which it began to increase gradually until now when the regular issue is 2,880'.29 In 1887, the Irish language journal printed in Dublin had only 400 subscribers.30 The journal published poems, songs, letters and editorials in Irish. One of the projects undertaken in this period was the collection of folklore. Many contributors sent in popular stories, poems, riddles and prayers that would have been known by heart by Gaeilgeoirí in America. This was a valuable source of entertainment for native speakers who were able to read in Irish. It printed lessons so that Irish speakers could learn to read the language and non-Irish speakers could begin to learn it. Many letters sent to An Gaodhal tell us that these lessons were important in helping people to master the written language.
An Gaodhal gives us a crucial insight into the mind of the enthusiast. Its approach to the promotion of the language was two-toned. On the one hand, it elevated the language, praising its richness, beauty and antiquity, hoping to persuade people of the great benefits to be derived from Irish. On the other hand, it denigrated non supporters of Irish, accusing them of being traitors to their country and ultimately to themselves.
18. The first strategy employed by An Gaodhal was to appeal to the valuable legacy Irish offered to her people. People were told they should embrace `the precious inheritance of a clear, a strong, a harmonious and a noble language'. It was seen as being central to the artistic, creative and physical freedom of her people. If the language were lost, then, so too would be the genius that inspired her people. `A nation which allows her language to go to ruin, is parting the best half of her intellectual independence.' The language not only stimulated the production of great art which provided people with a pride in themselves and their achievements, but it also gave them access to the achievements of their predecessors. Irish people could only seek to benefit by sponsoring the revival of the language, `so much identified with their glorious past, so essential to the true dignity of our nation and so intimately associated with the ancient records of the Irish race itself'. Irish could teach people a wealth of knowledge that would otherwise be denied to them. `The annals and songs of Ireland are written in that language; in it we trace the antiquity of the Irish race, its origins and history'.31
19. Cultural, political, economic and militant nationalism all became closely linked. Nationalists differed as to the primacy they gave the language in their agenda. The extreme anglophobia of many nationalists made it inevitable that cultural nationalism would become politicised. In an address to the Brooklyn Philo-Celt Society, P. J. O'Hanlon blamed the English for trying to destroy the language in Ireland and he implored God to hasten the day when revenge can be exacted on those cursed people: `Impighim air Dhia go dtiocfaidh an t-am, agus é sin go goirid, a mbeidh se i gcumhachta na nGaoghal díoghaltas luath a's éifeachtach do roinnt d'on drong mhalluighte sin'.32 An Gaodhal was frequently used to appeal to people to provide support to the revolutionary groups dedicated to freeing Ireland by force. The salvation of the language was one of the reasons used to justify such action.
20. Nationalists' adoption of Irish as a symbol of national identity marked an important turning point in the history of the language. The language movement established an identity separate from that of the traditional language community. It created a cultural realm very different to that of the native peasant speakers. The detrimental effect this had on the fate of the language will be examined later and weighed against the positive impact the movement had on reaching people. The language was offered as the natural tongue of the people. It was a badge of identity, presenting an Irish person with `evidence of his individuality as an independent member of a distinctive race'.33 If the language were lost, then the Irish people could no longer claim the right to call themselves Irish. Marcus Mac Mhaird called for the `sacred heritage' to be protected, reiterating the view that Irish is `a mark and guard of nationality'. He wrote: `If we own a motherland, we must cherish the native tongue it taught us. If we would be among nation wanderers without a home, a people without a past, disowned, dishonoured and unworthy, we shall forget our national language'.34
21. While the language movement may have gained new recruits through the political scene, it must have also lost the support of many others who were interested in the language but found political and militant nationalism objectionable. Nationalists were not content with attacking the English, but directed their assault at English-speaking Irish people. Ó Lócháin condemned all those who spoke English as traitors to their nation: `We now speak seriously and with due deliberation and with all the vehemence which a sense of right inspires that we look upon the Irishman who is mouthing patriotism and who ignores the language which gives him that National Existence as the most hateful being in creation'35 (italics added). The fact that the revival had great success, notwithstanding such rhetoric, bears witness to its appeal. If Irish emigrants could proclaim loyalty to a movement that vilified non-Irish-speakers as traitors to Ireland, then their devotion to the language movement must indeed have been great.
22. Nationalists thought that by denigrating English, they would convince people of the superiority of Irish. English was denounced as the tongue of the oppressor, making the Irish little more than slaves: `Every Irishman ignorant of the language of his country is an English slave "He has bowed his very neck beneath the Saxon's palling yoke"'.36 English was portrayed as being barbarous, while Irish was given as the language of civilisation. By making such a comparison, it was hoped that Irish people would realise their error in abandoning Irish and resume their use of it. It was an all or nothing proposition. Ó Lócháin felt that you were either for the language, or you were not and to follow the former course, you had to renounce everything English. There must have been bilingual speakers who had adopted English, but who may have been ambiguous about Irish, neither passionate nor hostile. They may have been interested in the language movement, as it was an important source of social contact for people and it brought before them the stories and songs of their past. However, this interest must have been dampened by the virulence of the diatribe against those who consciously rejected Irish.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE REVIVAL 23. We know that there was a sizeable number of native Irish speakers in the US in the latter half of the nineteenth century. While the revival was important in stimulating interest in the language, to succeed in preserving Irish as a spoken language, it had to win the support of native speakers. If the revival could not persuade these people to maintain their language, then it was fated to last only as long as Irish nationalism supported it. When nationalism no longer needed Irish, the revival would fall apart. This did indeed happen, in both Ireland and America, with the American movement slightly outliving the Irish one. Once independence was achieved and the Free State established, Irish was dropped from the nationalist agenda. It had served its purpose. The collapse of the language movement in the States may have been brought about by the Great Depression. However, this is merely a guess, since we do not know if support had been falling off in the 1920s, following the Irish pattern. However, the fact that the movement did outlive the founding of the new Irish state may imply that this political closure did not have the same consequences for cultural nationalism in America as it did in Ireland.
24. The language movement may have been struck by a generation change. Those emigrants involved in first organising the revival in the 1870s were mostly dead by the 1920s and 1930s. The next generations of emigrants had fewer native speakers and this may have meant that the original teachers and leaders of the revival were not being replaced. Also, these new Irish-speaking emigrants saw that previous generations of Irish-speaking emigrants who had adopted English, did not speak Irish to their American-born children. The revival had important consequences for the language. It took Irish from the homes where it was used as a private language and placed it in the public arena. It was put in the classroom and university where it was taken up by academics. Wordy scholarly tracts such as those produced by Roehrig and Shahan were published. While some native speakers did involve themselves in the language movement, many more remained aloof. This may have been because they began to identify Irish as the preserve of the rich man, the scholar, or the nationalist. Emigrants who were struggling for survival may have felt compelled to master English. As Irish became distanced from traditional peasant culture, the language transition may have become easier for native speakers.
REASONS FOR THE FAILURE OF THE REVIVAL 25. Many emigrant groups identified their language as a symbol of national identity and carefully maintained it on arrival. The Irish did not. An Gaodhal suggests many complex reasons for the change in language, ranging from indifference and insecurity to economics. Emigrants left an Ireland where Irish was associated with poverty and shame. Certainly, such concerns may have been a factor in language changeover, but the evidence points to a more complex range of emotions.
ELITISM 26. The language movement was identified to a certain extent as an elite club where Irish was an academic exercise and scholars vied with each other for praise. This may have alienated native speakers. An exchange of insults and abuse was carried on in the pages of An Gaodhal between scholars who spent their time criticising each other's Irish. Pádruic, a regular contributor, called on scholars to praise and not to criticise Irish speakers. He warned that young people were afraid to write into An Gaodhal because of the censure that they encountered.37 This letter generated a tremendous response, in which people claimed that it had persuaded them to ignore their embarrassment and fear of ridicule.
27. We can see the insecurity and nervousness of people as regards their ability in the language in a number of letters. Ó Lócháin identified this problem and lamented that it discouraged people from using Irish. One critic, `An Gobán Saor', criticised the standard of the work printed and advised Ó Lócháin to seek the help of scholars in publishing An Gaodhal. Ó Lócháin refuted this condemnation, claiming that his concern was to get more Irish speakers to write in, and not to produce an academic journal.
28. Another letter, from M. Mac Suibhne in Mobile, showed the lack of confidence among Irish speakers. He praised those who were promoting `ár dteanga mhín, mhilis, glórmhar'. However, he felt that he must apologise for his ignorance of Irish. This insecurity is intriguing because it is obvious from the letter that this man was a fluent speaker: `Is fear óg mé gan mórán eolais agam air theanga mo thír dhúchais, agus tá náire orm é a adhmháil, agus tá eagla orm nach mbeidh sé so- thuigsighte, acht deunfaidh me mo dhitchioll chum í bheith soilléir'.38 Probably the most fascinating letter of all is that from Anthony P. Ward, a native of Donegal, who settled in Philadelphia. He was instrumental in setting up a Philo-Celt Society there, and was foremost in the language circle. He took great delight in An Gaodhal, `a paper exclusively devoted to the cultivation of my mother tongue'. He regretted that he could not write in Irish: `I regret my inability to address you this note in my mother tongue. I can speak it. I can also read it Still I cannot write in Gaodhalic as I cannot spell at all'.39 The very next month, Antain Mac Mhaird wrote a lengthy letter, in Irish, to An Gaodhal! This incredible turn around shows that people like Ward were wholly competent to involve themselves in the language movement, but were discouraged from doing so by its intimidating aspect.
NÁIRE, SHAME AND IRISH 29. One of the most frequently cited causes for the abandonment of the language was the stigma attached to it that spread from the middle to the lower class. Many Irish speakers accepted the idea that Irish was inferior to English because it `extended no farther than the bounds of the wretched cabin'. Patrick J. Duggan of Hartford, Connecticut, explained how people scorned the revival movement, when they had taken the progressive step by realising that English was the way forward. He wrote: `There are a great many people here who speak it fluently, but still, you speak to them about getting up a movement for the preservation thereof, and they will ridicule the idea of Irish ever being spoken. In fact, they are ashamed to speak it themselves'.40 Pádraic Ó Treasa in Nashua, New Hampshire, identified the same problem. He said that his attempts to start a language school there failed. Many people there could speak Irish, but `Tá náire orrat'. He knew many people who could barely speak a word of English, but nonetheless would not speak Irish for fear of drawing the suspicion and hostility of the community on them. `Tá go leor fir 's mná inseo nach bfhuil a dara focal beurla achu go ceart nach labharóch focal ar bith acht é le faitchios go mbeidheadh na Puncáin (Yankees) 'g éisteacht'.41
MATERIALISM 30. Ó Lócháin believed that economic pragmatism caused some emigrants to drop Irish. He greatly objected to those who associated Irish with poverty and ignorance. He was upset when people would deny that they had Irish in order to elevate their social standing. He constantly sought to persuade people that Irish was not beneath them. This was the purpose of all the articles devoted to praising the noble antiquity of Irish. M. Mac Suibhne, Mobile, Massachusetts, noted how people rejected Irish as soon as they begin to do well for themselves. `Tá náire air mhórán de na Seoghnínidh seo a dteanga féin do labhairt air aon chor. Tuigeann siad, gan amhrus, teanga a sinsear bheith ró-vulgar doibh; do tháinig an chuid is mó díobh gus an tír seo gan giobal air a chorpaidh, agus b'í an Ghaodhailge an cheud teanga do chluineader. Ach chomh luath 's bhidheann siad saidbhir níl aon mheas acu ar an Gaodhilge nó air a dtír ó sin amach'.42
FATALISM 31. Emigrants felt that English would be more beneficial to them and their families. This economic motivation was accompanied by a belief that Irish was already `on the way out' and so it seemed to make sense to switch to English. `Irish will get you nothing and nowhere' declared a countryman from Co. Louth. M. Ó Súilleabháin, a native speaker, in his autobiography, Fiche Bliain ag Fás, asked, `Who has Irish but the wretches of the world?'43 Tomás Ó Commaighin, a native speaker who settled in Randolph, North Carolina, noted that people had no respect for Irish because they considered it a language of the past that had no place in the modern world. `Saoileann mórán de na hÉireannachaibh ins i tír seo gur mhór an droch mheas orrta an Ghaedhilge labhairt u teanga a sinsear! Anois deirfidh siad "teanga marbh í"'.44
32. Those working for the language constantly lamented that Irish people simply did not care what happened to the language. Some raged against this and denounced such people as undeserving of their national identity. A. P. Ward criticised the people of Philadelphia for their lack of interest in Irish. `Níl aon bhaile sa thír is mó a bfhuil ann a dtig leo Gaedhilge labhairt, ná tá sa gcathair seo, ach faraor! is beag a n-aird air chúis na Gaedhilge'.45
33. We must not assume that people who were not involved in societies were hostile to Irish. They may not have had the revivalist's romantic opinion of the language. They did not hold Irish to be the only badge of national identity, or the legacy from an ancient and glorious heritage. When they decided that English would better serve them, they adopted it without any feelings that they were being traitorous to their country. We get some hint of this sentiment in an address given by Peter O'Donnell, in Irish, at a feis hosted by the New York Philo-Celt Society. He said that the past generations who were careless about their language should not be condemned because they were slaves who did not understand the consequences of their actions. However, he condemned present generations who said that it did not matter which language they spoke.46
34. The emigrant community was split on the language issue, with some rejecting Irish outright, others continuing to use it amongst themselves, and others involving themselves in the revival in an attempt to promote and restore it. The language movement alienated many emigrants, partly because of its perceived elitism and partly because of its extreme nationalistic rhetoric. The shame and insecurity traditionally associated with Irish may also have been a factor in distancing people from the revival. However, the fact that emigrants continued to use Irish in their homes and neighbourhoods would seem to contradict this. Thus, while emigrants were not hostile to Irish, they did not universally embrace the revival. Emigrants could have supported the revival movement while adopting English for everyday use, as indeed some did. However, the revival ultimately failed because emigrants chose not to pass on Irish to their children. It was not an anti- Irish vote, but rather a pragmatic decision based on which language would best serve their interests.
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