Home Irish Language Dipping the toes in the water—Cathal Póirtéir on Cuisle an Chósta

Dipping the toes in the water—Cathal Póirtéir on Cuisle an Chósta

Cuisle an Chósta|Catherine Foley|LeabhairCOMHAR|ISBN 9781916 240315|€12.00

A year in the Gaeltacht community of An Rinn—a collection of radio essays

by Cathal Póirtéir

Regular listeners to Sunday Miscellany on RTÉ Radio 1 will recognise the name of Catherine Foley as a contributor to the programme.

Some may recognise her as an occasional presenter on TG4, and others may recall her years as a journalist with The Irish Times. She has also broadcast regularly on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, from which this collection of short radio essays has been taken.

Cuisle an Chósta features twenty-nine scripted radio contributions to the Cormac ag a Cúig programme. They are arranged into monthly sections that allow us to accompany the writer through a year in the Gaeltacht community of An Rinn in county Waterford where she lives, amongst other things. The collection affords us a view of personal experiences, community concerns, local history and musings on local Gaeltacht life in this fishing community.

Good radio scripts need to be clear, uncomplicated and intelligible on a single hearing and Catherine Foley manages to do that in her contribution to Cormac ag a Cúig and to Sunday Miscellany.

When transferred to book form the scripts are in clear, simple Irish; this perfectly suits this series published for the adult learner of Irish, who might find a contemporary novel or a collection of poetry off-putting. Here, words that might pose problems have been foot-noted with a translation, and given in a glossary at the end of the book. 

Cuisle an Chósta is illustrated with colour photographs taken by RoseAnne Foley, a freelance television producer-director. The stunning photographs of Cé Bhaile na nGall and Cé Heilbhic would inspire anyone to visit the area. The importance of the sea is underlined by an essay on lifeboats; the importance of music is reflected in other essays, including those on Tig an Cheoil and Tig Uí Mhaonaigh. Other watering holes are described in an essay on holy wells, of which there is a beautifully atmospheric photograph.

An Rinn is in many ways a unique Gaeltacht area, situated in the south-east, many miles from the Irish speaking areas on the west coast, or from inland Cúil Aodha in west Cork.

Some would have said that the odds were against the survival of Irish in this small Gaeltacht community. However, the author points to the 2016 Census which shows that the number of daily speakers of Irish has actually increased; this is possibly due to Nemeton, the sports broadcasting company founded by local man Irial Mac Murchú over twenty years ago. Nemeton is an important local employer heavily involved in third level training towards employment in the television industry.

Foley also draws to our attention to the fact that in the two parishes of An Rinn and An Sean Phobal, only one in three of the population speak Irish daily outside the education system, and that Sunday mass is no longer said in An Rinn.

The essays here also feature a local highway man of the past; the Young Irelander Thomas Francis Meagher; seven local heroes of 1916; a visiting whale; visiting students of Irish; the success of a local Irish language book club; a nudist society gathering on a Waterford beach in October, and Christmas memories, including a power-cut.

There’s good variety in subject matter here and none of the essays are long, all running just short of three pages. The collection should prove attractive to readers wanting to dip their toes in the water (of reading in Irish) before they consider plunging in to something longer and more challenging.

Cathal Póirtéir has specialised in researching, presenting and commissioning Irish interest material in various radio formats and in books, including history, literature and folklore in Irish and English, as well as current affairs and drama.