‘An Claidheamh Soluis’

There is a lot of material on the market at present about the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

There is a lot of material on the market at present about the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme.

Among facsimiles of newspapers which were published at the time is one which came out last week: ‘An Claidheamh Soluis’, dated 19 August 1916. It was a Gaelic League newspaper, founded in 1899. Eoin MacNéill and Patrick Pearse edited the paper. It was a bilingual publication with a wide circulation. Incidentally, Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) published another bilingual newspaper in the 1960’s- ‘Rosc’. It was a lively little paper and it was able to attract a wide readership, from fluent speakers to people who did not have much Irish but were interested in the language. But like many other Irish language papers, it went to the wall.

When you read ‘An Claidheamh Soluis’, you would not think that Ireland was in turmoil at the time and that there was a world war going on. The emphasis is on the language and cultural affairs. Three pages are devoted to the 1916 Gaelic League Ard-Fheis. A whole page is given over to ‘The Gaelic League and its critics’ (written entirely in English), from the vice-presidents of the Gaelic League. There is a chapter from a novel as well as a long Irish lesson.

The paper is very interesting with regard to Irish. It shows the difficulties facing the language revival – difficulties which have been overcome now, thank heaven. Both the Gaelic script and the Roman script are used. Sometimes a dot is put over the letter to denote aspiration, and sometimes ‘h’ is used. You can see the spelling problems, for example, riaghaltas (rialtas), cruinniugha míosamhail (cruinniú míosúíl), litridheacht na Gaedhilge (litríocht na Gaeilge), claidheamh (claíomh). There was no standard language at the time, so three dialects are used. Now we have a standard written language, spelling is much simpler, and there are numerous resources for the learner. All that is required is an effort of will.