Ag briseadh na Samhna an bhliain seo caite bhi ocaid an-speisialta ag Crosaire Baile Mhic Gonair sa bhaile seo againn-ne. Prior to the Halloween break of last October there was a great gathering to celebrate the official opening and blessing of the brand newly-rebuilt Gaelscoil agus bhi an-la ag chuile duine a bhi I lathair – na paisti fein, muinteoiri, tuismitheoiri agus aionna, an t-Easpag Laoi ina measc. It was a most memorable ocaid and a tribute to an Priomoide, Treasa Ni Eachthighearn agus muinteoiri chom maith le baill an bhoird bainistiochta. The new school is truly a great achievement by all concerned not just the fine building and its first class facilities ata ann but the very blathu or blossoming of the Gaelcoil itself which has grown in numbers and esteem/meas from humbler beginnings all of 25 years ago.

It has grown ten fold from its infancy of about twenty pupils at its first location in the basement of Viewmount House to now numbering close to 200 agus 9 muinteoir. Ta meas mor agus buiochas tuilte ag Treasa who put her considerable talents and dedication behind this project on gcead la. And it was good to see that work warmly, wholeheartedly and deservedly acknowledged ag an Oscailt Oifigiuil. Deservedly too, the honour of unveiling the wall plaque ag comoradh na ocaide went to Daithi Kimber who was the driving force behind the foundation of the Gaelscoil in this area sna blianta sin agus thug Treasa agus coiste gach tacaioct don aidhm a chuir said rompu. Mar sin bhi blas milis leis an ocaid agus moladh thar cuimse tuilte.

Bean Speisialta

Those were just some of the sentiments expressed on the occasion of the official opening and I revisit it now because an Aoine seo chaite witnessed the retirement of an bhean uasal, iontach, speisialta sin, Treasa Ni Eachthigearn, An Priomhoide. It was also decided to bring forward by a few months the 25th anniversary of the Gaelscoil’s foundation alluded to above while Treasa was fos i gceannas ar chursai so as to pay full and deserved creidiuint to what has been a labour of love for her. Parents, past and presents as well as many past pupils responded don cuireadh teacht chuig an scoil chun buiochas a ghabhail agus slan a fhgail leis an mbean speisialta seo. The refrain of ‘ Cad a dheanfaimid gan Treasa’ was to be heard I rith an lae.

The place was a much quieter place when I dropped in later on Friday afternoon to have a dreas cainte agus comhra le Treasa. Quieter, yet still a sense of lingering echoes of paisti learning and laughing, caint agus canadh, ceol agus caidreamh na scoile. As we strolled about na haite I was struck by how full of colourful learning it was. It was also ri-shoileir how much Treasa cared about this place- gach piosa de, is cuma chomh mion, ta ait cui do gach ait. Treasa has a deep-gra don saol Gaelach agus gach rud a theann lei – an chaint, an ceol, an fhiliocht, an cultuir uilig, a bheith dilis, ta sin fior thabhactach di.

Treasa was also keen to imbue in her pupils a pride of place, ni hamhain gur scoil Phort Lairge i, ach also about being very much at the heart of Ballygunner itself.

Of course many will remember that the great Maistir McGinn held sway san ait seo leis na blianta and his fostering of hurling here is now legendary. He must have smiled broadly a few weeks ago when the Gaelscoil’s U-13 foireann won craobh an chondae against Rathcormack. Of course, the Gaelscoil makes great use of the pairceanna imeartha of Ballygunner GAA which they generously make available doibh. Now Treasa is leaving her own rich tapestry of achievements in her cuid oibre anseo ar mhaithe na Gaeilge agus na paisti fein ar ndoigh – a worthy legacy of which she can be justifiably proud.

An Fear Nua

Ach teann an saol ar aghaidh. The newly appointed priomhoide is Ruairdhi De Paor of Portlaw who in turn comes from a distinguished family of muinteoiri naisiunta especially sna Gaelscoileanna. His brother is priomhoide in Tramhor and sister in a similar role in GS Loch Garmain, another sister involved I gcursai in Enniscorthy. Ta traidisiun maith ann, mar sin. But meanwhile we wish Treasa well agus gach dea-ghui for the future but given her many interests, enthusiasms and keen intelligence and scholarship more of life’s challenges await fulfilment. Buiochas agus go n-eiri leat, A Threasa!

The Harp

In keeping with our theme today of cursai Gaelacha let’s have a look at a traditional icon. The harp of course, is the national symbol of Ireland, to be seen on all our coinage, presidential flag and on government stationery. The harp has a long romantic association with Ireland, and for foreigners harp music is often seen as the most traditional of all – hence the harp entertainments at ‘medieval’ banquets at the likes of Bunratty Castle ( though this is far from being traditional music). The earliest representation of the familiar triangular harp is on the late 11th century shrine of St Meadog, suggesting that the instrument was in common use by then; the earliest Irish harp still in existence is the ‘Brian Boru’ in Trinity College Dublin, thought to date from the late 14th century. It is on this that the harp on the Irish coinage is based.

Although the Gaelic harp tradition was not finally broken until the early 19th century, its fortunes were closely linked to the Gaelic way of life, where the cruitire (or harpist) had a standing second only to the filid (poet) in the household of the chieftain. It is thought that at first poems were recited to the accompaniment of the harp,( in England the lyre was used in a similar way and in time gave rise to the term lyric as the words of a song). Later the harpist would sing to his own music as poetry moved from the highly structured syllabic verse to the regular stressed rhythm of the Amhran. With the decline of Gaelic society in the 17th century, harpers like the poets depended for their livelihood on the generosity of the Anglo-Irish. Munster poet Aogan O Rathaille wrote powerfully and bitterly on this subject. Also, the likes of Carolan became itinerant in order to earn a living. By the early 19th century the traditional harp was in decline, to be replaced by the new ‘Irish Harp’, taught to young ladies for self- accompaniment in convents and drawing rooms (this is the kind of harp music heard in Bunratty). We remember people like Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O’Callaghan and Mary O’ Hara who made names for themselves with this form of harp performance.

There has been a revival in the traditional Irish harp over the last three decades, with such harpers as Grainne Yeats and Maire Ni Chathasaigh re-establishing a link with the musicians of the 18th century by studying ornamentation and dance music from written sources and incorporating it into their own repertoire. These players have been influential as teachers, and there is a new breed of traditional to be heard today. Lynn Saoirse who lives locally here I bPort Lairge is a popular and accomplished harpist.

On a lighter note, to conclude, I was told that the real reason the harp was the national symbol of Ireland because the country is run by pulling strings!!

Go Seachtain Eile, Slan.