Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú (The Gaelic League Glasgow)
Celebrity supporter, Sunderland Football Manager Martin O’Neill told The Irish Post: “Being Irish myself, and having also lived in Glasgow, I feel a natural affiliation with Maireád. There is a very strong Irish community in Glasgow, (I am sure anyone who follows the Scottish Premier League is aware of this!), and I believe that the work Maireád, and the other volunteers in Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú carry out as teachers of the Irish language, is instrumental in keeping the Irish heritage alive in Scotland. Maireád’s passion for what she does is inspiring, and she is already a Hibernian Hero in my book!”
Donegal-native Maireád Uí Ghall moved to Glasgow as a child but only began to learn the Irish language in later life. She has offered her services at Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú since the 1980s — one of the many volunteers who dedicate their free time to the centre. This week she told us more about the organisation.
Tell us more about the charity and your role:
“Our aim is to promote and foster the Irish language and to promote the culture of Ireland. The organisation started in Dublin but the Glasgow branch was founded in 1895. It has always been a voluntary organisation and the teachers who take classes are all mainly volunteers. I have been involved here since the early ’80s. Although born in Donegal I came to Glasgow when I was a child, however I didn’t hear the language being spoken until I was a teenager.”
What service does the charity provide for Irish children?
“We have children here every week taking language classes. What’s interesting is they are there for different reasons. Some are from families whose language at home is Irish. They were born here and know English but their parents want them to learn Gaelic in a fun setting with other children. Others are from families who hope to return to Ireland, they want their children prepared to enter their new school with knowledge of the language. Some have left Ireland to live in Glasgow, and their parents don’t want them to lose the language. We also have some second or third generation Irish children who are keen to know more of the culture of their parents or grandparents.”
How does IYF funding support your work?
“As a voluntary organisation we rely heavily on support from others and on fundraising. We use our IYF funding to help fund our children’s summer camp, for children up to the age of about 13. Over the week we have drama, music, dancing and even Gaelic sports and learn words in Gaelic related to the activities. This allows us to introduce new words and short phrases to their learning. This is our fourth year of running the camp, and we could not have done it without the help of IYF over the years. That funding allows us to give some remuneration to our tutors, without whom it could not take place.”
How important is the work you do for the children you serve?
“If the centre didn’t exist I am not aware of anywhere else in Glasgow where these children, and the adults we serve, could go to learn the language in this way. We don’t have an Irish centre as such here, so this type of Irish cultural service is not widely available. Also, the number of people who want to learn the language is on the increase and it’s vital that there is a place for them to learn and keep our wonderful Irish language alive. We serve young people and adults from a very wide spread of areas in and around Glasgow, some students even come from much further away, along the west coast of Scotland. There is just nowhere else for them to go.”
What does it mean to your organisation to be nominated for the IYF Hibernian Hero Award?
“It is a fantastic privilege to be nominated for this award. Without the funding we get from IYF we would not be able to put on these classes during the summer. We really do appreciate it and it gives us the chance to consolidate the work we are doing all year round in our classes. We get to reinforce all they are learning and that’s so important. The nomination also helps to raise the profile of our organisation, and the work being done here. It opens us up to a much wider audience which is fantastic for us.”