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Scoil Acla gears up for 2010 celebrations

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Two actors look at a third lying on the ground
Cultúr Aisteoirí Chorr na Móna perform ‘Sinte’ a play by Micheál Ó Tuairisg at the launch of ‘Oidhreacht Acla’ at Óstán Oileán Acla last week.

School gears up for 2010 celebrations


Anton Mc Nulty

IN 2010, Scoil Acla celebrates its 100th anniversary and the 25th anniversary since it was re-launched in 1985, and if this year’s events are anything to go by the celebrations in two years’ time will be well worth waiting for.
After a week packed full of events, from music and dancing to creative writing, organisers of this year’s Scoil Acla summer school expressed their satisfaction with the way the week went and said the numbers attending the events were up on previous years.
This year’s school was officially opened by Achill-born poet John Deane in Gielty’s of Dooagh last Monday night, while the week-long festivities culminated at the weekend with set-dancing and and a ceilí in Halla Acla in Achill Sound.
All over the island, every available building was used to accommodate all the classes and events which took place throughout the week. Along with the traditional instrumental classes, there was also a writer’s workshop with Macdara Woods, a dance workshop with Maria O’Connor and there was also a one-day basket weaving course with Kathleen McNea. The instrumental and dance classes took place every morning until lunchtime while the basket-weaving courses took place in the afternoon and the writing workshops lasted all day.
In the afternoons and evenings there was a number of activities to attend, including a talk on Tuesday afternoon on fiddle-making, given by Newport-based master fiddle maker, Graham Wright, who outlined the process of making the fiddle, starting from the bark of the tree to the finished product. Later that evening there was also a traditional seisiún in Ted Lavelle’s, Cashel.
Among the other events which took place during the week was a traditional music recital in St Thomas’s Church in Dugort, while members of the creative workshop also gave a public reading of their work on Friday evening. A Gala Concert featuring top musicians from Achill and elsewhere took place in the Wavecrest Hotel and, on Saturday, students performed the material they learned in class along with their tutors.
Diarmuid Gielty, the Chairman of Scoil Acla, said that approximately 250 children and adults attended the week’s classes and he was delighted with the increasing number of Achill children taking an interest in music.
“This year’s Scoil Acla was very successful and the attendance was up on last year which was great to see. Scoil Acla originally started with classes in two classrooms in Dooagh National School but now we have classes and demonstrations in schools and halls all over the island. We are getting a lot of local support and the number of locals kids attending Scoil Acla is rising every year. When it started first in 1985, 75-80 per cent of the children were coming to the island especially for Scoil Acla. Now, out of the 20 tutors, eleven are from Achill which is great because it shows they stuck with the music they learned in Scoil Acla.
“It is still very important for outsiders to come in because it provides a good income to the area. There are a lot of summer schools opening around the county, but we feel that Achill is different from others because we have the beaches and mountains which others do not. In the afternoon you can go for a swim or a walk on the beach or in the hills and the tutors love that aspect of it,” he said.
Despite it being two years off, Diarmuid explained that the committee members will be getting together in the next few months to put plans together for the centenary celebrations, which they hope will run for at least two weeks. However, he said whatever celebrations they consider, their extent will depend on the budget they have to spend. He added that they will be looking for the continued support of their sponsors and for additional support.

Teanga Bhinn ár Máthar


Éist! Cluinim ins gach ceárda fuaim bhog dheas aoibhinn álainn,
Mar cheolta binn na gcláirseach nó crónán ceolta sídhe.
Éist! Tá sí ag éirí ‘n airde ag neartú is ag árdú,
Tá ’n fhuaim ag ˙éirí láidir, teacht chugainn ar an ngaoth:
Fan! Céard é seo ‘n ár dtimpeall ag ceoltóireacht ’s ag sioscadh?
‘Bhfuil mearbhall teacht ar m’intinn, nó an aisling é an glór?
Ní hea! Ní hea, a cháirde, tá an guth seo ins gach ceárda!
Tá teanga bhinn ár máthar ag múscailt i Muigh Eo.

Tá fuaim bhog bhinn na Gaeilge ag dúiseacht ó na sléibhte,
Tá lúth teacht ina géaga ‘gus éirím ina croí;
Tá scaipeadh ar na néalta, tá ‘n brón bhí uirthi ag éalú
’Gus solas geal na gréine ag taighneamh uirthi arís.
Tá a glór aoibhinn uasal ag crónán in ár gcluasa,
Níos binne ná na cuacha, nó ceiliúr binn na smól,
Tá teanga bhinn Naoimh Pádraig le cloisteáil ar na bánta,
I ngleann agus ar árdán ó cheann go ceann Mhuigh Eo.

Éist! Cluinim glór ár máthar, go geanúil is go grámhair,
Ag labhairt go múinte mánla is fiafraíonn sí dá clann;
A’ gcluin sibh mé a pháistí? ‘Bhfuil trua agaibh d’ bhur máthair
Atá go buartha cráite, gan meas uirthi nó suim?
An ligfidh sibh dom éagú ar thalamh glas na hÉireann,
Nó ‘n ndéanfaidh sibh mé ’shéanadh ós coinne an tsaoil mhóir?
Tá ‘n freagra teacht go láidir: “Ní baol duit choíche a mháthair!
’Gus beidh tú fós go bláthmhar is faoi réim i Muigh Eo.”

Tá ‘n t-óg agus an críonna ag múscailt suas go croíúil,
Tá deireadh leis an oíche ‘gus scaipeadh ar an gceo;
Tá mothú ag teacht ‘sna daoine ‘gus spioraid ina gcroíthe,
Ní bheidh siad feasta cloíte, faoi lionndubh nó faoi bhrón;
Tá ‘n seanóir cnaptha cloíte go meidhreach is go siamsúil,
Tá lúcháir ar a chroí ’stigh ‘gus tá sé ag éirí óg;
Tá fear, bean is páiste faoi ríméad is faoi áthas,
Tá teanga bhinn ár máthar ag múscailt i Muigh Eo.

Tá Muigh Eó ina dúiseacht, le dóchas is le dúthracht,
I bhfíorthoiseach na cúise le n-ár dteanga ‘chur ar fáil,
Tá solas geal na Gaeilge ag breacadh ar na spéartha
Is binn é ceol na n-éanlaith ag fuagairt dúinn an lá.
Tá an Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiúil is an Coláiste i nDú Éige,
Go croíúil is go meabhlach ag crochadh a gcuid seol,
Tá Scoil Acla ‘na réalt eolais dár stiúradh is dár dtreorú
’S cuirfimid bláth na hóige ar an nGaeilge i Muigh Eo.

Dán: Séamas Ó Maoildhia, 1881 – 1928
Ceol: Seán Mac Conmara

John ‘Twin’ McNamara sang this song, to which he wrote the music, at the end of the book launch and oíche drámaíochta, filíochta, amhránaíochta agus ceoil in Óstán Oileán Acla last Tuesday night.

Hats off to young musicians


HATA ACLA
Anton McNulty


THE origins of the term Hata Acla are believed to have come from a time in the 19th century when a top hat was left at the pier in Polranny for Achill men to wear if they were going to Westport or Castlebar, in a bid to hide their poverty.
The men would do their business in town and leave the hata back at the pier when they were getting the boat back to the island.
Those days are long gone but the term Hata Acla lives on through music, song and dance with a competition for young musicians organised every year during Scoil Acla. The competition is a family event with competitors showing off the range of their talents which most of them learned from Scoil Acla lessons. While Hata Acla is an Achill-based competition it attracts competitors from all over Ireland and even from the UK.
This year’s Hata Acla competition was held in Ted Lavelle’s pub in Cashel where five groups – the Small Family from Galway, Grúpa Gan Ainm from Kerry, the McNultys from Dugort, Clann Uí Thiarnáin from Cloughmore and the Achill Trio – entered in the hope of taking home the crown of Hata Acla champions. The majority of those who participated are still attending primary school and the talent on show bodes well for the future of music on the island. The instruments played included the tin whistle, accordion, bodhran, concertina and guitar, and the groups varied their acts with song, dance and music.
The man given the hard task of picking the winner was well-known music teacher, Paddy Ryan, a native of Roscommon who has been tutoring musicians in Scoil Acla since it began in 1985. Addressing the nervous youngsters and their parents, he praised the high standards and said that taking part and making the most of their talents was the most important thing and not who came first or second.
“This competition is not a big deal, it is a bit of fun and that is the way it should be treated. We had five excellent groups who kept us entertained and made full use of the talents they had. The lack of experience is nobody’s fault and the younger musicians will all improve with experience,” he said.
He gave first prize to Clann Uí Thiarnáin from Cloughmore in Achill, second prize went to the Achill Trio and third place went to Grúpa Gan Ainm, a duo from Co Kerry.
Petie Kilbane explained that since he got involved in helping to organise the Hata Acla competition, the most talented competitors were involved this year. He said he hoped a céilí band could be formed in Achill in the future and said he was heartened by the talent on display from the Achill musicians.
“I’ve been doing this since 2003 and the standard is getting better with every year. This year two Achill groups were first and second and that has not happened for a number of years. This is not really a competition, it is more a stage for kids to show off their talent. Most of them would have learned how to play in Scoil Acla and the fact that some of our pupils are now teaching in Scoil Acla bodes well for the future,” he said.
HATA ACLA RESULTS
First: Clann Uí Thiarnáin – John, Seamus, Maryanna, Kathryn and Katie Tiernan
Second: The Achill Trio – Alice Dever, Cian McNamara and Katie Lavelle
Third: Grúpa Gan Ainm – Deirdre O’Rourke and Ellen Winters


Huge turn-out for tribute night and launch

BOOK LAUNCH
Anton McNulty


ON A night when a book of works by the late Achill school teacher and gaeilgeoir, Pádraic Seoighthe, was launched it was fitting that Irish was the language of choice, with impromptu singing and dancing among the highlights of the night.
Last Tuesday evening, a large crowd turned out to attend the launch of ‘Oidhreacht Acla’, which translates as ‘the heritage of Achill’. The work, which was compiled by Pádraic’s daughter, Nora, contains short stories, poetry, songs and stories about the history of Achill, and Irish on the island.
Among the guests who attended the evening’s celebrations were members of the Seoighthe family, Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Joe Mellett, Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcasters Máirtín Mac Donnchadha and Máirtín Davy Ó Coisdealbha, and Rós na Rún actress, Mairéad Ní Ghallchóir. Achill native and Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcaster, Seán Ó Héalaí, was the MC on the night, traditional music was performed by Ceoltóirí Scoil Acla.
Nora Seoighte said she was delighted and surprised with the number of people who turned up for the evening’s entertainment. She said her father would have been delighted with the amount of interest in the language and with the entertainment on the night. Among the Achill people who sang on the night were Katie Sweeney, John ‘Twin’ McNamara, Seán Seoighte and Petie Kilbane, while Denis Gallagher and the Strawboys entertained the crowd with some dancing. A play by Micheál Ó Tuairisg, called ‘Sínte’, was performed by Aisteoirí Chorr na Móna.
Nora thanked Seán Ó Héalaí, Petie Kilbane and all who helped her organise the night’s entertainment and said she was heartened to hear people speaking Irish at the end of the evening.
“I was really impressed with the turn-out and was delighted that most of the talent on show was from Achill, and they were terrific. It was great to see young people there and a friend of mine told me her seven-year-old daughter loved the play. We need the young people to be dipping into the well because it is only when the well goes dry that we realise what talent we had.
“I was thrilled with the positive response and it was great to hear people chatting to each other in Irish at the end of the night. Some of the people were fluent while others weren’t, but it doesn’t matter how good your Irish is if you are prepared to make an effort. For the language to flourish it has to be spoken as part of everyday life and not just polished off now and again and admired. I’m not saying we have to speak it every minute but we have to keep it up and, hopefully, it will lead to it being a mode of communication in the community again,” she said.
All the copies of ‘Oidhreacht Acla’ which were available were sold on the night and Nora said she hopes that more copies will be published in the near future and sold in local shops in Achill.
One of the many interesting aspects of the book is a list of old words and phrases, many of which are unique to Achill, with the English meaning beside them.
“I got the idea from a friend of mine who told me she was interested in learning the language again but had forgotten a lot of her Irish. A lot of these sayings are peculiar to Achill and I think a lot of people would have heard the words before but may have forgotten them. I put the English meaning as well because I want this to be a book for everyone with some interest in Irish and not just fluent speakers.”
The evening’s events were recorded by Raidió na Gaeltachta and will be broadcast in the next fortnight on the Scléip an tSamhraidh show with Máirtín Davy Ó Coisdealbha.