The Gaelic League in Kilnamona

"Who now will dare say Kilnamona wants patriotism?" (Clare Champion, 1903)

The Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) was founded in Dublin on 31 July 1893 by Douglas Hyde. Local branches organised Irish classes conducted by timirí (travelling teachers) as well as lectures, concerts and Irish dances. From 1899 onwards the Gaelic League published An Claidheamh Soluis, an Irish-language weekly newspaper. In October of 1903 a branch was set up in Kilnamona. The officers of the branch were as follows: President: Fr McInerney P.P.; Vice Presidents: B O'Loughlin and J.F. Keatinge N.S.; Treasurer: Mr Tuohy N.T.; Secretary: Francis Lyons. The Ennis Coiste Ceanntair was asked to provide a teacher for the class. Some members of the league could already read Irish while Francis Lyons had already mastered Irish through private study. The 1st Irish class was held the following month after mass. Fr. Patrick McInerney spoke at the inaugural class and spoke of his shame at finding educated men unable to read and write their native language and heartily welcomed Patrick O'Dea as the first Irish teacher of the Kilnamona branch.

To create interest in the Irish classes a concert was organised to take place in the school. As the report sent to the Clare newspapers said:

"Say what you like against emigration I believe we cannot induce these young people to stay unless we provide some amusement". [1].

Apart from the Feis concert in Ennis, this concert was said to be the best Gaelic concert held for years. People came from Ennis, Kilmaley, Ruan and Dysert to attend. Dancing, singing and instrumental music was the entertainment provided. Most performers were from Crusheen and Ennis but Martin Hanrahan of the Kilnamona Gaelic class sang, while Miss Molly Keating, a child of just 10 years, played a selection of tunes on the fiddle. Fr McInerney thanked the Crusheen and Ennis Gaelic League branches who came at their own expense. The Master of Ceremonies, school principal Mr J. F. Keatinge, was thanked while Michael Hegarty, Pat McTigue, Thomas O'Brien and Edmond Tuohy were singled out as especially hard working members of the committee organising the concert. [2].

1905 saw another Gaelic concert held at the school to raise funds for repairs to the church. The school choir opened the entertainment and children from the school danced a faultless four-hand reel. A jig and reel was danced by the Pilkington girls while Lizzie Keating sang "Maureen" sweetly. Molly Keating and Kathleen Hegarty performed a duet.[3].

1906 saw another concert, again held in the school. Artistes from Ennis, Quin and Crusheen performed. All announcements of the different events were made in Irish by Master of Ceremonies, Aire Timtire Connradh na Gaeilge Donnacha Ua Laoghaire who travelled from Loughrea to attend. The Kilnamona Gaelic class opened up proceedings with "Sláinte na nGael", taught to them by Mrs Keatinge. Mrs Keatinge also contributed a song, while Molly Keatinge and Tessie Hegarty sang a duet. This concert was not as well attended as other concerts and apparently scarcely anyone attended from the Irish speaking districts of the parish. The author of the account of the concert in the Clare Champion was none too impressed by this. He pointed out that another association in the parish had largely stayed away, though they were supposed to work hand in hand with the Gaelic League. He commented that "it was a real pity that the three or four good and true Irish Irelanders of this association are associated with the others, who are nothing more or less than a common pack of shoneens" [4]. Despite this sour note, in 1909 interest in the Irish language was sufficiently strong that Kilnamona was able to provide 24 people to attend the demonstration held in Ennis in favour of having Irish as a compulsory subject in the new national university [5].

References
  1. October 24, 1903 Saturday Record
  2. December 19, 1903 Saturday Record
  3. February 25, 1905 Clare Champion
  4. April 21, 1906 Saturday Record
  5. May 9, 1909 Saturday Record