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The Daltaí Boards » Archive: 1999-2004 » 2004 (April-June) » History of Irish Gaelic in America « Previous Next »

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JimCullen (24.27.47.243 - 24.27.47.243)
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 04:26 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Is there any scholarship on how many Irish immigrants during the time of the Famine spoke Irish? Also, I suppose many if not most of those who spoke Irish exclusively were illiterate, but was there ever an Irish Gaelic press in the US? How long did Irish Gaelic survive in places like New York and other Irish immigrant centers?

Go raibh maith agat,

-- Jim Cullen (jcullen@austin.rr.com)

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Jim,NuaEabhrac (130.156.27.75 - 130.156.27.75)
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 04:53 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Off the top of my head, I believe I have heard that about 40% of the famine Irish in NY spoke Irish and that the first Irish language newspaper in the world was published in Brooklyn.

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Jim,NuaEabhrac (130.156.27.75 - 130.156.27.75)
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2004 - 05:32 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Here is a blurb on a book published by "Four Courts" on this subject:

Building Irish identity in America, 1870-1915: the Gaelic Revival

ÚNA NÍ BHROIMÉIL


The Irish language was the hook on which Irish cultural nationalism was hung in Ireland at the end of the 19th century. The foundation of the Gaelic League in 1893 focused on the revival of Irish as a spoken language. By 1916, the Irish language was at the core of Irish nationalism. There was also a flowering of Irish cultural nationalism in the United States at the time. The first Irish language class was founded in Brooklyn in 1872 and the first Gaelic society in Boston in 1873. The first popular bilingual newspaper, An Gaodhal, was published in New York from 1881 to 1898. There was a substantial body of Irish speakers in the United States but language maintenance was not a priority for them. Rather, the formation of Gaelic societies and the cultivation of the Irish language societies in the United States became a building block of ethnic pride.

This embracing of ethnicity in its most advantageous form became a tool of assimilation for the American Irish. To the Gaelic League in Ireland, the language movement in the United States was an inspiration and a valuable financial source. The missions of Douglas Hyde and others to America were primarily fund-raising tours. They nonetheless ensured a role for the Irish language and Gaelic societies in the United States as legitimate components of the Irish nationalist movement there.

Úna Ní Bhroiméil lectures in History at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.

156pp June 2003

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Chris Dixon (84.66.79.103 - 84.66.79.103)
Posted on Thursday, May 06, 2004 - 05:01 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A chairde,
James S Donnelly Jnr (2001) The Great Irish Potato Famine, London, Sutton Publishing. Has a lot of useful statistical information on famine victims and famine emigrants. [Particularly in pages 169-186].
I've a notion that he gives a figure of 61% of emigrants having Gaeilge as their first language - but a quick glance at the section in question has failed to find the reference.
I would certainly think that a figure of 40% was too low, in view of the rate of decline of the language at the time and the way in which famine emigration is normally understood as a contributing factor in this.
Le gach dea-ghuí!

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LACAstronomer (129.210.140.25 - 129.210.140.25)
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 05:57 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Hmmm....my great grandparents came over well after the famine. They came in the 1920s, and they (or at least my great grandfather) spoke Irish. My relatives in Ireland still do. I don't know about the history of the Irish language in America, except that I heard once that a large portion of Washington's army spoke Gaelic (it didn't differentiate between Irish and Scottish Gaelic though). I know that at the time of the American revolution, the British felt that it had been stirred up by the Irish and even said "we've lost America to the Irish". So, I know that the Irish people were always numerous in America. I don't know so much about language questions. My guess is that most of them could speak English already (through years of punishments for speaking Irish) and so they probably felt it easier to blend in by speaking English.

My grandpa was never taught Irish, and didn't even really know that his parents spoke it until later. He was walking with his dad in Minnesota, and they encountered a friend of his dad, who his dad greeted and conversed with in Irish. So basically, I think the Irish found it rather easy to assimilate (at least as far as language goes...certainly it wasn't easy in other areas!). Most immigrants spoke to their children in English and didn't give much thought, I don't think, to preserving the Irish language in America.

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JimNuaEabhrac (67.81.112.66 - 67.81.112.66)
Posted on Friday, May 07, 2004 - 06:41 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Lots of good info here:

http://www.ucc.ie/chronicon/nighab2.htm

my original post would seem to be a bit of an over-simplification.

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Ó h-Eoghain (64.5.220.233 - 64.5.220.233)
Posted on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 11:48 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Hi Folks.
I'd be interested in learning more about this topic also. I read something recently where the author, a historian, stated that the Irish language disappeared from descendents' memories "with indecent haste". He was talking about Irish immigrants and their descendents in New Brunswick, Canada and I think said something to the effect that, even though the speakers of Irish were as many as or more than the speakers of Scots Gaelic, the latter language lingered longer as a mother tongue and (in some parts of Canada)still does.It is also true that it was proposed that New Brunswick's name be changed to New Ireland and that a motion came before the legislature here to make Gaelic one of our official languages.
I don't know yet if anyone in New Brunswick (Canada) has studied the language of the Irish who came here in great numbers before, during, and after the Famine, but I often think the best way to start might be to look at dialectal studies of the English spoken in areas where Irish speakers settled and lived.
Slán leibh
Ó h-Eoghain

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Doreen (198.81.26.45 - 198.81.26.45)
Posted on Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 09:38 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

A Chairde: My own genealogical research (relative to my Irish-speaking great grandparents in Brooklyn New York) led me to this site which you may find interesting as regards the Irish and the Irish language in New York from 1841 to 1902:
http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/eagle/index.htm

If you type in 'Irish' and just do a general search, there are over 40,000 articles, quite a few of them pertaining to the language.

Doreen

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Des (64.119.36.219 - 64.119.36.219)
Posted on Friday, May 14, 2004 - 01:35 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I read somewhere that half of the Continental Army at the Battle of Trenton was Irish-born (- - I'm referring to the above comment that a large portion of Washington's army spoke Gaelic).

Des

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