Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach

Opening Of Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach

12th June 2008

Minister, Chairman of the Board, distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to have been invited to make a few remarks on behalf of the Presbyterian community on this important occasion, the official opening of Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach.

As I, on behalf of the Presbyterian community, wish you well in this important project I cannot help but reflect on the Presbyterians of the past who did so much to advance, preserve and even revive the Irish language. That was long before it sadly became a political football. Time would not permit me to make reference to them all – I therefore refer to but two!

WILLIAM NEILSON – Presbyterian minister of Dundalk. (1796-1818)

William was born the son of a Presbyterian minister in 1774 at Kilmore near Crossgar in Co. Down, and he himself became minister of Dundalk in 1796. To be able to preach in Irish was a necessary qualification, and perhaps he learned his Irish in Lacale, not far from Kilmore, where his father ran a school which included Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters. Neilson was skilled in various languages, and in 1808 he produced the work for which he is remembered, An Introduction to the Irish Language,(Neilson’s Grammar), and the next year an Irish spelling book.

The book’s value is shown in that it continued in print for many decades, and again is back in print today. It is, I understand, one of the best sources for Co. Down Irish there is.

ROBERT MACADAM – Collector of Irish literature and advocate of the Irish language.

Writing in the Irish language dates back to the fifth century. Extensive literature in manuscript form dating from the eight century still survives today. These manuscripts are among the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe. Important work is involved in transcribing and rescuing valuable Irish manuscripts. Robert Shipboy McAdam and Samuel Bryson made a major contribution in this regard.

The first book printed in the Irish language did not appear until 1567. The Scottish reformer John Knox’s “Book of Common Order” was published in Edinburgh in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. In their written forms they were essentially the same language at that time. In 1835 Robert MacAdam, like William Neilson, also produced An Introduction to the Irish Language, with Tomás Ó Fiannachtaigh, intended for the use of the Irish Classes in the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. This book was based largely on Neilson’s Grammar.

The Irish Cultural Centre on the Falls Road, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich is so named in honour of Robert MacAdam, Presbyterian pioneer of the revival of Irish language in 19th century Belfast and Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich.

Presbyterians in the past made a significant contribution to the advancement, preservation and revival of the Irish language. Is it too much to hope, that, without political interference, the language of the Gael may again take hold among the Presbyterians of Ireland?

Minister, Chairman of the Board, distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour for me to be invited to make a few remarks on this important occasion, and I thank you for that honour.

As I wish you well for the future may I ask you, Mrs Rosemary Mulholland, as Chairman of the Board or Governors, to accept from me a copy of the New Testament in Irish, suitably inscribed in honour of this occasion.

Rev. Brian Kennaway


Crumlin Presbyterian Church