Meaití Jó Shéamuis Ó Fátharta is a member of The Irish Gift, a group based in Middle Tennessee that promotes and preserves the Irish culture in this area. The Irish Gift also has a huge online presence as we continue to bring the Irish language, music song and dance to people all over the US and the world.
Sit back and relax to enjoy learning about how it was growing up in an Irish-speaking area of Ireland in the 50′s and 60′s.
The Irish Gift, bringing the Irish to Tennessee!
Is mise Meaití mac le Jó Shéamuis Ó Fátharta agus le Neain Pheaidí Nic Dhiarmuda ach is fearr liom an leagan áitiúil de m’ainm, Meaití Jó Shéamuis, mar go mbraithim luascadh níos ceolmhaire leis ná an leagan foirmiúil, Máirtín Ó Fátharta.
I introduce myself as Gaeilge in Ireland and also to people worldwide whom I know have Irish connections as on this particular occasion. There may be a small percentage who may know or remember me as Meaití Jó Shéamuis (even Mattie Joe Shéamuis, with or without the surname Ó Fátharta) as I am involved with The Irish Gift and participated in the T-CAIF fest in O’More College, Franklin TN, in 2011 and 2012. I live in the south Connemara Gaeltacht area of County Galway known as Cois Fharraige and in a little townland village called Na hAille.
I have seen many changes here and indeed all over the Connemara Gaeltacht area in my time. Firstly, it was a relatively poor, craggy agricultural terrain stretching west from Lough Corrib for about fifty miles to Clifden. But poor as the land may be, it was one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country with Galway Bay on your left, and over looking the north County Clare Coast, the Burren and the three Aran Islands, for half of that journey; then the Carraroe peninsula, with the Isles of Lettermore, Gorumna and Lettermullen connected by bridges for almost the last hundred and fifty years; returning to another peninsula, Muicineach-Idir-Dhá-Sháile, where another bridge will lead you to Camus, Ros Muc, Cill Chiaráin and eventually on to Carna. Although this is a truly quaint and picturesque journey, it is not its physical geographical beauty which contains its most valuable wealth but its vast treasure of folklore, poetry, songs, dance and music which goes back thousands of years.
I consider myself fortunate as one of the last generation born into a house which had all of the above in its natural form, still intact, while growing up here in the fifties and most of the sixties. Ours was a little bigger than an average sized thatched cottage with three bedrooms and a large kitchen, very suitable for half sets, musicians, singers and storytellers. The party nights with a mix of songs and story-telling were a regular occurrence during the long wintry nights. The “Party” otherwise known in the Connemara Gaeltacht as “Na Timeanna” in the houses, consisted of music, dance and song. Many of these took place in my parents home when I was a young boy as they both loved dancing sets and céilí. The music was usually played by my uncle Máirtín, my father’s brother, who had been the resident box player at the céilís in the locality. I remember being so proud the first time I had permission to play with him at one of those “timeanna” in the village!
My mother’s brothers, who lived in the next village, paid frequent visits and in the winter time sung songs and recounted long stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Fianna Éireann and their incredible heroics against such stalwarts as the Hag of the Burren or the King of the Eastern World. Other nights it would be extraordinary fairy stories or local folklore about the Great Famine, the American Wakes or certain great characters of the area in previous times. It is a pity that there was no facility to record even a fraction of this lore, songs or even the dancing style of the previous generation and particularly the rich natural turn of phrase of our language, totally free of any English influence. Little I thought then that most of those styles and pastimes were bound to disappear along with the vast changes in our native language and people.
Sea, ní bheidh a leithéidí siúd arís ann, go cinnte!