Christy Evans meets a Kent couple who’ve spent the last decade teaching Irish ‘in the garden of England’.
Bhuail mé le lánúin speisialta go gairid. Lánúin cairdiúil, cliste agus soranna iad. Rugadh Seán agus Hazel Meaney in Kent. Rugadh máthair Sheáin i nGaeltacht Phoirt Láirge. Bhun Seán agus Hazel ‘The Medway Irish Group’ (MIG). Tá MIG ag céiliúradh deich mbliana ar an bhfód. Tá dul chun iontach déanta ag an nGaeilge le deich mbliana anuas. D’eagraigh imeachtaí i Rochester agus in Aylesford, Kent.
Is sráidbhaile fíor-álainn, Aylesford. Deir Seán “Tógadh mé in Aylesford le beagánín Gaeilge. D’fhoghlaim mé níos mó Ghaeilge timpeall deich mbliana ó shin. Thug mé léacht as Gaeilge cúpla bliain ó shin. Bhí imní an domhain ormsa, ach bhí sé ceart go leor! I mbliana, chuaigh muid go Baile Átha Cliath. Bhi tríocha Gaeilgeoir ón mBreatain linn ann. Chonaic muid an pharáid – bhain muid an-taitneamh as” Bhí Seán agus Hazel ag obair gan stad ar son na Gaeilge. Ach anois, tá Seán agus Hazel éirithe as. Tá comhairle mhaith ag Hazel “Is le gach duine an Ghaeilge. Tá go leor slite chun í a fhoghlaim. Logáil isteach ar www.colaiste- na-ngael.com leis an mbealach is tapúla a fháil go dtí an t-eolas ata uait. Buail agus osclófar mar a deirtear!”
I met a friendly and easygoing couple recently. Husband and wife team Seán and Hazel Meaney were born in Kent, but Seán’s mother was born in the Waterford Gaeltacht. Seán and Hazel founded the Medway Irish Group, which has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. They’ve arranged wonderful and imaginative Irish language gatherings in Rochester and in the picture-postcard village of Aylesford in Kent.
Seán says “I was born in Aylesford and grew up with only a little Irish. I decided to learn properly about ten years ago. I made steady progress and two years ago I had to give a lecture in Irish. I was petrified, but it all went well! Earlier this year, we went with thirty Irish speakers from Britain to the commemorations in Dublin. We saw the parade of our defence forces – it was a great event”.
Seán and Hazel have worked without a break teaching Irish in Kent for a decade, but now they are retiring. Even so, Hazel has good advice for new learners: “Irish belongs to everyone. There are many ways to learn the language. Log on to www.colaiste-nangael. com for the quickest way to get the information you are looking for. As they say in Irish, knock and the door will open”.