Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

The Irish Language – What Kind of Language Is It? February 4, 2011

Filed under: Irish language — Janet @ 11:29 pm

In my Norwegian language class, I am constantly making comparisons in my mind between Norwegian and Irish.  The other day I was asked what kind of language Irish was?  I did not answer very well.  It’s a very old language I said.  Well, it’s Gaeilge, and then there’s Scot’s Gaelic, and oh yes, Welsh, and yes Brittany – a lot of influence there.   I waffled around trying to be more articulate.  So I looked in my various books when I got home and I found this chart.

        in this book published by the Yale University Press and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies       

The explanation I thought was good, showing Irish as an Indo-European language, a Celtic language.  A branch separate from the Germanic languages of which Norwegian and English are other branches.  Indo-European is described as being a hypothetical ancestor-language thought to have been spoken more than 4,500 years ago.

To quote from the book:  “The form of Celtic that was to become Irish was brought to Ireland by the invading Gaels – about 300 B.C………..Later it spread to Scotland and the Isle of Man.  Scottish Gaelic and Manx gradually separated from Irish (and more slowly from each other), and they can be thought of as distinct languages from the seventeenth century onwards.”

“It appears that the early Irish learned the art of writing at about the time of their conversion to Christianity, in the fifth century.  After that, the language can be seen to go through four stages of continuous historical development, as far as its written form is concerned:  Old Irish (approximately A.D. 600-900), Middle Irish  (c. 900-1200), Early Modern Irish (c. 1200-1650), and Modern Irish.  Throughout this development Irish borrowed words from other languages it came into contact with (pre-eminently from Latin, from Norse, from Anglo-Norman (a dialect of French), and from English.”

“From the earliest times Irish has been cultivated for literature and learning.  It in fact possesses one of the oldest literatures in Europe.” 

Micheal O Siadhail, Learning Irish, An Introductory Self-Tutor, first published 1980 by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, this edition copyright 1995, reprinted 2007


Irish Word for Today April 23, 2010

Filed under: Animals,Irish language,Jigsaw Puzzles,Kenya — Janet @ 7:51 pm

The Irish Word for Today is eilifint = elephant.  Very appropriate since we went to Dublin Zoo today with family and friends.

  the Nile Crocodile seen through the glass

  the big sea lion doing a big leap

  a bongo in the distance  – an African animal I had never seen – it is found in Central and West Africa – it reminded me a bit of the big Sable Antelope which we saw in the Shimba Hills Reserve near Mombasa on the Kenya Coast.

  flamingoes – more orange than pink and swimming about rather than walking along in shallow water at Lake Nakuru in Kenya

  a rather poor picture taken through glass, but that’s a Snow Leopard up above those big rocks – at least I got to see one today.  At the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle the Snow Leopard domain was open but the snow leopards themselves were in hiding, not to be seen the day we were there

  this picture doesn’t do justice to this magnificent tiger – an Amur Tiger from Eastern Russia – what a beautiful animal.  I couldn’t help but think what a nice jigsaw puzzle could be made.

  some of our “gang” en route to the exit

It was really a fun day.


Erin Go Bragh December 28, 2009

Erin go Bragh

There was a fascinating article in the Irish Times today by Donal McMahon in An Irishman’s Diary.

The photograph in the article shows a little girl sitting on her young soldier father’s knee.  Her father was killed not long afterward when that little girl was just over 15 months old.  It took over 80 years for that little girl, Ina,  to find out the truth about his death.   At the age of 10 that little girl Ina lost her mother and she grew up with cousins and was sent to boarding school.  When she asked about her father, all she could find out was that he had been shot during the Troubles.  She eventually married and had a family who, in turn, grew up ignorant about their grandfather.  Ina knew her father had served with the British Army during the First World War but after that there was a blank.  In actuality, after her death her son Donal found out that his grandfather had served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Now with the resources of the Irish Times archives, Donal has found that his grandfather, Sergeant Thomas Enright, RIC, had been shot dead on December 14th, 1921.  This took place at a turning point in Irish history.  The Anglo-Irish Treaty had been signed eight days previously and was to be ratified by overwhelming majorities in both houses of the English parliament two days later on December 16th.   

Sergeant Thomas Enright, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and a Constable friend were attending a coursing meeting at which Thomas had entered two dogs.  They wore plain clothes.  They visited the hotel where the draw was made for the following day’s coursing.  They left the hotel (the establishment) shortly after 11 p.m., and as soon as they appeared on the street a volley of revolver shots was fired at them by a group of men who were standing near the post office.  Thomas was age 31.

Donal shared his findings with his mother.  He speculates that it is quite possible that reading the account of her father’s death brought some sort of closure to Ina.  She passed away scarcely 2 weeks later.

Donal goes on to write that happily we now have an Ireland where it is possible at last to break the silence surrounding those who served in the police and army of pre-independence times.  The men who shot Thomas, and the reporters of the time, were not to know that Thomas carried a tattoo on his right arm:  “Erin go Bragh”

Reflections – 74 years ago today,  December 28, 1935, was my parents’ wedding day.   My father-to-be had 3 children, age 11, 9, and 8.  My sisters-to-be were flower girls, and the ceremony was held in Winchester Massachusetts in the parental home of my mother-to-be.  I suspect that her sisters, my aunts, were her bridesmaids.   I must ask my sisters, now 83 and 82, and my 96 year old aunt for more of the details.  Or maybe I can search the archives of the Boston newspapers.

I blogged a few days ago about The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.       Many questions were unanswered in the investigation of this case – many family secrets still remained.   After reading it I thought about the probability that most families have secrets, some quite innocent but will never be uncovered, others that will be revealed in the course of time if we know the right questions to ask.


Christmas Reading December 27, 2009

  Lillian Beckwith is one of my favourite authors.  When we were up in Bangor Northern Ireland earlier in December I was browsing in a 2nd hand bookshop and came across this one by her.  It was  first published in 1986.  I didn’trecognize the title or the cover.  I suspected that I had read it before but I decided that even if I had, it was worth reading again.  And sure enough it was.  Lillian Beckwith is better known for some of her other books about life in the Hebrides.  More famous ones include The Hills is Lonely and The Sea for Breakfast.  In the front of the book there is a small list of phrases in the Scottish form of the native languages of the British Isles.  These phrases are similar to Irish Gaeilge.  To quote Wikipedia, there are  “three Goidelic languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx)”.


As the sun shone in to our conservatory I took great pleasure in reading another Haruki Murakami book, After Dark.  This was a splendid book, possibly my favourite so far.

 Haruki Murakami – After Dark

Shortly before Christmas our Book Group met and we had a quiz.  There were a possible 26 points, I think.  My winner got a score of 17.  I think I came dismally last with a score of 6.  This was very bad – usually I like quizzes.  The only consolation to me was that I might have tied with the quizmaster’s wife, who also would normally do very well on her husband’s quizzes.  I was really envious when I saw the prize for the winner.  A book authored by the quizmaster himself and just published.      The Irish Post Box by Stephen Ferguson.   Over the past few months I have been taking pictures of post boxes and wondering about their history – here was just the book for me.  Stephen very kindly sent me one for Christmas.  In another entry I’ll show you some of my pictures of post boxes and tell you some of the history as gleaned from Stephen’s book



Knots and the Celtic Tiger December 13, 2009

Filed under: Colours,Ireland,Irish language,Knitting,Knots,Poetry,Words — Janet @ 5:17 pm


  Words, Knots and Lines, published by Púca Press in 3 languages, Irish, English and German

One of the entries in the above book is a poem titled Knots.  The author is Maria Ní Mhurchú.  The linking of the knots shown in the Book of Kells and the state of knots in which we find the state of Ireland today is very clever.  Have a read yourself.

  Knots by Maria Ní Murchú

Knots by Maria Ní Murchú

When I flick through the Book of Kells

On the internet

My heart always misses a beat


Endless knots!

Stylized, graphic, decorative….

Delicatewly woven by dedicated monks

Prayerful, innocent, beautiful.

No sign of the demon of greed here.

It reminds me of the girl with the golden locks

Dancing a Celtic dance

Her long hair plaited intricately

By deft fingers.

Ireland is tied up in knots today.

Not of a monastic kind….

Thick ropes in a boat knotted together haphazardly

By the careless sailor.

The tug – ready to go under.

Politics, economics, spirituality

The greed of our poor oul’ Celtidc Tiger

Coming back to haunt us

To haunt us – down.

It reminds me of the grey-faced, grey-haired impatient man

Who blatantly hooted at the old lady

As she tried in vain to cross Green Street

To light a candle in the Church

Yes.  I do wonder at what the monks might say.

Dear Patrick, sever the knots that bind us today.

Spirit us… artists, poets, musicians

To the land of milk and honey

That we may come back to Hibernia


With a song in our heart!

And a feather in our hand!


Now a change of topic – Update on my stash

  Watercolour painting of my knitting stash – I did this from a photograph taken about a month ago.

  state of my stash, Dec. 2009 – note the knitting on the right – a panel knit from purples and greens from the stash


Words, Lines and Knots December 10, 2009

Filed under: Art works,Cats,Irish language,Knots,Lines,Words — Janet @ 8:27 pm

Words, Lines and Knots or Foclóirín Linte agus Snaidfimeanna or Kleines Linien und Knotenvokabular, published by Púca Press in Dingle, Kerry, Ireland

  Foclóirín Línte agus Snaidhmeanna

A new book published earlier this month.  A little Thesaurus of Lines and Knots with contributions by 19 artists.  To quote from the acknowledgements, here is something to ponder – “A line can be shaped into letters and knots, one can follow it by foot or in thought and might come back to its starting point.  And what would happen if the linear direction of time were to change its direction.”

For the first printing, 340 copies were hand produced on Letterpress.  I have copy no. 30.

Here is one of the entries – Cat & mouse on the Mobius Strip – knitters and cat lovers take note

Verfolgungsjagd auf dem Mobiusband. – Dominique Lieb

An cat agus an luch i ndiaidh a chéile ar an Bhanda Mobius

Cat & mouse on the Mobius Strip


Snippets From A Day in Dundrum, Dublin Ireland December 3, 2009

Excerpts from my diary for a night and day in early December:

  Moonlight, evening of December 2

  approx. 8:30 a.m., a view of the full moon in the western sky, as daylight comes, December 3 – the moon is that white circle seen through the upper branches of the tree

an email informs me that our belongings are well on their way to Seattle on the SS Rotterdam, due in Seattle on January 4th

10:15 a.m. – a man arrives to fit a carpet, just as I am going off to my final Irish class for this term.  Husband Ian left in charge.  On the way to my class I discover that my handwoven curtains are now buried in a skip.

  a stop for coffee at Starbucks in the Dundrum Town Centre.  I think about my curtains.

Irish class as enjoyable as ever

  Lunch at Harvey Nichols in the Dundrum Town Centre

a bit of shopping

and a walk to Airfield in the mid-afternoon to see how the piglets are doing

  Mama sow having a drink of water

the 10 five day old piglets are doing fine

 and two new goats have moved in next door to the piglets

a bit of Christmas shopping in the shop at Airfield and then coffee and tea with friends  – including 4 year old Alannah who was uneasy about seeing the piglets – Mama sow’s snorts were a bit frightening!

evening – knitting and the latest episode of Ros na Rún – a long running Irish soap