The Irish of Achill in Co. Mayo

Irish is still spoken in many villages in the western half of Curraun and the in the eastern half of Achill Island but, as is the unfortunate case in most Gaeltacht areas, it is rapidly dying.

To the dialectologist Achill Irish is of immense interest because of the influence of Ulster Irish on the dialect. Wagner in his introduction to A Linguistic Atlas and Survey of Irish Dialects mentions the strong Ulster super stratum combined with a North Connaught sub stratum in the Achill and Ballycroy areas.

There is still an awareness of Ulster origins among the inhabitants of Upper Achill and Curraun but there is no feeling of kinship. Donegal people are considered as rabid speakers of Irish who have strange words like tabla, bealach mor and plainceide, whereas Connemara people are respected as having excellent Irish and being more like themselves.

Yet after spending a short time in Curraun, I became aware of a feeling of distinction between the people of Lower Achill and those of the rest of the area. If you are going to Lower Achill, bring a lunch with you, I was advised by a Curraun man, you will get nothing to eat from the "Graidhini". When I asked who the "Graidhini" were I was informed that this was a nickname given to people of Lower Achill because they addressed one another as 'Ó a ghradh', a term which was not used in the Eastern side; they were a different type of people altogether, I was told; mean and inhospitable".

Extract from: "MAYO - Aspects of its Heritage", by Bernard O'Hara. Published by kind permission of the author.

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