Speak Irish: Speak Irish Cleveland Takes A New Direction

By Bob Carney

I’ve written before about our Speak Irish Cleveland classes being a collective effort. The class would not exist if Caitlin and I didn’t have the support of others.

We’ve gradually begun taking a different approach, adding some things to the class that we’ve only talked about in the past. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of them with you now.

Caitlin is still leading our intermediate group and I continue to instruct our begginers, but we’ve added much more to the class in addition to Irish language. Our main focus will always be an introduction to the  language and developing conversational skills, but we’ve decided to make Irish history and culture a part of the class as well.

Shiela Ives has been giving short presentations weekly on a variety of topics, such as Irish place names, the history of the language, and the sean nós style of singing, just to name a few.

Her talks are highly informative and very well researched. She supplies us with reference sources where we can obtain more information if a topic really interests us. These presentations have become a much anticipated part of our Tuesday evenings.

We also have our own “musical director,”.Moyra Michelle is originally from Sligo, and joined our group to stay up on her Irish. She has been a welcome addition to the class.

One evening she asked if she might teach the class a song in Irish and quickly wrote out the lyrics and phonetic spelling on our whiteboard. Moyra has an infectious enthusiasm that is impossible not to get caught up in. I was amazed as she had forty-five people singing along with her as we learned “Oscail do Chroí.

Liam Curran, another class participant, brought his bag pipes one night. He played in a pipe band until recently and brought both his Scottish pipes and his Irish or Uillean pipes. He gave us a demonstration on the construction and explained the differences between the two and a breakdown of how they work and are played. He even played us a couple of tunes. 

On the subject of music, Andy McManus and Tiffany Schaeffer came out and played for us one evening. They have been big supporters of the class and have graciously helped me out with some of the Irish Language presentations I’ve done in schools.

Andy is a fantastic singer songwriter and even when he is playing a traditional tune he brings his own unique touch to it. Tiffany plays the harp and has the voice of an angel. She performed a few songs in Irish and Scots Gaelic for us that evening as well.

If you haven’t seen either of these great musicians, get out there and find them! If you happen to see them playing together somewhere you won’t be disappointed.

Andy McManus
Andy McManus

We’ve also been able to bring in some guest speakers on occasion. Last October, international best selling author Dacre Stoker gave us a ZOOM presentation on his great grand uncle Bram Stoker and the writing of Ireland’s most famous novel  Dracula. This coincided with his own book Dracul, a prequel to Bram’s classic, being the book chosen by CRAIC.

Dacre spoke about Dracul and answered questions from the class concerning all things Dracula. It was a wonderful spooky start to Halloween.

C.R.A.I.C. is an Irish book club that was formed by two members of our class, Shiela Ives and Kim Franklin-Furlong. Many of our class members participate in the club that meets once a month. For more information about Cleveland Reads About Irish Culture, see the January issue of iIrish at or

Cleveland freelance journalist, author, teacher and playwright Christopher Johnston, visited one evening and spoke of the influences of his Irish acestry on his writing and of his Irish themed plays. A  variety of literary topics came up when Chris opened it up for questions. We hope to have him back again.

Last month, I introduced you to Lisa Held of the International Language Dept. of the Cleveland Public Library. She stopped out one evening and explained in person everything the library has to offer students of Irish or any foreign language. Lisa also collected recommendations to add to the library’s acquisitions. She lives close to PJ’s and hopes to visit us often.

Eileen Kilroy has been a part of our group since the beginning. She has handled all of our clerical duties and manages our Facebook page. She also supplies us with handouts of Irish language words and phrases appropriate to the holidays or seasons. Eileen is instrumental in keeping things organized.

It’s hard to describe the level of participation that so many in the class have taken. Joe Dolan, iIrish columnist Katie Gagne, Sister Catherine, Brendan Delay, Shannon Thomas-Ziemnik, Karen Bennett and everyone else that has leaned over to help someone or to ask me a question to help me clarify something I said so others can understand means so much to me. I don’t consider myself a teacher, more of a tour guide to Irish, so I always appreciate the help.

Pat and Doug and all of the staff at PJ’s have welcomed and supported us over the years. I can’t help but smile when I think of the night Doug walked through the class and saw the hundreds of post-it notes stuck to just about everything in the room. We were having a contest to see who could name the most things in Irish. He just grinned and shook his head.

I have to admit, as an instructional language class, we’re a bit unorthodox, but we’re learning Irish and having fun doing it. If you would like to visit to see if the class is right for you, contact John O’Brien or myself. We’d love to have you.

Slán go Fóill!

See this and all of Bob’s columns HERE

Picture of Bob Carney

Bob Carney

*Bob Carney is a student of Irish language and history and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Rían, Aisling and Draoi and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected]


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