Irish Government Grant

Caerwyn Williams - The Irish Literary Tradition 1

The Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies has recently received an award from the Irish Government to support the teaching of Irish Language and Literature at Aberystwyth. An award of 93,000EUR will been made to Aberystwyth University over the next three years though an Irish government program which supports the teaching of Modern Irish. The award will also be used to create a number of language scholarships allowing Aberystwyth students to attend summer courses in an Irish-speaking area in Ireland.

Irish language and literature is a key focus in the work of the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies. Uniquely in Britain, Aberystwyth offers a joint honours degree scheme in Irish. The language also forms a core element in the Celtic Studies degree scheme and a popular option for those pursuing a degree in Welsh also. Irish at Aberystwyth is not a recent phenomenon, more than any other British university it has a strong tradition of Irish language studies. Staff of the Department have produced much important research over the years, but the most popular work is probably J. E. Caerwyn Williams’s The Irish Literary Tradition which has been published in Irish, Welsh and English, and is still used as the main textbook for Irish literature students in Irish universities. Williams was Chair of Irish at Aberystwyth between 1965 and 1979. More recently, the Department has forged links with Irish learners across Wales and England, providing regular teaching and support to groups based in Manchester, the West Midlands and London.

On the announcement of the award, Peadar Ó Muircheartaigh, Lecturer in Celtic Studies, said: ‘The award is a recognition of the high profile and hard work of Aberystwyth colleagues over the years in the study and teaching of Irish language and literature. This and our location in a strongly Welsh-speaking area make it an excellent choice for Celtic Studies students’.

Cathryn Charnell-White, Head of Welsh and Celtic Studies said ‘We are particularly pleased that the award will allow us to set us a named scholarship scheme allowing students to experience the Irish language in its heartland, and to bring that experience back to Aberystwyth with them’.

Further details on the student scholarships will be made available in due course.


Meeting Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland

Three members of staff and three students from the Welsh Department’s Celtic Studies programme recently represented Aberystwyth University at a reception held in the Cardiff Millennium Centre for Michael D. Higgins, the good-natured, eloquent and immensely popular President (since October 2010) of the Irish Republic who was visiting Wales to promote the development of a Wales-Ireland sector for facing a shared range of economic, political cultural and environmental challenges.

President Higgins is well known as a poet and supporter of the arts. As Minister for Arts, Culture (now ‘Heritage’) and the Gaeltacht in 1993–97 he was largely responsible for re-establishing the Irish Film Board and creating the nation’s Irish language television service (TG4). In April 2014 his was the first official visit ever made by an Irish Head of State to the United Kingdom, to Parliament and to Windsor Castle.

Dr Ian Hughes, Dr Simon Rodway, and Dr William Mahon, along with postgrads James McCann (MA) and Hynek Janousek and Erasmus student Sarah O’Neill (National University of Ireland, Galway) made the minibus trip to Cardiff on Tuesday, 28 October. The reception was held from 12.30 – 2.30 and featured an inspiring speech by the President which included specific reference to the Irish-language tuition available at Aberystwyth University and the financial support it receives from the Irish government. Each of the Aberystwyth representatives also had an opportunity to exchange private words with President Higgins.

An additional highlight for the Aberystwyth visitors was a chance meeting with the Welsh literary giant and Gaelophile Dr Harri Pritchard Jones who shared memories of his days spent in the Aran Islands and spoke to them in excellent Irish.

Derbyniad gyda Arlywydd Iwerddon 1

Dr Ian Hughes, Sarah O’Neill, Dr William Mahon, Dr Harri Pritchard Jones, Dr Simon Rodway, James McCann, Hynek Janousek

The invitation to members of Aberystwyth University came from the Irish Embassy in London at the suggestion of Séamus Mac Giolla Chomhaill, Principal Officer for Irish Language policy and economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking regions) within the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Mr Mac Giolla Chomhaill had paid a visit to the Aberystwyth Welsh Department last May and was highly impressed by the linguistic competence and expertise of the Celtic-Studies teaching staff.

Dr William Mahon, Darlithydd Astudiaethau Celtaidd