Curriculum Gaeilgae

Séamas Ó Neachtain (Jim Norton)


When I was a kid, every St. Patrick's Day we put out our little green flag with the harp and Eirinn go Bragh on it. I never knew what that meant. I thought it was a little weird and kind of foreign when a kid in my class did her step dancing for the class. I never understood why a family around the corner started spelling and saying their name differently from his brother's family next door (he went back to the original Irish). I didin't know why a friend's family kept travelling to Ireland. I loved movies and things about ancient civilizations, and I thought the Celts were cool. When I was in high school, I heard a little of Cór Chúil Aodha, on a record, and my comment was, "That doesn't sound like English at all!" I thought Gaelic was English with a brogue. When I started college, my first semester I took a class called "Medieval Celtic Literature." Everything was in translation, but I learned that Irish was a language. I was unfortunately also taught that no one really spoke it any more. I was 18. It took another 18 years for me to find out that that wasn't true.

This page is a general outline of my 'progress in Irish.' It's kind of a case study of addiction!

I started learning Irish after my friend Will McConnell (from Ireland), when I asked him if he had ever heard Gaelic, told me about Míle Fáilte (a radio show on WFUV, and Macallaí, a column that Barra Ó Donnabháin used to write in The Irish Echo. It was like discovering the Coelacanth - what I thought was extinct was alive and well! From Séamus Blake (host of the show), I learned about the Irish Book Shop in NYC (no longer around). I went there, and heard live people speaking Irish for the first time (Angela Carter). I bought the book Teach Yourself Irish, but waited until Fathers' Day to get it. My wife Irene and I started learning together for about a year. She dropped off, and I picked up steam from there. When we moved to West Babylon, I joined the AOH, and started attending classes at the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School (Scoil Ghaeilge Ghearóid Tóibín). The rest is history! (I have a little more on why I love Irish here).

Since then, I've been published in almost every Irish language publication. I've been on radio in the US and in Ireland. I've been on TV in Ireland multiple times. I've become the editor of An Gael. I still teach, I'm chairman of the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School and of the Philo-Celtic Society, and I still write a lot. And sing and play Irish music... I guess you could say I've kind of gotten into this whole Irish thing...

Here's a timeline, if you care, about how I got there.

May 1996

Start learning Irish, listening to Míle Fáilte. Become active on the internet ( Gaelic-L, eventually Gaeilge-B, then Gaeilge-A)

Fall of 1997 (?)

Start attending the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School. Rita Bowden is my teacher. Later, Raymond Clark and Pat Cifford and Gerry Kelly.

Fall of 1998

Won a couple of good Irish books at the Nassau Feis (from Joe Halligan). I won the essay contest! I was the only contestant... And my friend was the judge... But this got me really reading. Rita and Pat had already had me read some easier stuff. But now I was getting into Munster dialect and more difficult vocabulary. I have notebooks full of vocabulary notes!


Start teaching at the school. Eventually I come to teach all levels.

March 2000

'Finished' website (in Irish) Comhad na Fírinne. Had help from a couple of secret internet friends in correcting the Irish. Wanted to get it onto An Fáinne Órga, but never was accepted (maybe not just for weak Irish…). Created An Fáinne Sróine instead, which was accepted (by Vincent Morely), so I did have something on that site! (I honed my Irish arguing politics with Vincent and others, who never let bad Irish slide, on the email lists above).

Dec. 2000

After a few minor efforts before this, I write a poem in Irish that is actually pretty good (on Gaelic-L, I think) for the millennium (Don Athbhliain). Prompted for this and several other poems (probably to her chagrin) by Marion Gunn.

March 2001

Publish the first website for Scoil Ghaeilge Ghearóid Tóibín (the school).

May 2001

Beo! website opens. Immediately active on the message board. Prior to this, was active (in a small group) on the Cumasc message board (now defunct). The Beo board has since become pretty moribund too.


Political argument after this event leads to a couple of poems on Gaelic-L (not appreciated by many). I eventually leave these lists because of the America haters. Really a shame, because they used to be great. Now they're pretty dead, too.

Late 2001

Record New York's Damn Bravest with Brian DeVale and friends (Na Buachaillí Dána).

Jan. 2002

I win a limerick contest in Beo! (Get 2 books - Ulster Irish, more notebooks!). Start thinking about poetry again.

Jan. 2002

A poem in Beo! about the war in Afghanistan inspires the rebuttal poem 'Nua-Eabhrac.' Beo! never published anything of mine (except the limerick!), although I offered them a number of things... You can tell by what they do publish (about us) why, I think.

May/June 2002

I become a regular columnist for The National Hibernian Digest, with my column Tomhas na Teanga. How? I offered! Several editors later, I'm still going strong.

Sept. 2002

I write the poem Cothrom an Lae. Start writing poetry in Irish regularly.

Nov. 9 2002

First article in series for Gan Fiacail Ann These were originally offered to Beo! (the first few). Later others were published in , the now defunct Irish language newspaper, and the magazine Comhar (see below).

Nov. 12 2002

I write article Foras Feasa ar Iosrael, which later attracts the attention of Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí, and is why I wound up on Raidió na Gaeltachta. Credit where credit is due: he gave attention to "the other side" about Israel (not easy to find an Irish speaker who gets that Israel is not an offspring of the devil...). This article, like all my political articles, and Comhad na Fírinne, was the product of many debates on the internet. I never had any intention of being a political writer. They made me do it!

Nov. 2002

Finish recording Brian De Vale's album Raise Your Glass, which includes a reading of my poem Cothrom an Lae (since revised).

Dec. 2002

Saol, formerly a print newspaper, publishes my poem Mo Chairde Teibí in their letters section. First time in print in Ireland!

March 28, 2003

First article in . They gave it the title Gael ar son an Chogaidh. Somewhat controversial... Seems I'm always "the other side" over there. Again, props to them for publishing anything against the party line. Unfortunately, everything else they published was extremely hostile to the US.

April 11, 2003

Article in . They gave it the title Ionradh ar an Iaráic. Now I'm getting a reputation...

April 12, 2003

On Raidió na Gaeltachta on the live show Seó Beo an tSathairn. Lively debate on Iraq. I was on another time, either 2 weeks before or two weeks after this. The second time I was on the air longer. I got invited back because I complained that the intervening show was very anti-American. Still tilting at windmills...

May 19, 2003

Article in . They published it in Ardán an Luain.

May 29, 2003

Article in . They published it as a letter. I was complaining about the anti-American bias. Fair play to them for publishing it. I think I might have had one other short article, but I'm not sure.

There was a nasty letter about me in Lá, to which Gerry Kelly replied (and which was published). This carried over onto the Beo! message board…which all got very nasty (a lot of Irish speakers hate America, sorry to say). When I decided finally to quit that message board, it made the news in Lá! I had quit the listserve lists a while before this, except for Gaeilge-A, which I eventually also left (October or so 2004), because of anti-Americanism (call me paranoid, if you want, but it was real). I also began participating on the Daltaí na Gaeilge board and on The People's Republic of Cork board. I had tried Craiceá, but they got crazy anti-American pretty quick. I think that board died, too. I'd only been doing Irish language only boards for quite a while. For a summary of the anti-Americanism, see my article which they neglected to publish that issue, for the National Hibernian Digest, May 2003.

I also particpate in the discussion list from, which is only about translation and the language. Mostly safe.

Busy writing poetry (at least one poem a month), and working on publishing An File ar Buile during this time. This is my first book, and the poems are all in Irish with the English translations.

Nov. 1 2003

I co-host Míle Fáilte for the fundraiser. First time on American radio.

January 17 2004

Séamus De Bláca (Seamus Blake) does a show on Míle Fáilte about our school. I am interviewed and he plays stuff from Brian DeVale's Raise Your Glass (also getting airplay on WFUV and elsewhere).

April 24 2004

I co-host Míle Fáilte for the fundraiser again.

April 2004

Quit Beo! message board, start our own at This goes well for quite a while, but because I had to keep a lid on the hate, lots of people gave up on it and it is dead now.

May 2004

Comhar publishes 8 of my poems (new ones, not in the book)! They put the name Seán Ó Neachtain as the author!

June 2004

Mentioned in Comhar , that they put the wrong name on me last month!

June 24, 2004

The book launching for An File ar Buile. I worked for about a year to get this book into print. The school really pulled for me and we had a fantastic launch. Self-published, but I sold more copies than most people sell of Irish language books, thanks to the school.

July (?) 2004

On the radio (live) again with Rónán, Raidió na Gaeltachta, but on the show Seal Aduaidh. I read my poem Tá an Ghaeilge Beo Bacach I Meiriceá.

July 2004

Comhar publishes my article on Abu Ghraib.

July 4 and July 7 2004

has 2 articles about my book and the book launching, including pictures! Never got a review, though...

August 2004

The new school website is finished, with the help of Mike MacNamarra.

Sept. 2004

An File ar Buile is mentioned in the section Foilsiúcháin Úra in Comhar

October 2004

Finish recording Cleas Amhrán. Did this in about 4 months, I think. Silly songs from parodies I wrote in An File ar Buile, and more.

Nov. 3, 2004

I do a poetry reading at Bloomfield College in New Jersey.

November 2004

Recorded all the poems (Irish only) from An File ar Buile for several months. Re-record Cothrom an Lae and make other improvements for remaster of Raise Your Glass.

December 1st 2004 I return to the Beo! message board.
December 2004 My article about the Bush re-election is published in Comhar.


I was published once (one poem - An tSlat, I think) in the University of Cork Irish language newsletter. This was supposed to be a regular thing, but fizzled.

January 2005 Cleas Amhrán released. Used as the fundraiser gift on Míle Fáilte, in April 2005. I am the co-pitcher on the show on April 2nd.
March 11, 2005 Review of Cleas Amhrán in Lá by Ana Ní Shúilleabháin. She likes it!
Spring 2005 Re-release of enhanced version of Brian De Vale's Raise Your Glass, which I engineered and produced.
April 20th, 2005 Try my hand at blogging with An Caomhach. I haven't stopped yet!
April 2005 Recorded and produce Raymond Clarke's poetry CD. He translated the poems into Irish at my prompting.
July 2005 My poetry and music, along with Raymond Clarke's poetry, are featured on Míle Fáilte!
August 2005
Summer 2005 Editted and remasterd all the recordings made by Raymond Clarke for Progress in Irish, covering lessons 1 through 52, and put them on CDs. We still use these at the school, and now through the Philo-Celtic Society, people all over the world use them.
August 2005 My poem Tá Rosenstock ina Bhandia i mBliana is published in Comhar.
October 2005 My article An Buama Adamhach is published in Comhar.
Fall 2005 Under attack for my grammar slips and typos on Beo - whose message board was under attack by a crazy person. A story appears in the Irish language newspaper Foinse about this, October.
October 2005 Included as a participant at An tImeall, in my first podcast. I was on the 'show' a bunch of times after that.
November 2005 Elected chairman of the Philo-Celtic Society. Have been since, except for a couple of years where Jerry Kelly had the job.
November 29, 2005 I put out the first podcast for Philo-Celtic. I still very occasionally make one. Was quite regular for a long time, and they are all still available to listen to. Lots of interviews.
November 2005 On Míle Fáilte radio program with Séamus Blake
Jan. 2006 Article Caithréim an Chaipitleachais in Comhar
Feb. 24, 2006 Conn Ó Muíneacháin talks about me in his column An Blagadóir in Lá Nua (the now daily version of Lá).
April 2006 Guest teacher at Lá na Gaeilge in Iona. On Míle Fáilte again, the same day.
May 2006 5 poems in Comhar. I guess I'm sort of an established (minor) poet by now.
May 2006 Article Iarsmaí in the Irish language magazine Feasta.
June 2006 Article Soiscéal Iúdáis, Cód Da Vinci agus Naomh Irenaeus in Feasta
August 2006 Start writing my Irish language novel Cogadh Dearg
March 2007 Quoted by Gerry Kelly in his article in Beo!
Sept. 3, 2007 My review of Duanta Aneas le Pádraig Ó Miléadh in Lá Nua
Sept. 13, 2007 Conn mentions my podcast again in in Lá Nua
September 26, 2007 My short story Ord Dé is published in Lá Nua
Sept. 2007 The Oireachtas didn't like my novel (Cogadh Dearg) enough (still needed a lot of work). They did have positive things to say though.
Nov. 2007 My letter complaining about another awful anti-american article is published in Comhar. Wrote about it on my blog.
Jan. 30, 2008 My review of Gunrunners by Sean boyne is in Lá Nua
Feb-Mar 2008 I translate Brian DeVale's Pub Crawl, and a lot of the story is published (3 parts) in Lá Nua
April 2008 Coiscéim agrees to publish Cogadh Dearg!
16-18 May, 2008 I speak at the convention, as chairman of the Philo-Celtic Society, Fís Ghaeilge Mheiriceá Thuaidh, which we helped organize. Liam Ó Cuinneagán gives me my Fáinne Óir.
May 23 2008 I have an article about the convention in Lá Nua
May 1, 2008 My article Marbh le Cogadh agus Marbh Gan É is published in the first edition of Nós*
September 2008 Cogadh Dearg is in print!
Nov. 16, 2008 Fear an Tí ag Lón Nollag Uí Ghadhra
December 2008 Cogadh Dearg is featured in An Léitheoir, sent with Comhar. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Coiscéim has never sold any more copies...
Summer 2009 The first (new) issue of An Gael is published. I am the editor (and pretty much the publisher too, since I'm chairman of the Philo-Celtic Society). This is an all Irish language quarterly, which has encouraged lots of new writers and attracted some famous ones, too. We've been going from strength to strength ever since! We launched the magazine at the Irish consulate in NYC.
September 2009 I'm on the Irish language TV show Imeall.
October 2009 I publish my English language translation of Cogadh Dearg as Red War.
January 2010 I publish Raymond's book (in English).
March 2010 I self-publish my second book of poetry (just in Irish this time), An File agus Araile. This one is formatted like a magazine.
End of 2010 I'm in the Irish language TV documentary Mise Raifearaí - An Fíodóir Focal with Tadhg Mac Dhonnagáin.
September 2011 I'm on the Irish language TV program Thar Sáile.
September 2012 Created a brand new version of this school website. Also created a brand new version of the An Gael website.
October 2012 on the radio program Cruinneog (raidió na Gaeltachta)
September/October 2012 2 columns in Gaelscéal about the presidential campaign in the US.
December 2012 Put all of my editorials from An Gael on-line.
January 2013 Another article in Gaelscéal.
January 2013 On the radio program Splanc in Ireland, Newstalk FM - my first time on FM radio! About guns.
January 2013 An Gael page created on Facebook.
February 2013 Cleas Amhrán is made available as free downloads. It turns out the CDs I made all have a problem whereby the label glue corrodes them over time, and they don't play right any more. So now they're free on the internet.
September 2013 My Irish language Youtube channel gets its 50th video!
January 2014 On the radio program Fada is Fairsing, on Radio na Life (Dublin)
April 5th 2014 On the radio program Cruinneog on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta
February 8th 2015 Gave a talk at Molloy College about writing and publishing in Irish
October 2015 Article for Meon Eile (interviewed by Ciarán Dunbar)
pending 2016 Article for about 5 books

I've definitely left a few things out. For years I read poetry and performed music at Long Island Film Festival / Culturefest na Gaeilge, for instance, and I won a few ribbons in the traditional singing competitions at the Nassau Feis... I've been on other TV programs in Ireland (in littler bits). I have cut back on some activities, as An Gael takes most of my time. I generally publish my own stuff now,when I write (poems, stories, arcicles and of course editorials), mostly in An Gael. As editor, I've been able to attract some famous writers, as well as encourage people to write who otherwise might not. I still teach at the Gerry Tobin Irish Language School. I'm active on Facebook now, which has basically replaced all the message boards (and gives you the option of being friends or not with folks). So there's always a lot going on!

(This is as of January 2015)