Holywood Irish Society
The Holywood Irish Society is devoted to discovering and sustaining the Irish language. Our main activities are arranging Irish classes in the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church Hall, distributing scholarships to visit the Gaeltacht, and organising an annual festival in the Library.
Gabhán Ó Fachtna
Irish belongs to the northern group of Celtic languages known as Goidelic or Q-Celtic. It is closely related to Manx and Scottish Gaelic, with which it retains a degree of mutual intelligibility depending on the user and the medium. The language has been spoken in Ireland, including in Holywood, for at least three millennia; it was the dominant means of communication until the seventeenth century and is the source of most local place-names.
Although Gaelic-speakers were a minority of Planters, the vast majority, if not all, would have had Gaelic-speaking forebears, in some cases only one or two generations previously. The Scots poet Robert Burns celebrates the Gaelic heritage of his native Ayrshire in his poem ‘The Vision’, and loan words such as greeshoch and ingle would already have been present in the speech of the new arrivals.
Holywood Irish Society is dedicated to the non-sectarian promotion of the Irish language in the North Down area. It builds upon a long tradition of linguistic diversity in our part of Down.