HomeNewsAn Cumann Gaelach The Gaelic Society

An Cumann Gaelach The Gaelic Society

It’s time for the formation and the establishment of a new Gaelic Society, but not for a Gaelic revival such as happened during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • Gaelic culture from the Irish languageliterature, art, history, tradition, nationalism and folklore do not need revival.
  • They are alive with their own individual strengths, but they have no cohesive vehicle of expression because they are largely ignored by today’s Irish media and communications channels. Even T na G does very little to fulfil that role.
  • What Gaelic expression needs is a dynamic cohesive vehicle for organisation, communication, expression and future growth.
  • Gaelic Culture and traditions should be readily available to enriching the lives of Irish and Gaelic people everywhere. Gaelic culture should be readily accessible and presented to our young people as an attractive vibrant living expression of their age old inheritance and a proud expression of their unique social and cultural heritage.
  • The economic benefits of Gaelic culture should be fully promoted and realised by communities and individuals throughout the country and in Gaelic communities abroad.
  • Gaelic culture and tradition has become more popular in recent years especially because of the worldwide success of our music, dance and theatre. However, this world popularity must not only be nurtured and supported but it must also be used as a springboard to promote other aspects of Gaelic culture as we march into the uncharted territory of the 21stcentury and be ready to deal with the challenges and embrace the opportunities it offers.

When any expression of Gaelic culture is embraced and embodied by a dynamic organisation it flourishes.

  • When Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann was founded in the 1950’s it didn’t need to revive Irish music. What Comhaltas provided was organisation and a cohesive expression that provided the vehicle for it to flourish and express itself both nationally and internationally.
  • At the time the GAA was founded Cricket was the most commonly played game in Ireland but Gaelic games and especially hurling were still so deeply embedded in the Irish DNA that once given organisation and expression it immediately blossomed into the greatest amateur sports organisation in the world.
  • The orphan in this group is Conradh na Gaeilge which describes itself as a social and cultural organisation that promotes the Irish language. It was founded as the Gaelic League in 1893 by Eoin Mac Néillwith Douglas Hyde as its first president. It succeeded several 19th century groups such as the Gaelic Union. Following the foundation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the organisations prominence diminished somewhat as the Irish language was made a compulsory subject in state-funded schools.

The organisation is still possibly the most active voluntary Irish language organisation. While it has 200 branches it still doesn’t have the popular appeal, the drive or support that the GAA and Comhaltas have and that is a great pity. Unlike the others it seems to look inward rather than making itself more universally attractive.

  • The Amateur Drama Council of Ireland (A.D.C.I) is the federation of amateur drama festivals for the whole of Ireland – North and South. A.D.C.I was founded in 1952 and has coordinated the running of preliminary drama festivals and All Ireland festivals ever since. The principal objects of the Council are to foster, develop, promote and encourage amateur drama in Ireland and to annually organise All Ireland Drama Festivals. It is up there with the GAA in the number of amateur drama groups it has.

An Cumann Gaelach

The Gaelic Revival

When philologists discovered how to read Old Irish (written prior to 900) it led to the translations of ancient Gaelic manuscripts. It then became possible to read Ireland’s ancient literature.

  • Heroic tales inspired the imagination.
  • Anglo-Irish poets experimented with verse structured according to Gaelic patterns and rhythms that echoed the passion and imagery of ancient bardic verse resulting in a huge outpouring of magnificent poetry and literature.
  • In 1842 the Young Irelanders founded The Nation,a paper that published the works of Thomas Osborne Davis, a master of prose and verse, and poets such as Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Richard D’Alton Williams, and Speranza (Lady Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde) and inspired pride in Irish literary achievements.
  • The Dublin University Magazine(1833–80), another important literary publication included the work of James Clarence Mangan, translator of Gaelic poetry into English who also wrote original verse in the Gaelic style. Jeremiah John Callanan was the first to use the Gaelic refrain in English verse, and Sir Samuel Ferguson wrote epic-like poetry recalling Ireland’s heroic past. Thomas Moore, Charles Maturin, and Maria Edgeworth also incorporated Irish themes from earlier Gaelic works into their writings.

     An Cumann Gaelach

The Irish literary renaissance

The Gaelic revival was overshadowed by the pressing need for land reform over cultural nationalism. However, the revival did lay both the scholarly and nationalistic groundwork for the Irish literary renaissance, resulting in a great outpouring and flowering of Irish literary talent at the close of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

The Irish literary renaissance expressed itself as a great flowering of Irish literary talent at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. It was closely allied with strong political nationalism and a revival of interest in Ireland’s Gaelic literary heritage.

This renaissance was inspired by the nationalistic pride of the Gaelic revival. It resulted in the retelling of Ireland’s abundance of ancient heroic legends in books such as the ‘History of Ireland’ (1880) by Standish O’Grady and ‘A Literary History of Ireland’ (1899) by Douglas Hyde; and by the Gaelic League at its best. The early renaissance writers wrote rich and passionate verse, filled with the grandeur of Ireland’s past and the musical beauty and mysticism of Gaelic poetry.

The movement developed into a vigorous literary force centred on the poet and playwright William Butler Yeats. He contributed to the foundation of the first Irish national theatre, the Abbey Theatre. He wrote a few beautiful plays but which were difficult to stage. His friend Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory played a leading role in the Abbey’s management and wrote many plays for the Irish Literary Theatre, established in 1898, that also excelled in the production of ‘peasant’ plays.

The main dramatist of the movement was John Millington Synge, who wrote powerful plays in a stylized interpretation of ‘peasant’ dialect. The theatre later turned toward realism, of a mostly rural nature. 

While ‘The Irish literary renaissance’ blossomed and flourished among the literary classes and an artistic intelligentia, its somewhat spontaneous blossoming had neither structure nor direction and it branched out into theatre in one direction and fuelled the flames of revolution in another.

In the ignorance of its elitist arrogance it failed utterly to embrace the latent culture in the common people. Its dramatic ‘stage Irish’ theatrical expression from J M Synge was great for an Anglo Irish and foreign audiences who no more than Synge didn’t understand the Irish vernacular and its subtleties. Lady Gregory’s attempt to express the people’s English vernacular in her otherwise wonderful telling of the Irish legends left a sour taste in the mouths of the Irish people. While The Irish literary renaissance’ left us some wonderful poetry and a national theatre it otherwise fizzled out with the passing of its own inward looking generation because it failed to embrace the masses of people outside of their little inward looking clique.

 An Cumann Gaelach

The Gaelic revival and the Irish literary renaissance despite their shortcomings exposed the richness of all things Gaelic and inspired a new generation that embraced the national spirit that fuelled the changes of modern Irish history resulting in the poet’s rebellion of 1916. To achieve this, it had to connect with the Gaelic spirit by immersing in and embracing the unique richness of Irelands Gaelic past.

The 21st Century Gaelic Society is endeavouring to become an organic organisation that embraces all aspects of the well-established Gaelic culture that is inherent in and comes from every level of Irish society. Gaelic culture in its broadest and all-embracing sense needs to be nurtured and given worthy expression. It should be able to sustain and expand a Cumann network throughout the country like Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the GAA, The Amateur Drama Council of Ireland and Conradh na Gaeilge. It does not intend to compete with or attempt to replace or subsume any of those organisations but to work alongside and in cooperation with them for the common purpose and wellbeing of Gaelic culture.

In today’s world where our cultural uniqueness has to compete with an onslaught of cultural diversity strongly supported by the media, it is more important than ever to preserve and promote our Gaelic culture and living traditions so we too can compete with and contribute to the world’s culture from a position of Gaelic pride, strength and vigour.

Description of ‘An Cumann Gaelach

Articles of Association

The Society is a non-profit cultural movement and is called ‘An Cumann Gaelach or ‘The Gaelic Society’ and henceforth shall be referred to as either of the above with equal status and shall be composed of Cumann throughout the country comprising of members involved in, promoting or supporting Gaelic culture in its many forms. The headquarters shall be in Limerick City.

The Objectives of An Cumann Gaelach or The Gaelic Society are:  

  1. To foster, develop, promote, educate, promote events, showcase and encourage Gaelic cultural activity in all its rich expressions throughout Ireland and internationally.
  2. To nurture areas of culture and tradition that are weak, under threat, under supported or under resourced so they may flourish again.
  3. To create a closer bond and cross pollination between the different aspects of Gaelic culture and between ourselves and geographically isolated areas of Gaelic culture
  4. To co-operate with all bodies working for the promotion or Irish Culture.

An Cumann Gaelach will not compete with any of the existing Gaelic cultural organisations but rather cooperate with and support them in any way possible whenever the opportunity arises.

  1. To organise annually local, national and international festivals, concerts, seminars and a broad spectrum of Gaelic cultural events.
  2. To establish Cumann throughout the country and abroad to achieve the aims and objects of An Cumann Gaelach
  3. To organise courses of instruction for members in any or all aspects of Gaelic culture through Scoil Ghairid andMeitheals’s.
  4. To appoint committees to study, research and make recommendations to the Executive Council on matters relating to Gaelic culture in Ireland and in areas of Gaelic interest in Scotland, the Isle of Man, Nova Scotia and wherever Gaelic people and Gaelic activities take place.
  5. To reach out to all who are promoting Gaelic Culture worldwide and to offer them membership of An Cumann Gaelachand to offer them comradery and support in all their Gaelic activities.
  6. To encourage and support the production of both traditional and original material of a Gaelic nature
  7. To establish Provincial and overseas Councils as the need arises and or when the Executive Council deems it necessary.  
  8. To carry out any other activity which the membership or the Executive Council may deem to be in furtherance of Gaelic cultural objectives.




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