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“Ná bí ag pocléimnigh!” – how often Miss Cronin brought us to heel with those words. B’iontach an áit í Conradh na Gaeilge nuair a bhí mise i mo dhéagóir. Bhí idir cheol, damhsa, drámaíocht agus canadh – spraoi do gach duine idir óg agus aosta agus gach duine lánghníomhach agus ag baint sult as an scóraíocht.
Miss Cronin “ruled the roost” and we loved and respected her. Like the village schoolmaster she was “severe and stern to view” but she had a heart of gold, and when she decided to hold a scóraíocht her hospitality knew no bounds. She was always worried that there would not be enough to eat, and insisted on mountains of sandwiches, barm brack smothered in butter and plenty of cáca milis. The price was two shillings, but if anyone could not rise to two shillings it did not matter to Miss Cronin. Bhí fáilte roimh chách.
For the big night she would do her “spring” cleaning – síos ar a glúine agus í ag sciúradh an urláir, í ag caitheamh naprún gorm agus sean hata tuí agus a gruaig órga, nár liathaigh leis na blianta, ag sileadh amach faoin hata. The young men were particularly fond of her and my own brothers Tom and Jim, Lorcan Bergin, Dan Kerwick, Christy Aherne and more, would all turn up to help her with this spring cleaning.
Bheadh tine mór ar lasadh thuas staighre agus thíos staighre chun an fuacht a ruaigeadh. Ar ndóigh bheimis ag cur allais go tiubh tar éis rinnce nó dhó. Bhí Tom Hayes thar barr ar an mbosca ceoil agus faoi stiúradh fhear an tí, Jack Saunders, bheadh an Cor Seisear Déag agus Caidhp an Chúil Aird den chéad scoth.
One night someone brought along a very good dancer and introduced him to Miss Cronin. Perhaps she could not at first remember his Christian name and so she addressed him as “Mac Uí Néill”. It stuck and to this day Micheál O’ Neill is known in Kilkenny as “Mockie Neill”. There were soldiers too, who came over from the Military Barracks in the 1940s to learn Irish, and we had great fun with them especially on drama practice nights. Ina measc bhí Sean Hayes ó Swanlinbar, Tom Smith ó Phort Láirge, siaghdiuir darb ainm Sweetman agus Eamon Holohan a bhuail le Peggy O’ Brien ar oíche úd agus a phós ina dhiadh sin.
Mid-way through the Céili we would all adjourn to the upstairs room go gorge ourselves, as young energetic people will do. At the top table Mícheál Ó Bolguidhir would be chatting with Fr. O’ Farrell from St. Kieran’s College. There would be at least six Capuchins from the Friary. All the friars spoke Irish and were good singers too. Frs. Micheál, Tadhg, Xavier and Aodh sang as Gaelinn and Fr. Ferdinand sang his party piece in English. Nan Guidera, who had a lovely sweet voice would sing the haunting old air, “Sliabh na mBan”, and Paddy Staunton would play the “Cúlfhionn” on his violin.
Miss Cronin was a woman before her time. She worked tirelessly for the Irish language in Kilkenny. She packed the Conradh to the doors when she had a scóraíocht, and she had the ability to instill, in many young people, a lifelong immense love and respect for our native culture.
Bhí breac Ghaeltacht againn i gCill Chainnigh. Muna mbeadh Conradh na Gaeilge, ni hamhlaigh a bheadh an scéal. Ba i an bhean bheag bhídeach, Eibhlín Ní Chróinín, croí na gluaiseachta. Bean ar ghlac muintir na cathrach dá gcroíthe agus thug si a hiomlán chun an Ghaelachas a scaipeadh ina measc. Feiseanna, ranganna Gaeilge, céilithe, scóraíocht – bhi si sáite iontu agus pe gluaiseacht a thainig ar an mbaile ( An Réalt, Gasra an Fháinne) ba sa Chonradh a thosaigh na baill.
Ní feidir ainm Eibhlín a dheighilt ó ainm Mhichíl Uí Bholguidhir, duine uasal gaelach a raibh blas na Rinne ar a chuid Gaeilge. Sheas sé léí in “am an chatha” agus ba mhinic an bheirt acu ag obair ó mhaidin i Stua an Rútaigh ag cóiriú na seomríi nó ag ullmhú le haghaidh Feise. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha. Go raibh Dia flaithiúil leo.
Ursula Timmons agus Máirtín Ó Duibhir