Digitized Irish Gaelic Writings

Irish language text from 1937.

Dive into old Irish school manuscripts, and you’ll get an instant taster of older Ireland.

The site dúchas.ie (which means “heritage”) features tens of thousands of scanned pages of school copybooks, plus other content.

Older writing style

Can you even make out many letters from the screenshot above?

It’s from a scan of a copybook from 1937. It was written in Cill Chiaráin, in County Galway Ireland.

The title at the top of the page is:

Fear a chaill a amharch

That means “Man who lost his vision”.

The writing style is how the Irish language was written, as a standard, at that time. These days, Irish Gaelic is written just like you see English handwritten. The only real difference is we have the extra accent marks too: á é í ó ú. We had a blog post about pronouncing á.

Spot the dots!

Take a look at this word from the title of the page:

"amharch" in Irish Gaelic. It means "vision".
“amharch” in Irish Gaelic. It means “vision”.

Do you see the little dots over the “m” and “c”? In the modern day Irish language, they’re now written as “mh” and “ch”, with no special dot.

They represent throaty sounds you get in the Irish language. Part of the fun of learning to speak Ireland’s native language!

By the way, I don’t know if the dot over the “c” is a mistake. At least, the modern standardized version of the word vision in Irish Gaelic is spelled “amharc”, with no “h” at the end.

Many more scans online

In Ireland, there is a National Folklore Collection. It’s basically a huge store of written texts, sound recordings, and photos. It exists “to collect, preserve and disseminate the oral tradition of Ireland“.

What dúchas.ie does is give a digital home to the collection. In other words, we get free worldwide insights into Ireland’s oral tradition online. It’s a fantastic resource, and worth diving into.

To look at more content on dúchas.ie, we suggest seeing their editor’s picks. You can select a scanned manuscript, and then view the manuscript page by page. Each manuscript features hand-written Irish Gaelic. Click on the “expand” icon to see the full-size manuscript.

(Serious Irish language learners might find some treats, like this Seanráite page that covers word definitions and old phrases.)

Don’t lose touch with your heritage

I hope that gives you a little taster of older Ireland. That being said, the Irish language lives on in modern-day Ireland. With Bitesize Irish Gaelic, you can learn to speak Irish Gaelic in Bitesize portions. Take our no-obligations free trial for lots of audio recordings, with a phonetic prompting guide, to get you ready for your first conversation in Irish Gaelic.

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