The Irish in captivity: Frongoch, the Irish language and the Welsh Heartland

Caitríona Ó Torna


After the Easter Rising, more than 1,800 Irishmen were sent to a concentration camp in an old distillery in Frongoch, north Wales. The internees were held there for a number of months; the last of the internees were sent back to Ireland during Christmas week, 1916. It is said that this period of time in Frongoch gave the Republicans an opportunity to structure themselves as an effective military group and develop tactics, expertise and contacts that would play an invaluable part in the War of Independence. Part of the education they underwent in Frongoch included Irish-language classes which were held by and for internees in the camp; Irish-language lessons and events were among their activities seven days a week.

This article examines the daily activities of the camp, along with the role of the Irish language in camp life, the availability of teaching materials, and the teachers involved. The impact of the Welsh language and the siting of the camp in a predominantly Welsh-speaking area, and the effect of this on the internees’ attitude to their own language and culture, will also be studied. Did the location of Frongoch inspire them to think anew about the Irish language as a medium of communication once freedom would be achieved? The relationship between the internees and local people will also be examined. Were the rebels welcomed, these Celtic cousins who had just fought in an uprising against the old enemy? Or would the impact of events surrounding the First World War take precedence for the people of Frongoch?

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COMHARTaighde is an open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal in the field of Irish language and literature studies. The full text of the article described on this page is available in the Irish language only. English-language translations of article titles, abstracts and certain metadata are provided in order to enable international scholars to discover research published in COMHARTaighde and to facilitate the indexing of articles in certain academic databases.

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© Comhar Teoranta, 2016.
ISSN: 2009-8626