At my Philosophy for Beginners class last night, I got talking to the woman beside me. She figured that even though the lecturer took the first seven lectures before he got round to establishing eye-contact, the lecture series was wonderful and she can’t wait to follow up with more only in more depth. She told me she’d just finished a five-year part-time degree.’What in?’ quoth I. ‘Irish Language and Literature’. That’s the third person – all women – who did that course that I’ve been in conversation with in the last month. This woman said she had no Irish at all in her secondary or primary education. So when she decided to study Irish, she had to take first GCSE and then A Level before embarking on the degree programme. What sparked her interest in the first place? Her mother. She – the woman and presumably her mother – is/are from Ballymena, and her mother’s speech was littered with colloquial and dialect words which were Irish in origin. In addition, the whole issue of place names and their Irish origin began to intrigue her, and she figured there was a vast cultural storehouse to which she’d never been given the key and she needed to find out more. So she studied for five years and got her degree. Her day job is as a solicitor. When she tossed in the fact that she was from a Presbyterian background, I suggested she might be getting the odd sideways glance about Ballymena when they noticed she was studying Irish. ‘Probably, but it was OK, because I live in Belfast’. Oddly enough, one of the two other women who did an Irish degree was also Presbyterian in her background. Is there something happening that we’re not aware of? And if so, what does it mean?
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